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DAVID TAFURI: The president’s comments are seemingly innocuous, but it’s important to put them in context. These comments come after the U.S. passed new sanctions against Russia. Those sanctions were passed in order to punish Russia for its dark interference in our election, its attempt to manipulate our election, and its aggression in Europe and its expansionism in Europe. It’s important for us to push back on both of those things. That’s why it had overwhelming support in Congress, from both Republicans and Democrats for these sanctions. In retaliation for these new sanctions, which are important, Russia has said it’s going to expel U.S. diplomats. Instead of pushing back on that, President Trump seems to be applauding and cheering that move. That undercuts the policy behind sanctions, and it’s really surprising, given, for instance, the great reporting by Lucas [Tomlinson] that you just showed on the concern that our military and our members of Congress have about Russia, that Trump is the only one that can’t seem to find any criticism about Russia or [Russian President Vladimir] Putin.
JON SCOTT (CO-HOST): So, Rebecca, how do you see it?
REBECCAH HEINRICHS: The way I see it is the president’s response just took the wind out of the sails of Vladimir Putin. In the past, every time Putin would do something against the United States, there would be this sternly-worded statement saying that we object to it or we didn’t like it, but it didn’t really have an effect other than to be gratifying to Moscow. But here we have the president saying, “You know what? Fine.” He’s sort of being — it looked to me like he was being tongue-in-cheek, but he just wasn’t giving that to Russia. “Fine, take it, we’re cutting staff.” And then the second point is, it also has the effect of doing something the president likes to do, which is sort of poking at the people who think there’s this narrative to be had about the president collaborating with or colluding with the Russians, which I think is just silly at this point. And he’s — so, the sanctions are having an effect. That’s what we should care about. It doesn’t undercut the policy. The sanctions are in place. The president’s just not going to go tit for tat with the Russians, and I think that’s good.
SCOTT: David, he seems to be saying, “It’s water off our backs. If you want to get rid of those diplomats, fine by me.” Is there, perhaps, some value in that approach?
TAFURI: Rebecca seems able to spin any comment by President Trump, no matter how aberrant, as being OK. It’s not OK. As the former U.S. Ambassador to Russia pointed out, this hurts our ability to monitor Russia, to monitor an adversary that’s doing things that are provocative towards the U.S. and are hurting U.S. interests. And President Trump needs to be a commander-in-chief. He needs to step up and push back against Russia. He seems utterly incapable of doing that. This is not a joke. Russia has invaded Ukraine. Russia is moving troops into Belarus, along the border with several of our other allies. It intends to expand in Europe, and we need to push back. We shouldn’t be undercutting sanctions that have just been put in place. We need to strengthen those sanctions, we need to follow up with rhetoric, and we need to push back on Russia. And President Trump seems utterly incapable of doing that, and you can’t spin that as a positive in any way.