Trump can't stop spreading Putin's talking points — and it's humiliating his top advisers
Trump Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had a lot of cleaning up to do on the Sunday shows this week. He had to downplay Donald Trump's bizarre tweet claiming North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un "knows that I am with him," as well as rumors that some of the North Korean negotiators the U.S. team met with in Hanoi have since been executed.
He also was tasked with explaining why Trump insisted, after a lengthy phone call with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, that Russia was "not looking at all to get involved in Venezuela." This statement is at odds with what Pompeo himself has been saying. The response was, as usual, empty gibberish.
“I didn’t see the full context of the quote there. I don’t know what context that was in,” Pompeo told CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “I do know this: The president has made clear, we want everyone out, and that includes the Russians.”
As secretary of state, it is the man's job to know the full context of top-level discussions between the United States and Russia's leader. But he doesn't know the full context, or finds it useful to pretend as much, and can only fall back on the half-hearted parroting of White House part-time press secretary Sarah Sanders' favorite question-dodge: Whatever the hell you're talking about, Donald already has "made it clear" that he believes whatever belief will allow his team to most easily avoid further follow-ups. When did he do that? Doesn't matter. Nobody knows. Whoops, look at the time, gotta go.
As The Washington Post points out, this is yet another circumstance in which Trump has bent over backward to avoid criticizing—or even acknowledging—actions by Putin that have the rest of his foreign policy team up in arms. Trump is full of threats of retaliation against Cuba, if they intervene in the Venezuelan chaos; when it comes to Putin, he continues to repeat the assertions of the Russian kleptocrat over the plain evidence brought to him by even his own advisers. We can all speculate on why Trump is meticulous in his praise for and over-eager defenses of a hostile foreign leader, and we should all eagerly do so because Donald Trump's own team and Republican lawmakers are all going to great lengths to avoid even acknowledging it, much less addressing it.
As for Mike Pompeo, though, making excuses in the press for whatever Donald Trump has most recently burped up with appears to be his sole remaining job. He's certainly not in charge of anything else.