NBC’s Engel: Trump Doing Damage Control Is ‘Magic Trick,’ Green Light for Russia to Keep Hacking

NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel reacted during a Tuesday afternoon Special Report to President Trump’s attempt at damage control following the Helsinki summit by dubbing the remarks a “magic trick” meant to deceive the world and gives Russia “a green light” to continue its cyber-hacking and meddle in elections across the globe.

It can certainly be argued that the President’s backpedaling wasn’t exactly smooth, but Engel’s characterization and insinuation that Trump wants Russia to try to influence and/or throw elections across the globe was quite the stretch.

 

 

“So this wasn't just an attempt at a do-over. This was a magic trick. He was trying to convince the world what everyone saw over the last week culminating in Helsinki, they did not see. They did not a meeting in the U.K. in which he embarrassed the British prime minister. They did not see over 100,000, some estimates, a quarter million protesters on the streets,” Engel began, speaking to Sunday NBC Nightly News anchor Kate Snow.

Trump’s cringe-worthy endorsement of Russian lies about their cyber-hacking and subsequent remarks Tuesday had nothing to do with the London protesters Engel immersed himself in last week, but sure. 

Only then did Engel return to the matter at hand and cleaning up from the disastrous press conference in Finland (click “expand” for more):

They did not see him stand next to Vladimir Putin and exonerate the Russian president for the hacking attacks. It — no one around the world is going to believe that it was just one word that he misspoke and that as the President said, that's going to clarify everything. This seemed like it was directed mostly at the American media to detract attention so people can now parse his words. Did he mean it? Did he not mean it? But people around the world were watching and they know what happened on this last trip. They know that President Trump trashed his allies and then stood next to Vladimir Putin and gave him a pass for hacking and that is something that has many world leaders terrified. 

Engel shifted next to his conspiracy theory about Trump approving of Russian hacking, ruling that Tuesday was the President trying to argue that his Helsinki behavior wasn’t an “invitation to Russia to continue its cyber-meddling” across the globe and try “to take over political systems.”

After comments about Trump’s walk back from Snow, Engel doubled down on his conspiracy theory. Here’s part of his response:

And if you don't stand up to it like he didn't stand to it in Helsinki standing up to Vladimir Putin the impression is you are giving it a green light and that has many countries who don't have the capabilities that the United States has to repel these kind of attacks very worried. 

None of that was analysis or journalism; it was a speech meant for the House floor or remarks by any of the many anti-Trump pundits on CNN.

Speaking from the White House, national correspondent Peter Alexander replied to a Snow question about Republican reaction to Trump’s behavior by alluding to the raging thunderstorm going on behind him on the North Lawn: “Yeah, Kate, the giant storm behind me is it a metaphor for this storm that's been swirling around this President now over the last 24 hours.”

To see the relevant transcript from the July 17 afternoon NBC News Special Report, click “expand.”

NBC News Special Report
July 17, 2018
3:07 p.m. Eastern

RICHARD ENGEL: So this wasn't just an attempt at do over. This was magic trick. He was trying to convince the world what everyone saw over the last week culminating in Helsinki, they did not see. They did not a meeting in the U.K. in which he embarrassed the British prime minister. They did not see over 100,000, some estimates, a quarter million protesters on the streets. They did not see him stand next to Vladimir Putin and exonerate the Russian president for the hacking attacks. It — no one around the world is going to believe that it was just one word that he misspoke and that as the President said, that's going to clarify everything. This seemed like it was directed mostly at the American media to detract attention so people can now parse his words. Did he mean it? Did he not mean it? But people around the world were watching and they know what happened on this last trip. They know that President Trump trashed his allies and then stood next to Vladimir Putin and gave him a pass for hacking and that is something that has many world leaders terrified. Because this is not just an American domestic issue. There have been several countries that have been attacked by Russia through cyber-meddling, attempts to take over political systems, take over the German parliament, to in filtrate the election campaign of Emmanuel Macron and countries around the world including France and Germany, what happened in Helsinki, which now the President says we didn't see as invitation to Russia to continue its cyber-meddling. 

KATIE SNOW: And Richard also a change in tone from the president on very question of meddling. He said just now we will repel any interference in upcoming elections. We will do everything in our power to stop Russian interference, which is something he did not say yesterday. 

ENGEL: And I think somebody got in his ear because that was the message or absence of that message was heard loud and clear especially in Europe because, in recent elections in Europe, there has always been shadow of Russian cyber-interference. And if you don't stand up to it like he didn't stand to it in Helsinki standing up to Vladimir Putin the impression is you are giving it a green light and that has many countries who don't have the capabilities that the United States has to repel these kind of attacks very worried. 

SNOW: Let me go back to Peter Alexander. Richard, thank you. Let me go back to Peter at the White House and, Peter, we watched the President sitting there with some Republican members of Congress. You mentioned before there has been an out cry from Capitol Hill, not from just Democrats, but from many, many key Republicans, even the Speaker of the House, expressing dismay over what happened yesterday. Will this course correction, will this literal correction perhaps help with some of those relationships on Capitol Hill? Help Republicans feel better about what happened? 

PETER ALEXANDER: Yeah, Kate, the giant storm behind me is it a metaphor for this storm that's been swirling around this President now over the last 24 hours. It has been a ton of Republicans saying things like it was disgraceful, shameful, sad what they heard from the President. Privately, I can tell you even here among aides in the West Wing, they were I think best I can describe it embarrassed by the President's comments. As one said to me, there is nothing I can do to defend what you heard from the President yesterday. So it remains to be seen what the President said today will be enough to satisfy them. I think evidence by whatever we heard they wanted clarify. I think a lot of Republicans will say we are glad to see the President speak out. But notably there was one phrase in his comments today that really struck me. Even in those remarks again that were typed where the President said he accepted the intelligence community's findings that Russian meddled in the 2016 election, he also added some words in that I can confidently say were not on the paper he was reading from, he said could also be other people so even in the President's clarification today, his efforts to clarify his comments yesterday, he still offered this caveat to try to provide a little window of doubt. Kate. 

NB Daily Foreign Policy Europe Russia Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats Trump-Russia probe NBC Video Government & Press Richard Engel Peter Alexander Donald Trump
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