Last week, President Trump said that Russia was "laughing up their sleeves" watching as America "tears itself apart" thanks to a Democratic Party campaign to smear him as a Russian puppet. Speaking to Sputnik, US politics specialist Vladimir Vasilyev said this shows that Trump is watching Russia's reaction to developments in the US very closely.
On Thursday, exacerbated over Democratic politicians' months' long effort to paint him as beholden to Moscow, particularly after his firing of FBI Director James Comey, Donald Trump shot back, tweeting the Russia "must be laughing up their sleeves watching as the US tears itself apart over a Democrat EXCUSE for losing the election."
Asked to comment on this sentiment, Vladimir Vasilyev, chief research fellow at the Moscow-based Institute of US and Canada Studies, said that the statement was meant not only for his US audience, but for Russia too.
Specifically, the analyst explained that Trump was responding to Russian President Vladimir Putin's interview for CBS News from a day earlier. In that interview, when asked what effect Comey's firing would have on Russian-US relations, Putin said that that question looked "funny" to him.
"As far as Trump's 'Russia must be laughing' line, this was actually a reaction to the interview Putin gave to a CBS News correspondent in Sochi while he was playing hockey there, and in which elements of humor and irony were present," Vasilyev said.
Furthermore, he noted, Trump's reaction was "a serious signal that the US, and more precisely its leadership, represented by Trump, is closely monitoring Russia's reaction to US domestic affairs."
"As for the 'US tears itself apart' line, this explains the reaction that welled up following Comey's dismissal, and the fact that the Democrats are now making a big fuss about it," Vasilyev added. "Today the US is facing the aftermath of yet another political scandal, whose real meaning is extremely simple: that Comey was working against the administration and against Trump personally."
In his interview with CBS News, on Wednesday, Putin emphasized that "there will be no effect" on relations between Moscow and Washington as a result of Comey's dismissal. "Your question looks very funny for me. Don't be angry with me. We have nothing to do with that," he said.
"President Trump is acting in accordance with his competence, in accordance with his law and Constitution," Putin added. "What do we have to do with it?"