Morning Joe panel baffled by Trump: 'Why is he cozying up to Putin and making lovey-dovey eyes?'
Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin (MSNBC)

MSNBC's "Morning Joe" puzzled over President Donald Trump "cozying up to Vladimir Putin" over the weekend despite the indictments and guilty pleas of campaign associates in the Russia investigation.

Trump walked alongside the Russian president at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Vietnam, and he insisted he believed Putin's claims about election interference over U.S. intelligence assessments.

"I'm a simple man, I don't really totally understand this," said MSNBC's John Heilemann, filling in for host Joe Scarborough.

"If Donald Trump is under investigation and his administration and people around him, the Russia collusion and whole Mueller investigation, right," he continued, "in simple terms the president would think it's probably not in my best self interest to be seen again sidling with Vladimir Putin, cozying up to Vladimir Putin and making lovey dovey eyes in these pictures we've been showing here. (He should) maybe just think, I should probably put distance between myself and Vladimir Putin."

He asked Julie Pace, the Washington bureau chief, to explain the political logic of Trump's behavior toward Russia during his Asia trip -- and she was just as baffled as Heilemann.

"It's really confounding," Pace said. "This is the exact issue that people within his own administration have that, in this political context when his campaign, so many people within the campaign are facing an investigation about what happened with Russia during the election, it would be so much simpler if the president would just come out and say Russia obviously interfered with our election and we're going to investigate that and stop them from doing it going forward, and i'll tell that to Vladimir Putin's face. And once again, we're in November of this presidency and still struggling with that."