I Sure Hope Helsinki Was Just Another Reality-Show Episode on the Trump Show

Nikolsky Alexei/TASS via ZUMA

Like everybody else in the country, David Frum is disturbed that Donald Trump met with Vladimir Putin alone for two hours:

Typically—in fact, almost invariably—the national-security adviser joins the president’s meetings with foreign leaders, especially adversarial ones. You may remember the famous picture of President Nixon talking for the first time with Chairman Mao. In the wider-angle image, Henry Kissinger shows up just outside the close-up frame. Or think of President Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in Iceland, chatting informally on a red couch—and surrounded by note takers, cabinet secretaries, and senior aides.

It’s highly disturbing that Trump would exclude his own national-security adviser from his conversations with Putin. The exclusion bespeaks a lack of presidential confidence in his closest foreign-policy aide. For Bolton to acquiesce is equally disturbing: It suggests overeagerness to hold on to a high office whose functions he is not trusted to perform.

Yeah. I mean, I wouldn’t trust Bolton either, but I didn’t hire him as my National Security Adviser.

But what I’m really more disturbed about is this: has Trump told anyone what he talked to Putin about? Is Bolton still in the dark? Coats? Pompeo? Mattis? Haspel? Huntsman? Pence? Kelly? Nakasone? Anyone?

I don’t have anything sophisticated and nuanced to say about this except that it’s fucking nuts. I suppose the best possible option is that this is just Trump doing his reality-show suspense thing, and nothing really happened. But everything goes straight downhill from there.


The more we thought about how MoJo's journalism can have the most impact heading into the 2020 election, the more we realized that so many of today's stories come down to corruption: democracy and the rule of law being undermined by the wealthy and powerful for their own gain.

So we're launching a new Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption. We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We'll publish what we find as a major series in the summer of 2020, including a special issue of our magazine, a dedicated online portal, and video and podcast series so it doesn't get lost in the daily deluge of breaking news.

It's unlike anything we've done before and we've got seed funding to get started, but we're asking readers to help crowdfund this new beat with an additional $500,000 so we can go even bigger. You can read why we're taking this approach and what we want to accomplish in "Corruption Isn't Just Another Scandal. It's the Rot Beneath All of Them," and if you like how it sounds, please help fund it with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.