“I don’t care. I believe Putin.”

So said DT Trump, at least in the narrative recently made public by erstwhile FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe, currently on a book tour.

The claim was based on a conversation McCabe allegedly had with a fellow FBI agent who alleged he’d been present at a meeting when the President allegedly made the statement.

During a series of T’s unrelated diatribes, the story goes, the topic of recent North Korean missile launches came up. T said he didn’t think the Koreans actually could reach us with ballistic missiles — because President Putin assured him they didn’t have such missiles.

Shocked U.S. intelligence officials in the briefing tried to disabuse him of that fantasy, insisting that it was “not consistent with any of the intelligence our government possesses.”

To which T responded, “I don’t care. I believe Putin.”

T’s base will reject the story, and that’s that. Some others will swallow the whole thing uncritically. Many of us will detect some problems with this guy and his narrative, but those problems might be peripheral to the central issues.

McCabe authorized FBI officials to speak to the media for articles prior to the 2016 elections. His position allowed him to do so; the “leaks” were not illegal. But for unknown reasons he decided to conceal his role in the disclosures, which concerned an active investigation into the Clinton Foundation.

The DOJ initially characterized McCabe’s statements to investigators as “giving misleading statements;” later it was changed to “lying.”

So under very specific circumstances McCabe was a liar. His lies did not relate to national security. Is it reasonable to think that any other statements he will make are therefore false by default? Or should we assess their veracity on the basis of corroborating evidence?

That’s the critical issue here — not whether McCabe can be fully trusted to have accurately portrayed events surrounding and following FBI Director James Comey’s firing. If McCabe is a fraud, that will come out in the wash.

The central question is “did the President of the United States actually dismiss the solid findings of his own intelligence agencies while endorsing a Russian adversary’s account allegedly provided to him in private?”

While considering that question, we should ask — is it even plausible? Is there any compelling evidence to support such a contention?

Fade back… back… back… to, er, last June. “Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election!” T tweeted.

In July, after an unrecorded two-hour one-on-one meeting with Putin in Helsinki, and an extended bilateral “summit,” T stood beside Putin on the podium for a press conference.

The question of Russian interference in our 2016 elections arose. With Putin beaming lovingly at him, T said — and I’m not making this up — “My people came to me, (Director of National Intelligence) Dan Coats came to me and some others saying they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this, I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

Earlier in the press conference, T’s BFF Putin had repeated his claim that Russia didn’t interfere on T’s behalf, although the clear conclusion by the U.S. intelligence community was that Russia did interfere. When Putin admitted he’d preferred that T should beat Hillary, it was T’s turn to beam. A bromance for the ages!

Robert Mueller had indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers for their roles in hacking into the Democrats’ computer systems. T refused to confront Putin over the indictments at the press conference, and said he has “confidence in both” Russian and U.S. intelligence agencies.

“I have great confidence in my intelligence people but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today,” said the guy who only plays strong and powerful on TV.

But wait! There’s more!

T added that Putin also offered to have Russian investigators work with our Special Counsel on the case of the 12 Russian officers indicted for hacking.

“I think that’s an incredible offer,” gushed T in front of cameras and recorders and live witnesses. We waited for him to add “act now, and you can double the number of Russian investigators for the same low, low price!” but he never did.

The full transcription of the press conference is available online at https://www.politico.com/story/2018/07/16/full-text-trump-putin-meeting-transcript-724369 Don’t read it on a full stomach. This guy is representing Americans to the world.

Trump has attacked the law enforcement apparatus of his own government like no other president in history. Since April 2017, he has publicly disparaged the Russia Investigation more than 1,100 times; 277 times he struck specifically at the FBI, DOJ, and intelligence agencies.

While it is highly unusual for anyone — let alone a president — to comment on continuing criminal investigations, T has done so at least once on 330 different days. Fear breeds obsession.

T’s words and actions have advanced the Russian agenda on numerous occasions, which we’ll explore in a future column. But there are still a few sanctions left to lift.

“He’s followed most of our instructions,” FSB operative Fyodor Tokaryev (web monicker “Billy-Bob”) is rumored to have said. “But he’s very very stupid.” (ochen’ ochen’ glupiy)

Meanwhile, Putin’s nagging concern is that T will turn out to be secretly working for the Americans.

Jon Hauxwell, MD, is a retired

family physician who grew up in Stockton and lives outside Hays.

hauxwell@ruraltel.net