Saturday, May 20, 2017

What did Donald Trump do today?

He got a little help denying that he'd confessed to the Russians that he'd fired James Comey for investigating Russia--from Russia.

On Friday, the New York Times reported that the official White House readout of Trump's meeting with Russia's foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and ambassador Sergey Kislyak had Trump describing Comey as a "nut job" and that firing him had eased the "great pressure" of the FBI's investigation in to Russia's interference in the election. Sean Spicer responded with a statement that essentially validated the Times story.

But if the Times story is accurate, it is yet another confirmation that in Trump's mind, the firing of Comey and his desire to see the Russia-Trump investigation end were linked. Intent is a crucial element in proving obstruction of justice. Because the readout is an official government document, it would be difficult to deny after the fact--but admitting to it so readily was hurting Trump politically, because it showed him speaking more candidly and freely with representatives of a hostile foreign power than with the American people. By this morning, the White House had retreated into a more defensive stance, saying only that they would "not confirm or deny the authenticity of allegedly leaked classified documents."

The Russian government, however, felt no such restriction. Today, Lavrov told the Russian news agency Interfax that their meeting with Trump "did not touch this issue at all." While this apparently contradicts the official US government memo on the subject, it is certainly what the Trump White House would have liked to have been able to say, had they known the NYT story was coming.

Why should anyone care about this?

  • It's not typical for a White House to have this much trouble keeping its story straight.
  • Presidents shouldn't tell representatives of a hostile foreign power details about their own internal affairs that they won't tell the American people.