Media critic

Hours after President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin left their lecterns in Helsinki, the big three cable news networks continued attempting to digest the goings-on. If ever there was a topic suited for interminable chatter, this was perhaps it: In a wild post-summit press conference, Trump all but bailed on his colleagues, his institutions and his country while standing alongside the Russian president, on foreign soil. Asked whether he believed his own country’s intelligence or Putin on the critical question of election interference, Trump said, in part, “All I can do is ask the question. My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others, they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

A tour this was not, but it sounded a hell of a lot like an apology.

In analysis time, MSNBC’s Brian Williams read a tweet from former CIA director John Brennan:

On Fox News, Bret Baier said, “Clearly, the president brought up the interference and the meddling. He brought up the sticky issues with Russia, but the way that he dealt with it — defending himself, really not going after President Putin — was pretty interesting to watch.” A panel evaluated the Brennan tweet, with correspondent Ed Henry terming it “extreme.”

Host Abby Huntsman of Fox News tweeted:

Huntsman, it must be noted, is the daughter of U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman.

Over on CNN, the sizzling analysis needed no warm-up. As the session ended, anchor Anderson Cooper said, “You have been watching perhaps one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president at a summit in front of a Russian leader certainly than I’ve ever seen.” That took some guts, some confidence from Cooper. The rest of the world will come around to his view, if it hasn’t already.

That’s about all the non-Fox News networks can do at this point: broadcast more analysis and reaction.

Fox News, meanwhile, will plow ahead. Chris Wallace, who hosts the respected “Fox News Sunday,” will be interviewing Putin. Both Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson, stars of Fox News’s opinion programming, are interviewing Trump on the summit. The wide-ranging condemnations of the summit leave Trump’s interviewers in an interesting bind. Hannity has invited comparisons to state-run TV with his willingness to defend any Trump action; will he follow suit in these circumstances? And Carlson, for his part, has pooh-poohed the U.S.-Russia investigations and played down the threat from Russia. Is this the sort of rapprochement he favors?

It’s crunch time for Trump apologists: Bow to reality and slam the president, get really innovative in your defense of him, or, like a Washington Free Beacon writer, blame the media:

Read more:

The Post’s View: Trump just colluded with Russia

Greg Sargent: Trump is now repaying Putin for helping him win the presidency

Anne Applebaum: Trump has just composed the most elaborate thank-you note in history

Karen Tumulty: Donald Trump: The ‘blame America first’ president

Ruth Marcus: If you work for Trump, quit now