Our Editorial: Trump humiliates himself, nation before Putin

The Detroit News
U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, Monday, July 16, 2018.

President Donald Trump has moved from irrationally stubborn to dangerously delusional on the matter of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. 

His insistence on denying irrefutable evidence that Moscow attempted to influence the presidential balloting to his benefit lest it taint his victory played out disastrously on the world stage Monday.

Trump humiliated himself in front of Vladimir Putin, the ruthless dictator of a country that still harbors imperialistic ambitions despite its declining economy and diminishing influence.

And he frittered away the message his presidency is built on: America First and toughness.

It is not in America's interests to let Putin off the hook for election meddling. The president was anything but tough in dealing with our nation's oldest adversary. 

What the Russian bully needed to hear from Trump was a firm "Knock it off!" 

Instead, Trump meekly accepted Putin's laughable claim of innocence. In doing so, he took the legs out from under his own national security and intelligence teams, which are nearly unanimous in their certainty that the Russians meddled.

Trump walked away from the one-day summit in Helsinki declaring Putin "very, very strong." As for himself, he appears today to be very, very weak.

And, as we said, delusional.

Last week, a dozen Russian operatives were indicted by special prosecutor Robert Mueller for hacking into the email accounts of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's campaign.

That followed charges in February against a separate group of 13 Russians accused of using social media and fake rallies to sway public opinion in favor of Trump. 

Trump's own director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, forcefully responded after the Trump/Putin press conference that Russia not only interfered in the election, but that its "efforts to undermine our democracy are ongoing."

Republican congress members lined up to affirm Coats' assessment and denounce the Trump denial.

And yet the president won't acknowledge the obvious.

Doing so would not make the leap to collusion shorter, as Trump apparently fears. No evidence has yet been presented that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians.

Nor would it make his election victory illegitimate. There were a lot of thumbs on the scales of the 2016 election, and so far there's been nothing to suggest the Russian efforts pushed Trump over the top.

But accepting reality would place Trump in a stronger position in dealing with Putin on Syria and Iraq, and other areas of conflict. And it would make the Russians understand the United States will not tolerate outside interference in our foundational institutions.

It might also move the president to step up efforts to safeguard our elections, something he has faulted former President Barack Obama for not doing, but hasn't done himself.

As Americans, we are embarrassed by Trump's acquiescence to the likes of Putin.

We can't help but remember an earlier Republican president, Ronald Reagan, who bravely faced down a much more powerful Russia, and in doing so vanquished the Soviet empire.

The Gipper must be rolling over in his grave.