Opinion writer

Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures while speaking to the media this week after the Belt and Road Forum at the China National Convention Center outside Beijing. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool photo via Reuters)

You cannot make this stuff up. “Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday he would be willing to provide the U.S. Congress a record of President Trump’s meeting with top Russian envoys, possibly offering new details on the disclosures of reportedly highly classified intelligence information,” The Post reports. “The remarkable offer for the Kremlin to share evidence with U.S. oversight committees came with the caveat that the request for the transcript would have to come from the Trump administration.”

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), reacting on CNN to Putin’s offer, said, “The idea that we would accept any evidence from President Putin is absurd.” Yes, it would be almost as absurd as the Russians, who interfered with our election for the purpose of putting Trump into office and with whom the Trump campaign is alleged to have colluded, getting invited into the Oval Office to yuk it up with the president. Turning to Russia for “help” in determining whether Trump imparted to them highly classified information we obtained from Israel (which put an Israeli agent in peril) truly is going through the looking glass. If Putin’s aim was to destroy the credibility of the American political system, he has found a perfect partner in Trump, the quintessential “useful idiot” who carries the Russian propaganda line and literally gives him access to the Oval Office.

We should not forget, as we seemingly begin to barrel toward a full-blown investigation of potential obstruction of justice by the president (and possibly by the attorney general, not to mention the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who urged Trump to fire Comey), that the root of this debacle began with Trump’s willingness to be flattered, cajoled and manipulated by Russians and a flock of advisers with troubling connections to Russian oligarchs. Trump may or may not have financial ties to Russia. He may or may not seek to emulate Putin’s thuggishness — although he does not seem bright enough to be a “fellow traveler.” He nevertheless is dim enough and narcissistic enough to be used by enemies of the United States. Republicans who continue to defend him would do well to remember that, even before Trump began leaning on the FBI, he endangered our democracy.

Where were the complaints from House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) about letting the Russians into the Oval Office — and denying U.S. press access? Was it really sufficient for the Senate majority leader to pass off the news of the president’s disclosure of intelligence to the Russians as mere “drama”? Putin’s “offer” is as much a slap at Trump as it is at GOP lawmakers who have let things get to this stage without raising red flags.

The unseriousness with which GOP leaders took the underlying issues of potential collusion — refusing, for example, to name a select committee — won’t be forgotten. Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) hit the nail on the head when he criticized Republicans on a CNN town hall Tuesday night. “I hope — I saw that Speaker Ryan said some things tonight about getting to the bottom line. Frankly, I think he should be more aggressive,” he said. “I think he should speak out more, and hopefully he will.” The same should go for other Republicans.