On Sunday morning, President Trump spoke of his new alliance with Russian President Vladimir Putin to erect an “impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded.”
The tweet's timing could not have been more perfect — for congressional critics of Trump's new plan.
It gave them just enough of a head start to workshop one-liners and practice their comedic timing before the Sunday morning political talk shows.
Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) quipped on NBC's “Meet the Press” that Trump's plan was “not the dumbest idea I've ever heard, but it's pretty close.”
Graham called Trump “literally the only person I know of who doesn't believe Russia attacked our election in 2016" and said he was “dumbfounded.” Graham said Trump is “hurting his presidency by not embracing the fact that Putin is the bad guy.”
A quick primer: Many, many people and several U.S. government intelligence agencies have accused Putin and Russia of interfering in the 2016 election to help Trump.
A special counsel has been appointed to lead the Justice Department's probe into the Trump campaign's possible Russia ties. There's also a criminal probe and congressional fact-finding investigations, all examining Russia.
Yet on Sunday, of the 193 countries Trump could have partnered with on cybersecurity, he chose Russia.
The irony was not lost on members of Congress.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), speaking on CBS's “Face the Nation,” deadpanned: “I am sure that Vladimir Putin could be of enormous assistance in that effort since he’s doing the hacking.”
McCain deadpans on Trump's cybersecurity unit w/ Russia: Putin could be of assistance “since he's doing the hacking” pic.twitter.com/QWMD6YxaAQ— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) July 9, 2017
McCain said “there has been no penalty whatsoever” for Russia's interference in the U.S. election — or in other countries.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who has been a Trump critic since they faced off in the GOP primaries last year, tweeted comparisons to other partnerships that would appear doomed from the start.
While reality & pragmatism requires that we engage Vladimir Putin, he will never be a trusted ally or a reliable constructive partner. 1/3— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) July 9, 2017
Partnering with Putin on a "Cyber Security Unit" is akin to partnering with Assad on a "Chemical Weapons Unit". 2/3— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) July 9, 2017
We have no quarrel with Russia or the Russian people. Problem is with Putin & his oppression, war crimes & interference in our elections 1/3— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) July 9, 2017
The criticism — and claims of confusion — spanned both sides of the aisle.
Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-Nev.) retweeted a statement from Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations: “We can't trust Russia and we won't ever trust Russia.”
And other legislators chimed in:
Someone please explain to me how this makes sense. https://t.co/fxodJoRJ7a— Joyce Beatty (@RepBeatty) July 9, 2017
America shouldn't be in the business of appeasing Russia. They attacked our democracy. POTUS should show backbone & hold them accountable. https://t.co/QnfbfLRXgk— Tim Kaine (@timkaine) July 9, 2017
And the quips and criticism weren't coming from politicians alone. Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney in Manhattan whom Trump fired in March, took the president to task for his statements about Putin's denials.
When pursuing a corrupt politician, mobster or murderer on strong FBI evidence, if he "vehemently denied it," we just dropped it usually. https://t.co/d4HqyHQexB— Preet Bharara (@PreetBharara) July 9, 2017
The scene during the G-20 summit in Hamburg