Thursday, June 22, 2017

What did Trump do today?

He finally--sort of--admitted that his May 12 threat of "tapes" of James Comey's conversation with him was a lie.

In two tweets this morning, Trump claimed that he had made no recordings of his meetings with the former FBI director, whom he fired in order to stall the Russia investigation. The somewhat lawyerly phrasing of the tweets leaves open the possibility that someone other than Trump might have pressed a record button and kept custody of the results. The admission, made under the threat of Congressional subpoena, ends (for now) six weeks of Trump taunting the press over whether and when he'd explain himself.

The most charitable explanation for the bizarre situation was offered by Trump surrogate Newt Gingrich. As Gingrich explained it, Trump's tape threat was simply a failed bluff, and that he genuinely believed he could rattle Comey into making less specific and damning statements. It was later reported that Comey had decided immediately after leaving his first meeting with Trump to make meticulous notes of each encounter, for fear that Trump would lie about the substance of their meetings. 

Effectively endorsing the "bluff" theory, Trump later gave his efforts a positive spin, calling them "not very stupid."

Why should this bother anyone?

  • It's bad if a president can't be trusted to answer simple questions of obvious public import in less than six weeks without threat of subpoena. 
  • Given how much of an embarrassment and legal threat has arisen from this, if it was a bluff, "not very stupid" is probably too charitable.
  • It probably wasn't a bluff.