Wallace: ‘Cloud’ of Russia Will ‘Hang Over’ Trump ‘No Matter Where He Stands’

On Thursday’s NBC Today, co-host Savannah Guthrie fretted over how President Trump would handle himself in his upcoming meeting with Russian president and “master manipulator” Vladimir Putin, who “certainly will know how to press the President’s buttons.” MSNBC anchor Nicolle Wallace had little faith in Trump’s abilities as she ranted: “I think that the White House has successfully lowered the bar so low that if it were any lower it would be underground.”

Wallace derided how the administration was framing the sit-down: “‘Oh, he’s winging it, there’s no agenda.’ I don’t buy that. Obviously they have a plan to exceed expectations, which are less than nothing.” She then proclaimed: “But the fact that he’s going into a meeting as a representative of this country and hasn’t sort of affirmed that he will....poke a finger in Vladimir Putin’s chest and say, ‘Hey, when it comes to our democracy, I've got this, Vlad,’ is disturbing.”

Referencing NBC correspondent Hallie Jackson grilling Trump during a press conference in Poland on Russian meddling in the 2016 election, Wallace worried:

I think that the answer to Hallie Jackson’s question was obviously meant to manage expectations, to say that he will take it to Russia a little bit. But the fact that he insists on throwing other people into the mix [on hacking during the election] when we know that simply wasn’t the case continues to be a disturbing sign that this cloud about collusion with Russia will hang over him no matter where he stands.

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Guthrie replied: “And there are so many clouds hanging over the world stage right now: North Korea, Russia, to say nothing of ISIS and terrorism.”

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Here are excerpts of the July 6 coverage:

7:04 AM ET

(...)

PETER ALEXANDER: But the trip’s main event will be President Trump’s first ever face-to-face with Vladimir Putin.

DONALD TRUMP: We’re working with Poland in response to Russia’s actions and destabilizing behavior.

ALEXANDER: NBC’s Hallie Jackson asking repeatedly about Moscow’s meddling during the election.

HALLIE JACKSON: Will you once and for all, yes or no, definitively say that Russia interfered in the 2016 election?  

TRUMP: Well, I think it was Russia and I think it could have been other people in other countries. Mistakes have been made. I agree, I think it was Russia, but I think it was probably other people and/or countries, and I see nothing wrong with that statement. Nobody really knows.

JACKSON: And before I get to President Duda, you talk about being angry with President Obama, Mr. President. You talk about –

UNIDENTIFIED MAN [POLISH OFFICIAL]: Dear lady, just two questions! Dear lady, dear lady, two questions! Thank you very much.

ALEXANDER: And that’s how the news conference ended. White House officials have not said yet whether President Trump will raise the issue of Russia’s role in the 2016 election during his conversation with Vladimir Putin tomorrow.

(...)

7:06 AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Let’s talk about Russia. Obviously Friday is the big meeting with Vladimir Putin, who is known as a master manipulator. I mean, this guy studies up, he knows his subject. He certainly will know how to press the President’s buttons. How should the President prepare for this?

NICOLLE WALLACE: Well, listen, if Donald Trump’s brand is author of Art of the Deal, Vladimir Putin’s brand is former KGB spy master. So I think this is really where the rubber meets the road with everything that Donald Trump thinks he can do to an adversary. Vladimir Putin has already done it and then some.

So I think that the White House has successfully lowered the bar so low that if it were any lower it would be underground. “Oh, he’s winging it, there’s no agenda.” I don’t buy that. Obviously they have a plan to exceed expectations, which are less than nothing. But the fact that he’s going into a meeting as a representative of this country and hasn’t sort of affirmed that he will do what Jeremy Bash describes as poke a finger in Vladimir Putin’s chest and say, “Hey, when it comes to our democracy, I've got this, Vlad,” is disturbing.

And I think that the answer to Hallie Jackson’s question was obviously meant to manage expectations, to say that he will take it to Russia a little bit. But the fact that he insists on throwing other people into the mix when we know that simply wasn’t the case continues to be a disturbing sign that this cloud about collusion with Russia will hang over him no matter where he stands.

GUTHRIE: And there are so many clouds hanging over the world stage right now: North Korea, Russia, to say nothing of ISIS and terrorism.

WALLACE: Right.

(...)

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