Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sunday Week in Review

What else did Donald Trump do this week?

He held a press conference, his first since July, at which he gave a tentative hint that he might be willing to accept the unanimous conclusion of US intelligence agencies that Russia had interfered on his behalf in the election. Trump then said that that interference was a good thing, because it had revealed politically damaging material about his opponent that Americans needed to know.

The press conference, ostensibly about his refusal to divest from his business empire, was dominated by questions about Russian espionage and whether Trump's campaign had coordinated with Russia. Trump dismissed an unconfirmed dossier published by Buzzfeed, which he called a "failing pile of garbage," but also lashed out at CNN, which had (accurately) reported that he had been briefed on the existence of that dossier. An angry exchange with CNN's Jim Acosta ended with Trump shouting "You are fake news!"

Trump avoided answering the final question of the press conference, asking him to categorically deny that anyone in his campaign had any contact with Russia during the campaign. Later in the week, however, he did open the door to lifting sanctions imposed against Russia during their annexation of the Crimea, saying that Russia was "doing some really great things."

Later in the week, after Trump's plan to turn over control of his businesses to his sons did not go over well with the nonpartisan Office of Government Ethics, Trump's chief of staff Reince Priebus warned that office's director, Walter Shaub, that he "ought to be careful," and questioned what right the Office of Government Ethics had to be passing judgment on Trump.

Why are these things problems?

  • Espionage designed to undermine confidence in American elections is by definition a bad thing, not a good thing.
  • News that angers a president is not automatically "fake news."
  • It's bad if a president cannot or will not categorically deny that his campaign collaborated with a hostile foreign power.
  • Warning an ethics watchdog not to do his job suggests that you want to do something unethical.