Tuesday, May 16, 2017

What did Donald Trump do today?

He blew up his surrogates' cover stories for the second time in a week, just in time for a third round to begin.

This morning, after managing to refrain from personally commenting for about 15 hours, Trump took to Twitter to declare that he had in fact shared highly sensitive intelligence with the Russian ambassador and foreign minister. This contradicted in tone and specifics the lawyerly denial offered up the night before by his national security advisor, H.R. McMaster. The pattern--a shocking media report, followed by a careful cover story laid down by surrogates, and in turn followed by Trump unexpectedly admitting to the substance of the report anyway--was reminiscent of last week's firing of James Comey, where Trump essentially made liars on Thursday of everyone who had protected him on Tuesday and Wednesday.

At about 5:00 p.m. Washington time today, the cycle seemed to repeat itself again, with the publication of yet another bombshell story--this time the New York Times reporting that James Comey, while still FBI Director, had circulated memos to his senior staff detailing Trump's attempts to get Comey to drop the investigation into Mike Flynn. 

Once again, the White House is denying the general thrust of the story, although this time, they are doing so "on background," meaning that the statement is not to be attributed to any one administration official--and so any forthcoming reversal by Trump will not erode whatever credibility his individual surrogates have left. As of 10:00 p.m., Trump had not yet tweeted or otherwise publicly commented on the matter of the Comey memo.

So what?

  • It matters if presidents lack credibility.
  • Endangering Israeli intelligence sources by giving their findings to an ally of Iran and Syria is the sort of thing that can't be glossed over in a few tweets.