It is almost a week, and we have no reliable information about the meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.
Trump and Putin spent two and a half hours together in Helsinki with no note-takers, no expert advice, only their interpreters. We have no record of what happened during those two and a half hours, no record of what either man said or may have promised.
The standard practice to have note-takers in such a meeting is because the president is not representing himself, but rather the country. It’s important to have notes because memories of a meeting may be inaccurate or the other party may dispute them.
Engagement in serious discussion precludes note-taking or even forming a coherent memory of all the things said and done. A competent interlocutor pays attention to what the other party is saying and thinks about what s/he will say, informed by recall of materials studied before the meeting.
Interpreting requires its own kind of concentration. Hearing what is said, finding the right words to express it in another language, all in real time, requires all one’s mental capacity. The notes that interpreters take are fragments of what is said and difficult phrases, often in a private shorthand. Although Thomas Pickering says that US interpreters make a “clear, verbatim record” of their meetings.
A note-taker must be able to understand the conversation and its nuances and concentrate on getting that on paper.
Normally, a president reports to the people he represents what was discussed at the meeting. Sometimes a full transcript is made available, but there may be material that is classified. That material would be made available to the appropriate people in the government agencies.
Before such a meeting, the agencies would prepare talking points. They would list areas of sensitivity to allies, Russian approaches that should be pushed back on, and background information, including intelligence and evaluation of Putin’s domestic situation.
Of course, none of that happened, because, as Trump has told us, he is the only one who matters. For him, the meeting was about his personal relationship with Putin. Or he wanted no witnesses because what he was saying and doing was counter to his commitment as president. We don’t know, of course, because we have no information about that meeting except what Russia claims and information leaking and dribbling out from the Trump administration.
In response to a Trump request for prosecutors to question the Russians indicted in the special counsel probe, Putin suggested that former Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, businessman Bill Browder, and others be turned over for questioning in Russia. Trump initially found this “interesting.” He should have instantly found it unacceptable (or a troll), but his administration dithered for a couple of days.
Trump and Putin may have discussed the possibility of a referendum in the Donbas region of Ukraine, where Russia has been carrying on a war that it tries to disguise as being internal. Three days for the administration to knock this one down. Trump should have turned it down instantly.
The Russian Defense Ministry has declared it is looking forward to implementing the agreements reached in international security. The administration has said nothing.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says that Trump has talked to him about the discussions with Putin. He mentioned “counterterrorism [and] an effort to begin conversations around arms control to prevent the spread of nuclear proliferation.”
Trump invited Putin to visit the White House this fall, although that seems to have come after the discussion on July 16. Also after the meeting, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had a phonecall. The readout came from Russia, not the US.
Normally, the notetaker would write up the notes, the president would go over them, the interpreter might help, and the notes or appropriate parts of them would be distributed to the agencies that need to take action. A press conference would make public the agreements and disagreements.
If the agencies aren’t provided with the relevant information from the meeting, they can’t take action. So perhaps this avoids some of the harm from ignorant promises Trump may have made. Or perhaps Trump never intended to keep any promises, which seems to be a practice of his.
In a long Twitter thread, New York Times reporter Lincoln Pigman reports a speech by Anatoly Antonov, the Russian Ambassador to the US, in which he describes the discussions.
The meeting did not necessarily go well for Putin, although he looked much more pleased than Trump did as they came out of their meeting (top photo). His outburst against Bill Browder during the press conference was uncharacteristic. That seems to indicate that the Magnitsky sanctions are a particular irritation for him, as has been noted before.
Also last week, the administration approved $200 million to Ukraine for material needed in the war in the Donbas. It seems unlikely that this was a point of agreement between Trump and Putin. Is this a message? Would it be more effective if the agreement or disagreement were explained?
And we don’t know what happened in Trump’s private meeting with Kim Jong Un, either.
Cross-posted to Nuclear Diner.
Mr. Make America Grovel Again looks like limp noodle.
We are being governed by a mad king and the R party and most of the press are acting like courtiers.
I think I see your problem.
Smedley Darlington Prunebanks (formerly Mumphrey, et al.)
Well, see, here’s your problem:
Tяump isn’t representing the country. He should be, but he isn’t. He never was, and there was never any chance that he would. Since he was only in that meeting for his own benefit, it’s no shocker that he didn’t want anybody else there, messing things up for him.
The Midnight Lurker
Is it just me, or does it look like the President* just got his ass handed to him?
As if we needed more evidence to pile on top of the existing evidence of Trump’s massively toxic narcissism, it’s very clear that Trump thinks that he is the United States, so anything that is good for him personally is automatically good for the country.
Also, I suspect Putin came out of that meeting looking a little disgruntled because it’s starting to dawn on him that manipulating a toxic narcissist is a lot harder when the N has as much or possibly more power than you do. Narcissists are not known for following orders or kowtowing to people who don’t have power over them. They also tend to assume they can ride out any scandal, no matter what, so Trump may not fear the pee-pee tape since he knows that the right-wing noise machine will defend him no matter what.
Enhanced Voting Techniques
It’s clear, Putin is just trolling us with Trump.
@Mnemosyne: Putin looks like my boss cat after he has lapped up some shrimp.
James E Powell
We still don’t know and we will never know. That’s the way both Trump & Putin wanted it to be.
What kills me is all the energy Putin puts into this s–t. Why doesn’t he work on making his own country better? Why doesn’t he just stop invading sovereign nations and assassinating his political enemies, and then there wouldn’t be any sanctions?
As Obama said, how much money do you f–kin need????
@zhena gogolia: How old is he? His face looks weird.
It does not take an expert reader of mind or body to tell that Donnie has been unfit for his responsibilities ever since he rode that shitty escalator down to announce that Mexicans were rapists, “and that I assume some of them are good people, too”. That sunburnt fucknugget knows he is incapable of handling his current position, and he looks like George Costanza’s shriveled nutsack at a Long Island pool party because that is exactly what he is – completely incapable of addressing the trials and tribulations to come.
PF37 +5 / metabolized all the beer by going for a 5-mile run
@Enhanced Voting Techniques:
We have a winner. This is the entire game. OK not exactly, the trolling is how he figures to weaken the power of the US so that he can make even more money selling Russian natural resources.
Didn’t Trump actually say that Putin had made “an incredible offer”? And his tone of voice and other context made it clear that he was using incredible in its colloquial meaning (“wonderful, exciting, generous”) rather than the literal “not to be believed.” Oh, no, he was perfectly prepared to throw Browder and McFaul to the wolves.
He’s 65. He’s been using Botox or something for a number of years. His face got really weird and puffy a few years ago. He used to be kind of handsome in a creepy way. Now he’s hideous.
He really looks like he’s having trouble just walking. Or maybe he’s shit himself, certainly his boss wants more and he has no possible way to provide any.
The Seinfeld reference is spot on.
The Midnight Lurker
“@rikyrah: I wish somebody would write a folk song. Oh, and would someone please write the end of the joke; “Two Corinthians walk into a bar…
@SiubhanDuinne: The word I recalled was “fascinating,” but most quotes have been “interesting.” The CNN transcript agrees with you:
@zhena gogolia: Because Putin cares about Russia as much as Trump cares about the US – not at all. They’re just vehicles for wealth and power to them. The people living in them are things to be manipulated, at best.
@zhena gogolia: He is better dressed and the less weird looking of the two, though.
Yeah, sigh. I had hope for Russia between 1985 and 2003. I firmly believe that Gorbachev is the only leader they’ve had who tried to do something for the country.
Of course. I’m comparing him to his former self, not to Twitler.
@zhena gogolia: Yeltsin had good intentions, but his liver gave out too quickly, and he didn’t have the heart for governing after climbing on top of the tanks. I don’t know enough to opine on whether Bill had enough sway to potentially steer the country in a different / better direction.
Uh, no, Yeltsin began the process of selling the country’s resources off to the highest bidder. And he hand-picked Putin. I’ll grant he wasn’t as bad as Putin on human rights.
@zhena gogolia: Was Yeltsin crooked or just incompetent/too weak? Gorbachev was certainly the only leader with the power to do good things for the country and actually have an interest in doing them.
I’m still curious about what you would think of A Gentleman in Moscow. To me, it came across with a great affection for the Russian people, but I’m not at all an expert.
@The Midnight Lurker: If you’re old enough to remember 70’s car ads on TV, you just make it “Two Corinthians walk into a leather bar.” The punchline is baked right in.
Crooked, incompetent, weak, drunk
Not as crooked as Putin, though
@zhena gogolia: It’s hard to make good decisions when you’re drinking gasoline (aka cheap-ass vodka) constantly.
@zhena gogolia: How much of that sell-off was pressure from neo-liberal western advisors?
Still working on Phineas Redux (which is great, BTW), then I have a Galsworthy trilogy to finish, then I’ll get it. I promise!
I doubt that Boris Nikolaevich had to drink cheap vodka.
I don’t think the corruption was the Western advisors’ idea.
OT, via LGM, the chutzpah is incredible, and I’m not even that much of a fan of the left.
@The Midnight Lurker: Its not just one bad picture, but every pic that came from that meeting shows Trump slouched, crestfallen, vacant and wandering. He just looks like someone slowly falling apart.
I’m about to go, so I’ll spare you any more of my amateur politologiia!
@schrodingers_cat: He really is afraid of stairs, even one step up onto a low dais. That hunched-over self-care bespeaks either bad knees (for which I could sympathize) or a poor sense of balance. Did he dance with the Third Lady at his inauguration?
The Midnight Lurker
Ahhhh… that takes me back. Ricardo Montalban. “Rich Corinthian leather.”
What’s weird is that it must be some kind of commonly held article of faith among “populist” leaders to not be *too* well dressed. Because if you look at Putin, although the suit fits much better across the shoulders, his pants are too long and his sleeves cover his cuffs completely. He at least can button his jacket, which is nice.
@The Midnight Lurker:
so these 2 Corinthians walk into a bar and one of them says “Deuteronomy, more like Deuteroffame!” and the other one says, “Leviticus? She hardly knew us!”
BUT IT WAS RICH CORINTHIAN LEATHER
@Corner Stone: Good point about the cuffs and pant length. P is only better dressed in comparison to the other person in the photo.
Votel has not yet been briefed on what Trump may have said to Putin.
@Cheryl Rofer: Is the food in the Nuclear Diner, radioactive?
My hunch is that he takes something like human growth hormone or one of those steroid-ish youth/vigor/maleness cocktails, because his head grew like Barry Bonds’s did.
Fillers! The guy is mostly restylene.
Mike in NC
Trump looks like the Golem of Queens as he slouches toward the podium. Such an embarrassment.
@M31: I heard a man thought a Hebrew prophet was sleeping with his wife. He snuck up to the bedroom door one night and shouted “Who’s there?” A voice from within cried out triumphantly, “I, Habbakuk!”
@The Midnight Lurker:
It isn’t just you.
Steve in the ATL
Guy next to me at the airport is on his way home from a juggling convention in Springfield, MA. Five hundred jugglers in attendance.
@schrodingers_cat: I’ve heard glowing reviews.
@?BillinGlendaleCA: In the dark?
@schrodingers_cat: Every accusation is an admission. They mocked Obama for meeting with leaders of other countries with no pre-conditions. Now they furrow their brows and release mealy-mouthed statements. This is utter bullshit.
@schrodingers_cat: The best diners have mood lighting.
On the plus side: according to CNN, MAGAt Haberman tells us that Shitgibbon often tells the truth. So I feel much better now, and realize that all my cynicism was unfounded.
That she was not smote where she sat is only the latest evidence that there is no such thing as a Just God.
“His name is in fact Donald Trump. Checkmate, Dems!”
@Haydnseek: We are not worthy, we are not worthy.
@SFAW: and just yesterday Clara Jeffery from Mother Jones was claiming most of the Haberman-bashing was straight-up sexism.
(It can be both. I think Haberman is awful but her male colleagues, such as sexual abuser Glenn Thrush, are even worse.)
hells littlest angel
The last thing Trump recalls Putin saying is, “Why don’t you pass the time by playing a little solitaire?”
@stinger: I’m still going with the “missed a payment to the Russian mob, and fell down some stairs, three times” theory.
@The Midnight Lurker: a pussy was grabbed.
@Mnemosyne: Just about to take a break from Barrayar and start this one!
I think Trump wants to be Putin’s client– Trump thinks Putin is the only one who is able to prevent the truth (whatever it is) from coming out. But there are some significant problems with that: the main one is that the people Putin hires are smart, competent and loyal– and obviously Donnie faiis all those qualifications. And, of course, there’s the treason thing.
My balloon cartoon bubble above Trump’s head in that photo: “No asylum! I can’t believe it”.
@SFAW: note to Mags…just because trump tells you you’re smart and reminds you of Ivanka doesn’t mean he’s being truthful, it means he’s trying to get in your pants. Ask Stormy, she knows.
He used to be kind of handsome
Never. He’s always been stupid, and stupidity shows.
James E Powell
It’s not possible to rule out sexism as a motivator or an intensifier, but it’s also not right to use it to grant Haberman immunity from criticism. She is and has been NYT’s frontline Trump explainer since the campaign. She got the book deal and by all appearances is vigorously defending her turf – access that depends upon friendly relations with the subject, his family, and his inner circle.
@Steve in the ATL: I wondered why Port Townsend seemed so empty . . . .
Did Obama make him hire Page, Flynn and Manafort, and who knows who else was kissing Putin’s ass.
@JPL: I think he secretly blames Obama for ‘winning’. He absolutely did not want to end up in the Oval Office at all.
@PsiFighter37: That makes two of us.
@Steve in the ATL: I took a red eye flight back from a job interview in Alaska years ago. Boarded right when the gates opened, and was pleasantly surprised to see that the plane was almost empty – until about 15 minutes before scheduled takeoff, when 2 VERY excited school bands swarmed onto the plane, with nearly all instruments except bass, tuba, and keyboard in hand. Apparently, both groups had placed first in their respective divisions in a competition earlier that day.
The older kids had won with a mash-up of “Tusk” and Dexys Midnight Runners’ “Come On Eileen”, and they were not about to let the good times stop rolling just because it was 2 in the morning.
It was an 8 hour flight, with a lavatory that went on the blink half an hour in, no layovers or transfers, and only two band chaperones in attendance (both of whom proceeded to put on in-flight movie headphones, and drink heavily).
@PsiFighter37: Oh, he wanted to be President – to get the adoring crowds and the band playing your theme music whenever you walk into a room. He just didn’t want to do any of the work of governing.
Like if we had the Canadian system, he’d be all over being governor general. (Or king.) He wouldn’t want to be prime minister.
Isn’t a duck supposed to drop from the ceiling if you get the magic word?
Can we stop with that ridiculous “meme” already? Of course he wanted the Presidency: it allowed him to do his dominance/domination thing in extremis, and grift to his heart’s [sic] content, and who the fuck was going to tell him to stop? [Where “who” is defined as Congress or the Attorney General — or frankly, anyone else who could rein him in.]
ETA: The only time you will hear him claim he “never wanted it anyway” is if he gets impeached and convicted or otherwise removed from office.
I feel so old. What percentage of the readership got that without googling?
@Ken: I did, but I’m very old for my age.
I’m a Marxist of the Groucho variety.
I don’t see Thrush out there shilling for Shitgibbon on an almost-daily basis. Nor am I aware of him having a Trump-related book to sell. Perhaps I’m just not paying attention, because he’s a man.
Firesign Theater ref?
Raises hand… but, Groucho was a childhood hero.
@dexwood: I’ve been to Groucho’s final resting place.
Did you have to say the password to get in? [“Swordfish,” of course]
Picture, or it didn’t happen. Come on, you must have one.
@Mel: Cymbals, trombones, snare drums? Trumpets?
Lucky there was no tuba!
@SFAW: Swordfish, is that Kosher? It’s a Jewish Cemetery.
@dexwood: Actually I don’t, I couldn’t find Groucho’s marker, he’s in a mausoleum. I checked after I got home and just missed seeing it.
@SFAW: As someone else mentioned, he only wanted the title and the power he thought came along with it. He didn’t want the actual job and what it entailed. It’s paradoxical, for sure, but put it in the paradigm of a little spoiled brat, and it makes a lot of sense.
@PsiFighter37: He wanted to be King, not President.
ETA: As one of his predecessors said, “Presidenting is hard work”.
Shit happens. You haven’t lost credibility as a photographer in my eyes. I still find the Marx Bros, worth watching every 2 or 3 years. I was raised and educated Catholic. They gave me hope because they questioned authority, mocked their so-called betters, and seemed to enjoy it completely. Lessons for today, in my opinion.
@dexwood: I’m planning on returning, so I’ll get a shot then. I think that Lenny Bruce is buried up there too.
ETA: On that adventure(San Fernando Mission was the primary objective), I also wanted to see Bob Hope’s final resting place but was foiled in that as well.
ETA2: Bob Hope is buried in “The Garden of Hope” at the San Fernando Mission.
@?BillinGlendaleCA: The caretakers do pay close attention to anyone with a shovel.
@Dan B: There was a tambourine right behind me, flute 2 seats back, and a girl with finger cymbals in the seat in front of me.
Snare drum was way too big for carry on even back in the day, but two kids, each with a small bongo drum, plus another kid with a harmonica, were seated towards the back of the plane near a supply area where the flight attendants appeared usually to hang out and chat during lulls in passenger calls. Fun trip for the flight crew, as well…
I spent 15 years doing still documentary work. Threw in an art show or two when I could. I still regret missed moments. Gotta eat. Later.
@Mel: The ad campaign writes itself. “If you thought Snakes on a Plane was terrifying…”
@James E Powell: Not to mention that her mother has a professional association with Trump, which she never acknowledges.
As you’ve probably gathered, I really loved it. It’s the perfect time for a novel about surviving an authoritarian government while still being kind and honorable.
And sdhays actually used the word correctly to mean “libertarians who worship the free market.” S/he should at least win a cigar for that.
A concept which would cause Trump and his fanboys to burst into laughter. America is the Orange Toilet’s personal plaything, the Trumpanzees appointed him King with absolute magical powers to Make All Their Dreams Come True, and everything he does is perfect because shutupshutupshutup.
What a pic of Trump and Putin.Trump looks like the local kiss-up-kick-down crazy-ass manager who just lost his annual bonus and got chewed out by the boss, who doesn’t really care and is in it for the lulz.
Also, I don’t see how an interpreter could both interpret in real time, and write up very accurate notes afterward, unless there were at least one observer at the meeting to help (and that third person woul be a natural real time note taker anyway). What kind of help would Trump be afterwards? And think what it would be like to have to interpret for him. Must be a nightmare to parse his gibberish. And you have to accurately remember what the hell it was all about later without help? I doubt that we have an adequate record, whether public or not.
@Smedley Darlington Prunebanks (formerly Mumphrey, et al.): Putin’s threatened to call in the loans.
@Ken: “You Bet Your Life” one of two prop ducks on Antiques Roadshow.
Yes, and …? “He didn’t want to do the work” is not the same as “He didn’t want to be President”
I agree he didn’t want to do the ACTUAL work, he just wanted to do the ordering-people-around shit, and (as someone else noted) the fun stuff, and so on. But you can’t boss people around on such a large scale except as President (or CEO of a REAL company, which The Shitgibbon Organization is not).
The whole “He never wanted to be President” is on a par with saying that GWB never wanted to go after Saddam Hussein, but felt he had no choice (because of 9/11, let’s say).
@Steve in the ATL: I have seen pics from same on my Facebook feed.
smedley the uncertain
@dexwood: I’ve always admired the great Marxist. Especially for his astute club membership analysis. But then, I live in Fredonia…
You mean Putin? I’m talking about Putin.
@JPL: Every time I see one of these deranged tweets, I think, “surely this is as bad as it can get. *Surely* even *Trump* has a limit to how much he’s willing to bullshit us – or himself.”
I keep getting disappointed/gobsmacked.
Whom that may be more a reflection on, I will leave to yourself to determine.
@Ken: I did! I got it! I never saw the show, but I was a huge Groucho fan, so I knew about it.
I can’t claim complete credit but I did tweak it:
Two corinthinians, a doric, an ionic and the president* into a bar and the barkeep shoots Trump. A customer asks why, the keep says “he’s the fifth column.”
Well, since his own lawyers either have two lawyers at every meet with him, or record the conversations – I’m guessing “negative help”.
No and nyet.
A copy of the memo (in govspeak, the ‘memcon’) a translator writes up post-meeting, made from his or her own notes, is submitted to the National Archives and is always clearly and unignorably labeled “This is not a verbatim transcript.”
@The Midnight Lurker:
It occurred to me the first time I saw this picture that together, Trump and Putin look like servant and master.
smedley the uncertain
@Barbara: Oh really? tell us more…
@Amir Khalid: That is an optimistic interpretation.
Nope. Danger of pronouns without precedents.
Can’t say I see the attraction to Putin, either, but I’m glad it’s not Trump.
@Mnemosyne: And when Putin finally concludes he can’t get what he wants from Trump, he’ll burn him. How, I don’t know, but I bet that there will be collateral damage on the rest of us.
J R in WV
In a real newspaper with real journalistic ethics, she would never be allowed to cover anyone who hired and paid anyone in her family.
And if an ethical news organization discovered that her mom was working for the guy she was supposed to be covering, she would have been fired
the next day that night. As in immediately.
But not, huh? That says it all about her and her newspaper. No ethics anywhere.
@Ken: Way late, but I must confess. And very nice work!
You can bet Putin has a record. He’s very fond of recording things.
Is it me or n that photo does Der Fuhrer look like a whipped dog? Putin is walking with a straight back and Der Fuhrer is kind of hunched over. Now maybe it is just that he is about to step up to something on the floor. And one off photos can be really misleading but ………..