Trump Wants a Meeting with Putin — and No One's Going to Stop Him

Like I keep saying: The collusion is right out in the open. And as we all wait interminably for Special Counsel Bob Mueller to methodically compile evidence of what we can witness with our own eyes every damn day, Donald Trump is insisting on a summit with Vladimir Putin, to be arranged by Austria's new chancellor, nativist hardliner Sebastian Kurz.

Susan B. Glasser at the New Yorker reports:
Fresh off his closely watched Singapore summit with the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong Un, [Donald] Trump is pushing his team to arrange another dramatic one-on-one meeting, this time with the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, as soon as this summer. Negotiations with the Kremlin have been under way for weeks. "There's no stopping him," a senior Administration official familiar with the internal deliberations said. "He's going to do it. He wants to have a meeting with Putin, so he's going to have a meeting with Putin."

...With the Russia allegations swirling, Trump never had the formal meeting he wanted with Putin last year — settling for just two brief encounters on the sidelines of international gatherings — but he has clearly never given up on his campaign vision of closer ties with the Russian strongman, whose autocratic rule he has often praised.

The North Korea summit this week, which Trump jubilantly declared a "historic" encounter that will lead to the end of Pyongyang's nuclear program, has likely sealed the deal for an equally high-profile Putin meeting. Now Russia experts inside and outside the U.S. government are bracing themselves for a formal announcement of the summit, which is likely to happen as early as July, when Trump will be in Europe for the annual meeting of the nato alliance that Putin considers his country's mortal enemy.

Negotiations began in earnest, the senior Administration official told me, after Trump disregarded his aides' "DO NOT CONGRATULATE" warning in his post-election phone call with Putin, in March. During the conversation, Trump both congratulated the Russian leader on his election — which Western election observers said had failed to offer voters a real choice — and issued Putin an invitation to the White House. After the call, the Kremlin quickly released word of the invite and began publicly lobbying to pin down a date for a summit, but, privately, the Russian President balked at the Oval Office as the meeting's venue.

"Putin doesn't want to come to Washington. Putin wants to meet in a third-party location," the senior Administration official told me. "Originally, Trump didn't want to do that,” but the Wall Street Journal reported last week that Putin asked Austria's new hard-right populist Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, to arrange the summit for Vienna, and the White House is considering the proposal.

Two former senior U.S. officials told me that they had also been briefed on Trump's orders to his staff to plan for the Putin summit soon. One of them said it could even occur on the first leg of Trump's trip to Europe next month, before Trump attends the annual nato meeting. Getting together with Putin before the allies would be "breaking every rule we've ever had," the former U.S. official said, a flagrant breach of protocol sure to upset Europeans already jittery over Trump's criticism of the nato alliance and his public embrace of Putin.
There is much more at the link, and I recommend reading the whole thing.

A couple of points:

1. "There's no stopping him." I mean, yes, there is. Just because no one empowered to do that is willing to do it doesn't mean that no way exists. This is a very dangerous narrative, and I am getting very frustrated with the political press for continually repeating it uncritically.

2. That Kurz, a right-wing anti-immigrant extremist, has been solicited to arrange this meeting and Trump is going along with it is absolutely appalling. (Though entirely unsurprising.)

3. Meeting with Putin at all is bad enough, for eleventy different reasons — but if Trump meets with him during the same foreign trip as the NATO conference, it will be an extraordinarily offensive gesture to our allies. Which one imagines is precisely the point.

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