Burnett: Trump is trying to save face

CNN's Erin Burnett asks why President Donald Trump decided to postpone his next meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Posted: Jul 26, 2018 1:10 PM
Updated: Jul 26, 2018 1:14 PM

On Tuesday, two seemingly unrelated things happened in the world of global politics.

First, political oddsmaker Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics forecasted for the first time that the chances of the House flipping to Democratic control were greater than 50-50.

Second, the Kremlin publicly indicated that it was lukewarm on the idea of a second meeting so soon after the Helsinki summit, stating that it hadn't really begun thinking about another meeting for this fall.

And on Wednesday, the White House announced it was pushing off plans for a second Trump-Putin Summit in Washington, DC, scheduled for this fall - just a few weeks out from the 2018 Midterms.

Coincidence?

Did Putin somehow signal to Trump that it probably wasn't in their mutual self-interest to be seen in public together so soon after Helsinki -- particularly after the trashing Trump received after returning to Washington?

Ever since the White House announced they were inviting Putin to come to the White House for another round of talks this fall, Democratic political operatives' hands may have been doing so much high-fiving that they were turning red and chafed. As Ron Klain, the former chief of staff to both Vice Presidents Al Gore and Joe Biden, told Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC's "The Last Word," the idea of a such a meeting would be a nightmare for Republican strategists and tantamount to political insanity.

"Everything Russia is toxic," Dave Jacobson, a longtime Democratic political strategist who is advising a number of Democratic congressional and statewide candidates in California and New Mexico this year, told us via a Twitter direct message. "Rewarding Putin...by rolling out the red carpet at the White House, would have undoubtedly spelled big trouble for the GOP at the ballot box this fall."

Traditional conservatives, such as Ted Cruz's national security guru Harry J. Kazianis, had publicly fretted at the election day casualties that a second presidential summit might incur. The Hill declared that the optics of putting Putin in the Oval Office would be political suicide. Putin "will not be welcome" in the Capitol, said Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) just a day before the White House announced it was scuttling the idea for this fall.

Had Putin ended up coming to Washington this fall, his visit might very well have directly impacted the balance of power in the House where there are now over 30 Republican-held House seats deemed "toss-ups" --by Sabato and other mainstream political oddsmakers - far more than the 23 seats the Democrats need to flip to take back control

The evisceration that Trump received back home in the US -- including from his own party -- following his widely criticized performance in Helsinki had become a political liability. For the first time, the mainstream media was openly speculating on whether there was a Kompromat held by Putin over Trump and if so, what kind -- little else could seemingly explain the President's obsequiousness beside his Russian counterpart.

The bottom line is that Putin needs Trump to stay strong -- at least strong enough to stay in power while Putin furthers his agenda of generating division and distrust between the US and her allies. A Democratic-led House would put a severe check on Trump's ability to blow up security pacts and undercut big trade deals. Putin needs Trump. If Putin overreaches, enabling a Democratic House to take power in 2018 -- or worse -- the election of a Democratic President in 2020, then his plans to shake up the global order will be dealt a severe blow.

Putin's fall trip to the US would have likely touched off a bipartisan firestorm with Trump in the middle of it and his GOP comrades running in tightly contested races around the country taking the heat. If Trump didn't see the political backlash coming -- despite what his aides were likely telling him - the Kremlin's lackluster enthusiasm got the message through.

There will be no summit this fall.

And that swooshing sound you hear in the distance is from GOP candidates across the US letting out a collective sigh of relief.

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