Sunday, February 26, 2017

Sunday Week in Review

What else did Donald Trump do this week?

Russia leaks. He had, even by Trump Administration standards, a difficult time with leaks this week. On Thursday, CNN reported that the White House had improperly requested that the FBI help it do political damage control over reports that Trump campaign and transition officials had been in secret contact with Russian agents. The FBI, which is among the agencies investigating, refused, citing policies that forbid it from commenting on ongoing investigations. Later that day, CNN and four other news organizations were barred from a press briefing. The common thread between them was that they had all reported on the Russia investigation. 

On Friday, Trump directed his early morning Twitter rage at the FBI itself, slamming it for its supposed failure to find "leaks" within its own ranks. But even the White House's own anti-leak effort--featuring Press Secretary Sean Spicer summoning staff into a briefing room and forcing them to submit their personal phones for inspection--was itself immediately leaked.

Immigration. Trump also had a rocky week with respect to his immigration policies. His executive order redefining deportation practices was so broadly worded that even his homeland security secretary didn't seem to know what it meant. A face-value reading of the order holds that all noncitizens suspected of being in the country illegally are subject to immediate expulsion. Kelly, however, denied that there would be any real change in the number of deportations--which in turn contradicts Trump's statements on the subject. Among those now subject to summary deportation (regardless of their actual status) are hospital patients, women at courthouses seeking protection from domestic violence, families taking their children to school, and--in what appears to have been a deliberate choice by the Trump White House--family members of US servicemembers on active duty in war zones

The DHS seems to be having a hard time guessing what Trump wants to hear: this week, Trump rejected as "politically motivated" a Homeland Security report concluding that his travel ban would not be an effective means of keeping terrorists out of the country.

So why should anyone care about these things?

  • Presidents do not get to pick and choose what rules to follow.
  • It is not the FBI's job to give the president political cover.
  • Punishing or rewarding reporters according to how politically helpful they are to the regime is what authoritarians do.
  • Management oversight by Twitter rant is unlikely to help the FBI.
  • Presidents, and not their subordinates, bear responsibility for the unintended consequences of their policies.
  • If a president cannot tell the difference between bad news and a politically motivated attack, he is not emotionally stable enough to do the job.