As a parade of lawmakers appeared on television Wednesday morning to discuss the latest turmoil emerging from the White House, more news broke: Russian President Vladimir Putin offered to provide Congress a transcript of President Trump's meeting with Russian envoys to prove that no classified secrets were divulged.
Putin's offer was quickly brushed off — even laughed off — by lawmakers from both sides of the aisle.
It seemed to be the one point Republicans and Democrats could immediately agree on Wednesday morning.
“I wouldn’t put much credibility onto whatever Putin’s notes are,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said on “Fox & Friends.”
He added a zinger: “And if it comes in an email, I wouldn’t click on the attachment, that's for sure.”
Sen. Susan Collins: "The idea that we would accept any evidence from President Putin is absurd" https://t.co/md1UAd2ICp
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) May 17, 2017
In an appearance on CNN, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) wondered if the latest development was part of some Russian plot to undermine confidence in democracy.
“The idea that we would accept any evidence from President Putin is absurd,” she said, smiling.
On CNN, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) had just declared that he supported calling for an independent commission or special prosecutor to investigate any ties between the Trump campaign and Russia when host Alisyn Camerota cut in with news of Putin's announcement.
“Well, I don't talk to murderous dictators like Vladimir Putin,” Kinzinger said. “He says that he doesn't use GPS-guided bombs to bomb hospitals in Syria, and we know that to be untrue, so Putin's word to me doesn't mean a whole lot.”
— Kate Bolduan (@KateBolduan) May 17, 2017
Kinzinger added that any evidence Putin wanted to provide wouldn't have much credence on Capitol Hill anyway.
“If they want to send some information, we'll be interested to look,” he said. “But it'll be interesting to me why there would be any kind of an account of what was discussed from the Russians in the White House.”
Democrats were equally dismissive of reports that Putin might provide a transcript of Trump's May 10 meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak that would be of any worth to American investigators.
1) "The defense calls Vladimir Putin" would not play in any court, let alone one of public opinion.
2) Of course Russia has recordings https://t.co/osISMHXr4f
— Rep. Eric Swalwell (@RepSwalwell) May 17, 2017
Of course Putin jumps to President Trump's defense. Yet another sign of the murky relationship between this White House and the Kremlin. https://t.co/GMJPVTAD0I
— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) May 17, 2017
Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) chuckled as CNN host Chris Cuomo asked what he made of Putin's “generous” offer.
“I think the last thing the president needs right now is Putin vouching for him,” Schiff told Cuomo. “All of this just gets more and more baffling every day, but I don't think we should allow it to distract us from the very serious allegations.”
Political analyst David Axelrod, who was chief strategist for Barack Obama's presidential campaigns, tweeted that Putin's offer was akin to a bank robber taking the stand in court as a character witness for the alleged driver of a getaway car.
As The Washington Post's Andrew Roth reported, Putin seemed to be poking fun at the White House when he made the offer Wednesday, saying that “political schizophrenia” had taken over the United States:
Putin’s remarks left some ambiguity as to the nature of the records. While the word “zapis’” in Russian could indicate an audio recording, an aide told reporters that Putin was referring to a transcript, the Reuters news agency reported.
If there was any question as to whether Putin was trolling the White House, he playfully ribbed his foreign minister during the news conference, saying he would have to censure Lavrov “for not sharing these secrets with us.”
“Neither with me nor with our intelligence services,” he continued. “That’s very bad on his part.”
The Post first reported Monday that Trump, in his meeting last week with Lavrov and Kislyak, had revealed classified information that was so sensitive it had not been shared even with U.S. allies.
That meeting came a day after Trump fired embattled FBI Director James B. Comey, who had been leading an investigation of whether Trump's campaign colluded with Russia to meddle in the 2016 presidential election.
.@mitchellreports: "Do you think the Russians were bugging the Oval Office?"
Sec. Tillerson: "I would have no way to know that." pic.twitter.com/etfKtbB765
— NBC Nightly News (@NBCNightlyNews) May 17, 2017
At a press conference Wednesday morning, NBC's Andrea Mitchell asked Secretary of State Rex Tillerson how Putin might have a transcript of that White House meeting in the first place.
"Do you think the Russians were bugging the Oval Office?" Mitchell asked.
Tillerson replied: "I would have no way to know that."
As Mitchell pressed him for his thoughts on Putin's offer, Tillerson turned and walked out of the room.