According to fired FBI Deputy Director Andy McCabe, intelligence officials were briefing President Trump on the state of North Korea's ballistic missile program when Trump said he did not believe North Korea possessed the capability to launch missile attacks on the United States because Russian President Vladimir Putin told him that Pyongyang did not possess such missiles.
McCabe's comments on 60 Minutes led MSNBC's Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski to ask politics editor at The Daily Beast Sam Stein, "What would be the indications at this point that President Trump is not a puppet for Vladimir Putin? Tell me all the ways in which he's made it clear that he's not in his actions."
Stein could have listed several policies that showed that Trump has taken actions that no Putin puppet would ever take. No Putin puppet would support Juan Guaidó in Venezuela, strike Syrian targets twice after Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against his own people, or sell anti-tank missiles to Ukraine. Nor would he withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran or the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, but Morning Joe opposed both of those moves, saying the latter was part of Trump's plan to start a war with Iran and that the latter would start a nuclear arms race. Using Mika's own logic, Morning Joe is a Putin puppet.
However, Stein did not cite any of those examples, but instead replied, "That's a rhetorical question, Mika. It's very difficult to find those cases." Stein also lamented that, "For all of his faults, all his problems, he's done one thing really effectively, which is he's muddied the waters and he's convinced half the population that Andy McCabe can't be trusted, that his account is something written out of vindictiveness."
Perhaps the reason why McCabe isn't trusted is not because Trump has waged a PR war against him, but because he was fired for lying about leaks to the press on the suggestion of the inspector general, who also recommended a criminal investigation into the matter.
Here is a transcript for the February 18 show:
6:55 AM ET
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Sam Stein, what would be the indications at this point that President Trump is not a puppet for Vladimir Putin? Tell me all the ways in which he's made it clear that he's not in his actions.
SAM STEIN: That's a rhetorical question, Mika. It's very difficult to find those cases. He does things that defy logic, defy geopolitical strategic sense that are just mind blowing at some points in time. As I watched the interview last night, I remembered Paul O’Neill book, George W. Bush's first Treasury Secretary, he came out with a book relatively early in the administration, it was written by Ron Suskind, and it was explosive for the revelations that it contained. It was an insider account of sort of a chaotic administration, but also one that was being run not but the President but by Dick Cheney. And I remember being consumed around the controversy that had erupted around that book. This is, by all intents and purposes, much more problematic, much more troubling what Andy McCabe has been detailing. The President looks way in over his head, he seems to be beholden to Putin and there are serious accusations that the president obstructed justice. What I can't help but think is that Trump for all of his faults, all his problems, he's done one thing really effectively, which is he's muddied the waters and he's convinced half of the population that Andy McCabe can't be trusted, that his account is something written out of vindictiveness. So my fear is that this person coming forward to detail something so deeply problematic won't be believed by half the country because Trump has muddied the waters, essentially.