Trump has "sympathy for the Russian government’s going after someone viewed as a traitor"

Trump has "sympathy for the Russian government’s going after someone viewed as a traitor"

by digby

I don't think I could ever have imagined a Repubican president ever saying something like this in the past. Imagine any one of them thinking that Russian assasinations of double agents or dissdents is understandable, much less on foreign soil:

Donald Trump was reluctant to expel suspected Russian spies after the novichok chemical weapons attack in Salisbury, viewing the poisoning of a defector as “part of legitimate spy games”, according to a new report.

According to the New York Times, Trump reacted sceptically to a British request in March 2018 for a strong punitive response to the use of the nerve agent against the former spy, Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia. A local resident, Dawn Sturgess, was killed three months later when she came in contact with the chemical.

It marked the first chemical weapon attack on European soil since the first world war.

Trump is reported to have written off the attack as business as usual among spies – “distasteful but within the bounds of espionage”.

“Some officials said they thought that Mr. Trump, who has frequently criticized ‘rats’ and other turncoats, had some sympathy for the Russian government’s going after someone viewed as a traitor,” the New York Times report said.

The incident is cited as an example of the persuasive skills of the then deputy CIA director (now director), Gina Haspel.

She is said to have presented the expulsion of 60 accredited Russian diplomats – the course eventually taken – as the “strong option”.

She also showed the president pictures of young children who had been hospitalised as a result of the Salisbury attack, as well as photographs of ducks that had been killed because of the carelessness in handling the deadly nerve agent on the part of the two Russian intelligence operatives alleged to have carried out the attack.

“Mr Trump fixated on the pictures of the sickened children and the dead ducks. At the end of the briefing, he embraced the strong option,” the report said.

Of the 60 Russians expelled by the US, 48 were from the Russian embassy in Washington and 12 were based at the United Nations in New York. The US also ordered the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle.

Trump has separately been reported as having been furious when he found out that the US had expelled far more Russians than Germany or France, who each ordered four Russian officials to leave.

According to a report last April in the Washington post, Trump had told his officials that the US would match the European response, but his aides interpreted that to total European expulsions, not individual countries.

“I don’t care about the total!” an administration official cited in the Washington Post report recalled Trump screaming.

“Growing angrier, Trump insisted that his aides had misled him about the magnitude of the expulsions. “There were curse words,” the official said, “a lot of curse words”. 
And the Russia skeptics wonder why people think Trump's behavior has been so suspicious as to warrant an investigation about his relationship with the Kremlin.