the taxonomy of White House leakage is a worthy study. A surprising number of leaks are the result of simple vanity — the desire to appear in the know. Other leakers are trying to embarrass or sabotage a rival. Some leaks result from deviousness — the attempt to box the president in on a policy matter.
.. A president pulled into an investigation of improper ties to Russia might be expected to distance himself from disturbing Russian behavior. Such public criticisms are an easy and cheap form of damage control. But at every stage, Trump has been dragged kicking and screaming into the pursuit of self-interest... Ronald Reagan’s diplomatic engagement of the Soviet Union did not translate into fawning subservience toward a dictator. Such self-abasement actually emboldens dictators. And it is rich for Trump to accuse other presidents of lacking “smarts” about U.S.-Russian relations in the course of a foreign policy explanation at the length and level of a fortune-cookie saying... It says something that the most innocent explanation for Trump’s attitude toward Putin is authoritarian envy. Trump seems to admire the strength and efficiency of personal rule. “At least he’s a leader,” Trump once said of Putin.. A Trump adviser once leaked to The Post: “Who are the three guys in the world he most admires? President Xi [Jinping] of China, [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan and Putin.”
The former C.I.A. director John Brennan pulled no punches on Wednesday when he was asked why President Trump had congratulated his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, for his victory in a rigged election, even after Mr. Trump’s national security staff warned him not to.
.. Some Trump defenders noted that President Barack Obama also called Mr. Putin when he was elected president in 2012.
But the circumstances are very different. In the intervening years, Mr. Putin has become an increasingly authoritarian leader who has crushed most of his political opposition and engineered a deeply lopsided re-election this week.
.. Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, is waging war in other parts of Ukraine and is enabling President Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
.. While the administration recently imposed its first significant sanctions on Russia for election interference and other malicious cyberattacks and has faulted Russia for the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Britain, Mr. Trump has refrained from criticizing Mr. Putin or calling him to account. The phone call reinforced that approach.
.. What Mr. Trump didn’t say to Mr. Putin was as significant as what he did say. He did not demand that Mr. Putin stop meddling in American elections or others, he did not even raise Moscow’s role in the poisoning... A senior administration official told The Times that Mr. Trump didn’t want to antagonize Mr. Putin because fostering rapport is the only way to improve relations between the two countries. On Tuesday, the president said he hoped to meet Mr. Putin soon and discuss preventing an arms race — an arms race both leaders have encouraged with loose talk and investment in new weapons.Engaging Russia and preventing an arms race are undeniably important. But it’s hard to see how praising and appeasing a bully will advance American interests. That’s not the approach Mr. Trump has taken with adversaries like North Korea or Iran, or, for that matter, even with some allies... John McCain, Republican of Arizona, slammed Mr. Trump, saying “an American president does not lead the free world by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections.” Even the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, who rarely crosses Mr. Trump, said calling Mr. Putin “wouldn’t have been high on my list.”