Will Vladimir Putin utilize his private meeting with Donald Trump in order to create division among NATO countries?
Such is a concern among some congresspeople from both parties.
Members of the GOP are encouraging Trump’s administration to explain exactly what agreements were made, ending what could otherwise be a disturbing mystery.
On Wednesday, Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Anatoly Antonov claimed Trump and Putin had made “important verbal agreements.”
Republican Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Corker expressed worry over a proposed second Trump-Putin meet-up given “no idea” of what Antonov is referring to.
Sen. Rob Portman agrees — transparency is preferable.
“I don’t know what happened privately. Nobody does. … It’s not enough just to raise [grievances with Putin] privately, because everyone is watching — including our allies, including the people of Russia, including our intelligence agencies.”
Former Soviet and East bloc states who belong to NATO could particularly be concerned over Russian influence on Trump.
Antonov did specify two areas in which agreements were made: Syria and arms control.
Republican Sen. Jeff Flake — who isn’t Trump’s biggest fan — believes the opaqueness of the summit is a serious issue:
“The White House better get out in front of this before the Russians start characterizing this. … The Russians will use this. … There’s so little trust of this president, our president, among our allies.”
Flake referenced recent Russian activity in Baltic states to sell the idea that “NATO is weak” and “America is an unreliable ally.”
As part of pre-emptive damage control, on Tuesday, Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell told members of the European Union that congressional Republicans view Russia suspiciously and value NATO:
“We believe the European Union countries are our friends and the Russians are not. … We understand the Russian threat.”
GOP Sen. Jerry Moran spoke out Thursday on the Senate floor:
“Words matter. And what Americans say can bolster or shake confidence in the United States.”
Moran lamented that a recent trip to Russia, Finland, and Norway left him “unconvinced that Russia is prepared to change its behavior.”
All this, of course, enhanced by Trump’s confusing statements about the meeting and his attitude toward Putin (explained here).
Democratic senators Chuck Schumer and Christopher Coons are none too satisfied, either. Schumer has attempted to subpoena the Helsinki interpreter, while Coons has asserted “we shouldn’t be just guessing on the statements of the Russian ambassador.”
As for subpoenaing the translator (covered here and here), Republican Bob Corker has said he would reconsider their notes or testimony if Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s statements during Wednesday’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing provide no further transparency with regard to the summit.
So, more coming up on this story, over the several few days. Until then, we will wait for Pompeo’s testimony.
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SATURDAY SPECIAL: Normally, I like to provide a video related to the story is possible. However, any video on the above topic is gonna be quite dry. So how about something more festive? Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Hillary Clinton’s flip-flops. Enjoy: