The White House may have had its hand forced by Putin, who the Kremlin originally disclosed had called Trump to thank him for the CIA's intelligence. As The Post's David Filipov notes, leaders of countries don't generally disclose such intelligence-sharing. The intelligence in this case helped foil a plot to bomb the Kazan Cathedral and other targets in St. Petersburg, Russia's second-largest city.
With the cat out of the bag, the White House confirmed the call between the two leaders and then issued a very Trump-y readout of it. While the White House is generally reluctant to include much detail in readouts of calls with foreign leaders — we'll often learn more about them from countries such as Russia and China — this one included plenty of detail about how great this particular episode of intelligence-sharing was and how it proved what wonderful things could come from a U.S.-Russia alliance.
Here's the full readout:
President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia called President Donald J. Trump today to thank him for the advanced warning the United States intelligence agencies provided to Russia concerning a major terror plot in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Based on the information the United States provided, Russian authorities were able to capture the terrorists just prior to an attack that could have killed large numbers of people. No Russian lives were lost and the terrorist attackers were caught and are now incarcerated. President Trump appreciated the call and told President Putin that he and the entire United States intelligence community were pleased to have helped save so many lives. President Trump stressed the importance of intelligence cooperation to defeat terrorists wherever they may be. Both leaders agreed that this serves as an example of the positive things that can occur when our countries work together. President Putin extended his thanks and congratulations to Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Mike Pompeo and the CIA. President Trump then called Director Pompeo to congratulate him, his very talented people, and the entire intelligence community on a job well done!
The second half of the readout is almost completely Trump: The emphasis on defeating terrorism as Goal No. 1, stressing the importance of a positive relationship with Russia, the reference to “very talented people” at the CIA, and most notably the exclamation point at the end. (I tried to find another White House readout that ended with this punctuation and came up empty.) As The Post reported last week in its extensive recap of the first year of Trump's handling of Russia, Trump has often found his efforts to forge a more fruitful relationship with Russia stymied by the political realities of the day. This feels a lot like Trump trying to put his own brand of positive spin on this particular episode. Why else would it conclude with the exclamation point that Trump appends to many of his Twitter musings?
But it's also the latest episode in a very complicated relationship between the two leaders. Trump reportedly isn't the only one who has been frustrated by the lack of progress in the relationship between the United States and Russia; so has the Kremlin. Russia has not seen the relaxation of U.S. sanctions that it had hoped for, with Congress earlier this year basically forcing Trump to sign a sanctions package that he clearly didn't want.
Was this Putin getting out in front of the White House to try to put Trump in a box? Or did the two countries decide this piece of information might help sell a stronger relationship to a skeptical Congress? Either way, the readout is yet another weird chapter in a weird relationship.