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Tue Apr 16, 2019, 03:52 PM

Trump's apparent sympathy for assassination

The Fix Analysis
Trump’s apparent sympathy for assassination
A report suggests Trump initially viewed the poisoning of former Russian agent Sergei Skripal on British soil as fair game for Vladimir Putin. It fits a trend.

By Aaron Blake
April 16 at 9:59 AM

The New York Times is out with a lengthy look at CIA Director Gina Haspel and her relationship with a president who is often skeptical of his own intelligence community.

One detail in paragraph 15 stands out:

Last March, top national security officials gathered inside the White House to discuss with Mr. Trump how to respond to the nerve agent attack in Britain on Sergei V. Skripal, the former Russian intelligence agent.

London was pushing for the White House to expel dozens of suspected Russian operatives, but Mr. Trump was skeptical. He had initially written off the poisoning as part of legitimate spy games, distasteful but within the bounds of espionage. Some officials said they thought that Mr. Trump, who has frequently criticized “rats” and other turncoats, had some sympathy for the Russian government’s going after someone viewed as a traitor.

The story goes on to say Haspel was able to prevail upon President Trump to offer a tough response, after showing him images of children who had come into contact with the same nerve agent. But Trump’s apparent first impulse here is extremely noteworthy, and very much in keeping with his other commentary on stuff like this.

Put plainly: Trump’s default mode seems to border on indifference toward strongmen and their political assassinations. ... The most famous/infamous example of this came shortly after Trump was inaugurated, when Bill O’Reilly interviewed him ahead of the Super Bowl. O’Reilly asked Trump about his kind words for Russian President Vladimir Putin on the 2016 campaign trail and noted that Putin was a “killer.” But Trump suggested what Putin was doing was little different than what the United States does.

Aaron Blake is senior political reporter, writing for The Fix. A Minnesota native, he has also written about politics for the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the Hill newspaper. Follow https://twitter.com/aaronblake

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