Donald Trump has now said loud and proud one sentence I never expected to hear from a president of the United States: “I never worked for Russia.”
Pardon me while I pick up my jaw. Think about it. This is not a guy who works for an insurance company denying that he’s moonlighting at Wendy’s. This is the man who sits behind the desk in the Oval Office — telling the American people that he really is there to work for them, not for another (often hostile) government on the other side of the world.
How did it come to this? The president and his fans say the explanation is simple: a vast conspiracy of Democrats, left-wingers, Hillary supporters, squishy Republicans, and the devilish media have whipped up a hoax. To hear them tell it, these anti-Trumpers have promoted witnesses, concocted fake testimony, and weaved nefarious tales around benign events. In short: Everyone is against him and they are making up lies.
Of course, most Americans — who do not believe Trump’s repeated and raging attacks on the Russia investigation, according to polls — see the situation differently. Just look at the facts, many of them say. Members of Team Trump had numerous meetings with Russian emissaries, despite often denying it. The Russians, according to U.S. intelligence services, meddled in the election with hopes of helping Trump win. Trump, according to his own former attorney, was still trying to work out a big, private business deal in Moscow even as he was securing the Republican nomination. Trump has frequently defended Russian government actions and he has praised Russian strongman/president Vladimir Putin. And now the Washington Post says Trump aggressively hid details of his private meetings with Putin from even his own staff. (Trump later denied having done so.)
When a reporter asked about these latest revelations, he denied them and came back with a blowtorch. “Not only did I never work for Russia, I think it’s a disgrace that you even asked that question.”
On that, I’m inclined to say he is right. It’s disgraceful the question is being asked of a sitting U.S. president. Although, one might argue that what is specifically disgraceful is the fact that it needs to be.
Tom Foreman is a CNN correspondent and author of the book “My Year of Running Dangerously.”