The White House truly doesn't know what to do about the Russia story, because it's spiraling out of control and so fast they can't do much besides lie a lot, which is what Sarah Huckabee Sanders did today during her press conference, first to ABC's Jonathan Karl and then to NBC's Hallie Jackson.
Jackson asked a question we're all curious about: "Why hasn't the president implemented the sanctions which Congress passed last year?"
Blank stare. Hem. Haw. You know how to tell when a provable lie is about to come out of Huckabee's mouth? The word "look" is the giveaway, just as it is here.
And also, the unintelligible reply where she makes things up on the fly, like the idea that there is some kind of ongoing process that has to take place (there isn't) or that they're going through that process (they're not), or, when that fails, there's always SQUIRREL!
"But what i can tell you is that the president has been extremely tough on Russia," she insisted.
Point 1: "He helped push through $700 billion to rebuild our military. I can assure you Russia is not excited about that."
(I don't think Russia really cares, to be honest.)
Point 2: "He's helped export energy to Eastern Europe. I can assure you Russia is not excited about that."
Just the other day, Trump's Secretary of State and former Exxon-Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson related a story about his last encounter with Putin on CBS' 60 Minutes. Energy exports weren't discussed. Instead, he talked about the great relationship he's had with Putin for nearly two decades, concluding with this little anecdote:
The relationship that I had with President Putin spans 18 years now It was always about What could I do to be successful on behalf of my shareholders, how Russia could succeed.
Margaret Brennan: How different was it walking into the Kremlin as secretary of state?
Rex Tillerson: It was different-- because-- and I had to think very, very h-- carefully about that, And the only thing I said to him was "Mr. President, same man, different hat."
So no, I don't think Putin is all that concerned about energy exports, honestly.
Point 3: "He has put and upheld sanctions that the Obama administration put in place. He's upheld those."
Point 4: "He's closed three diplomatic properties that were Russia's here in the United States."
It's true that Tillerson ordered the closure of those compounds but only after Russia expelled American diplomats. Those kinds of tit-for-tat actions have happened forever.
Point 5: "There are a number of places that Obama was too weak and refused to take and put pressure on Russia, where this president has."
Not so fast, Sarah. Obama closed and seized two compounds while he was still in office, at the same time that a new round of sanctions was announced. You might remember those as the sanctions National Security Advisor-to-be Michael Flynn was bargaining away in advance of Trump taking office. In fact, Trump tried and failed to LIFT sanctions on Russia just after he took office, not the other way around.
Yet there is brazen Sarah Huckabee Sanders claiming Trump has just been so tough on Russia that he hasn't bothered to impose the sanctions Congress passed almost unanimously, while hemming and hawing and deflecting with the old, tired comparisons to Obama.
This is where I remind everyone again about what gaslighting is: "Gaslighting is a form of manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in members of a targeted group, hoping to make them question their own memory, perception, and sanity."
That says it all.