Hours before President Trump sat down for a meeting with Vladimir Putin at the G20 Summit in Germany on Friday, NBC’s Today had already decided that the sit-down would be a complete failure for the American commander-in-chief and an inevitable victory for the Russian dictator.
At the top of the show, co-host Matt Lauer proclaimed: “It’s on. Two of the most powerful and controversial men in the world, President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, meeting one-on-one for the very first time just hours from now.” Minutes later, Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel fretted: “President Trump will have to work hard to avoid falling into any traps....And Russians who’ve tried to stand up to Putin say Trump is being played.”
Champion Russian chess player Garry Kasparov told the reporter: “He’s definitely playing into Putin’s hands....Trump psychologically, with his massive ego, would be the ideal counterpart.”
Assuming that Trump would be fooled by the autocrat, Engel feared: “Putin has gone out of his way to flatter Trump.... [Putin] has never appeared to like an American president as much as President Trump, which is why so many wonder what he’s up to.”
Wrapping up the report, the worried journalist predicted a win for Putin no matter what:
Analysts say this meeting could end up being a win-win for Vladimir Putin. If nothing comes out of it, Putin can say that Trump is weak, that he’s hamstrung by domestic politics. And if Trump wants to make a deal on almost anything, Putin can say the U.S. had to come to the Kremlin for help.
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In the discussion that followed, Lauer and fellow co-host Savannah Guthrie turned to two former Obama administration officials to further dump on Trump. Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul could already imagine what would be said in the meeting:
And my suspicion is his game plan’s going to be pretty simple. “Donald” – maybe he won’t say Donald – but he’ll say, “President Trump, you and I, we can do great things together if you and I work together because we think the same thing. Now, the fake news people, the Deep State” – he’s going to use those phrases, I’ve heard him use those phrases – they’re our enemy. You and I can unite to do big things together.”
Talking to Obama national security official Jeremy Bash, Lauer suggested that any account of the meeting from the President could not be trusted:
...these two guys have something in common, they have a few things in common. One of the things they have in common is, on occasion, they both play fast and loose with the truth. What happens if after this meeting, President Trump comes out and says, “I confronted him on the election meddling,” and Putin goes home and talks to his own people and his own press and says, “Never happened”? Who are we gonna believe?
Bash agreed: “There’s really no way to know exactly what will happen. Unless somebody takes detailed notes, we may never know.”
In a report at the top of broadcast, correspondent Peter Alexander touted: “With President Trump still refusing to fully admit Russia’s role.... A growing number of Democrats are pressing the President to confront Putin about Moscow’s meddling [in the 2016 election], sending this letter arguing not doing so would be a ‘dereliction of duty.’”
Having been given the Democratic Party’s talking points of the day, Lauer and Guthrie made sure to focus the conversation on demands that Trump broach the subject with Putin. “Is it essential – if President Trump wants to say this meeting was a success – is it essential that point blank he confront Vladimir Putin on meddling in the U.S. election?,” Lauer asked Bash. “Absolutely,” Bash replied.
With McFaul, the morning show anchor wondered: “...yesterday, where he said, ‘Yes, I think it was Russia, but nobody really knows for sure,’ hasn’t President Trump boxed himself in? Hasn’t he given Vladimir Putin the perfect response to any accusation?”
Moments later, Lauer followed up: “You said Vladimir Putin will respect President Trump more if President Trump goes right at him and says ‘I know you meddled.’ If he doesn’t bring that up in a direct term, Vladimir Putin will sense weakness.” McFaul declared: “For Trump to not bring it up, that’s a sign of weakness.”
It’s easy for the liberal media to spin a narrative when they don’t actually have to wait until after events happen and can just make up their own biased headlines ahead of time.
The slanted coverage was brought to viewers by LaZboy, Subaru, and Lowe’s.
Here is a full transcript of Engel’s July 7 report:
7:05 AM ET
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: The President has made no secret of his hopes to improve relations with Moscow. But for past presidents, that has not been so easy. Former President Obama’s attempt at a Russian reset largely collapsed. So what is it about the Russian leader that makes him so difficult to deal with? NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel is also in Germany with a look at that part of the story. Richard, good morning.
RICHARD ENGEL: Good morning, Savannah. President Trump will have to work hard to avoid falling into any traps. President Putin is expected to come into this meeting very well prepared and to try to stage manage it so that he looks like the stronger leader.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Putin and the President; Inside Former Spymaster’s Strategy & Stagecraft]
In style and demeanor, Presidents Trump and Putin couldn’t be more different. While Trump wears his emotions on his Twitter feed, Putin, a former KGB colonel, has the ultimate poker face. And Russians who’ve tried to stand up to Putin say Trump is being played.
GARRY GKASPAROV: He’s definitely playing into Putin’s hands.
ENGEL: Garry Gkasparov, a Putin critic and iconic Russian chess grandmaster, says Putin is no strategist, but understands power.
GKASPAROV: Putin’s a dictator. And dictators, by definition, in my view, don’t play chess. So that’s why I believe I have to defend the integrity of my game. I would rather say he’s playing a poker game.
ENGEL: He’s a poker player?
GKASPAROV: He’s a poker player, he’s a card player, he’s a gambler.
ENGEL: A gambler who keys in on his opponents’ weaknesses. Putin has gone out of his way to flatter Trump.
GKASPAROV: Trump psychologically, with his massive ego, would be the ideal counterpart.
ENGEL: Critics say Putin’s Russia is mostly a mafia state and that President Trump should treat it as one. Anti-Putin opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murzsa was poisoned twice. He blames the Kremlin. Do you think a closer relationship between President Trump and Putin puts activists like you in greater danger?
VLADIMIR KARA-MURZSA: The only thing we ask of our colleagues and of political leaders is that they don’t help Mr. Putin. First of all, by treating him as a legitimate partner and as a respected partner on the world stage.
ENGEL: And Putin, the lifetime intelligence agent, has never appeared to like an American president as much as President Trump, which is why so many wonder what he’s up to.
Analysts say this meeting could end up being a win-win for Vladimir Putin. If nothing comes out of it, Putin can say that Trump is weak, that he’s hamstrung by domestic politics. And if Trump wants to make a deal on almost anything, Putin can say the U.S. had to come to the Kremlin for help. Matt, Savannah? Back to you.
GUTHRIE: Richard Engel in Hamburg, Germany, thank you. By the way, tonight Richard’s going to have a lot more on this Trump/Putin meeting and the state of Russia today on MSNBC’s On Assignment. That airs at 9:00 Eastern Time.