Friday, March 17, 2017

What did Donald Trump do today?

He was forced to apologize to the British government for implicating them in his Obama wiretap conspiracy theory. SEE UPDATE BELOW.

On Thursday, press secretary Sean Spicer repeated an unsourced claim by a Fox News contributor that President Obama had enlisted the GCHQ, Britain's equivalent of the NSA, to conduct the supposed wiretaps that Trump suddenly became convinced existed on March 4th. In a nearly unprecedented move, the GCHQ publicly and angrily denied the "ridiculous" allegation, and were joined by Britain's ambassador to the US and its national security advisor. This intervention prompted a hasty--and for Trump, all but unprecedented--statement of apology by the White House.

The congressional investigation that Trump demanded after refusing to say why he believed Obama had surveilled him has found no evidence to support Trump's claim, leading even Republicans to suggest that Trump may not be done apologizing yet.

UPDATE, 3:51 p.m. EDT: The Trump White House is now disputing that its public or private statements to the British government should be construed as an apology. Contradicting both an earlier White House characterization and British government officials, Sean Spicer denied that any "apology" had been made, saying "I don't think we regret anything." Spicer's remarks follow Trump's own defiant insistence at a joint press conference with German leader Angela Merkel that Spicer was simply "quot[ing] a certain very talented legal mind who was the one responsible for saying that on television," before adding, "I didn’t make an opinion on it. You shouldn’t be talking to me. You should be talking to Fox.” Until Trump's statement, the White House's emphasis had been on soothing outraged British officials and had not objected to the word "apology."

So what?

  • It is bad if a president's desire for public revenge on his predecessor endangers our security arrangements with our closest ally.
  • Presidents' actions have consequences, and presidents who act on fake news rather than evidence take actions with bad consequences.
  • UPDATE: It's bad if a president, having made a mistake, gets in the way of his staff's efforts to fix it.
Thanks to Twitter follower @jcchurch for the tip on the update.