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Wednesday Headlines: Helsinki, annotated.

Trump backtracks on his presser with Putin, says he meant to say the opposite of what he said with regard to whether he believes Russia interfered with the 2016 election.

To better understand what Trump really said or actually meant, here's our annotated version of the transcript. To start us off, this is the question Trump was asked:

“Just now, President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016. Every US intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did. What—who—my first question for you, sir, is, who do you believe? My second question is, would you now, with the whole world watching, tell President Putin—would you denounce what happened in 2016? And would you warn him to never do it again?”

Spoiler alert: He doesn't answer the second question. Perhaps it influences how he answers the first question, but who knows? (No one, not even the president.) But this is how he answers opens his mouth and activates his vocal cords in response to the first question.

“So let me just say that we have two thoughts. You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server. Why haven't they taken the server? Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee? I've been wondering that. I've been asking that for months and months, and I've been tweeting it out and calling it out on social media. Where is the server? I want to know, where is the server? And what is the server saying?”

While this is more than two thoughts, it's also a lot of other things. But what? Is it a diversionary tactic, a way to try and confuse the aim of the question, by pinning this on one or all of his many political opponents (FBI, Democrats, media)? Or is he stalling while he formulates some kind of an answer to the question at hand. (We'll have a better idea further down.) Anyway here, as promised, is some kind of answer:

“With that being said, all I can do is ask the question. ["Right now I would rather be asking questions than giving answers." —ed.] My people came to me—Dan Coats came to me and some others—they said they think it's Russia. I have President Putin; he just said it's not Russia.”

And right there is a response—though not an answer—to the first question, "Who do you believe?" But while we now know what "Dan Coats...and some others" believe and what he claims Putin has said, it doesn't address what Trump believes. Now, here's the phrase you've been waiting for:

“I will say this: [With this phrase he's drawing a direct connection between himself and his words—this is important later on. —ed.] I don't see any reason why it would be, but I really do want to see the server. [This makes his initial tangent about the server seem intended to divert or obscure the actual question, rather than an attempt at stalling for time, because he heads right back to it after his semi-response to the question.] But I have—I have confidence in both parties. I really believe that this will probably go on for a while, but I don't think it can go on without finding out what happened to the server. [Now he tells us what he does "believe," but it's not the belief he was asked about.] What happened to the servers of the Pakistani gentleman that worked on the DNC? Where are those servers? They're missing. Where are they? What happened to Hillary Clinton's emails? [Back at it with the political opponents.] Thirty-three thousand emails gone—just gone. I think, in Russia, they wouldn't be gone so easily. [Shoutout to Putin.] I think it's a disgrace that we can't get Hillary Clinton's 33,000 emails." [Shade to FBI.]

Now, even had Trump said “I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be” instead of “I don't see any reason why it would be,” it doesn’t matter—his real answer to what he believes is right there, in everything that surrounds that barely there nine-word statement/statemen't. He blames the FBI, Democrats, the media, Hillary Clinton, the media, BleachBit, and a Pakistani gentleman. That's his real answer. He then sums up initiates jaw shutdown:

“So I have great confidence in my intelligence people [That's the worst QED in recorded history.], but I will tell you [There it is again—he’s telling us.] that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today. And what he did is an incredible offer; he offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators with respect to the 12 people. I think that's an incredible offer. OK? Thank you."

If what he'd said prior to the final bit wasn't confirmation of what he truly believes, he actually restates it at the end. Putin is “strong and powerful” and Trump sides with his denial. Furthermore, we should be applauding Putin instead of accusing him. Hail Putin. The would/wouldn't phrasing is the least important part of Trump's response, yet it’s what we’re focusing on, because Trump is using it as a diversionary tactic to try and escape the jam he’s in after Helsinki. Don’t fall for it.

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