Friday, July 7, 2017

What did Donald Trump do today?

He "pressed" Putin on Russia's pro-Trump sabotage of the 2016 election, right after expressing doubt that Russia had done any such thing, and before agreeing not to "relitigate" the matter.

Trump is essentially the only person left in the US government expressing any doubt that Russia committed espionage on his behalf. The US intelligence community has been adamant on the matter since before the election, and Republican congressional leaders have endorsed their findings. But as the American public has also increasingly accepted the intelligence community's findings--and even more believe that Trump is attempting to derail investigation into the matter--he was under pressure to at least give the appearance of engaging with the issue.

Those conflicting impulses have led to deeply confused messaging. Yesterday, asked by a Polish journalist about who was behind the election interference, Trump gave a meandering answer in which he whipsawed between implicating Russia and raising doubts:
I think it was Russia, and I think it could have been other people in other countries, could have been a lot of people interfered. I said it very, I said it very simply, I think it could well have been Russia, but I think it could well have been other countries, and I won't be specific, but I think a lot of people interfere, I think it's been happening for a long time, it's been happening for many many years. ...I think it was Russia but I think it was probably other people and or countries. I see nothing wrong with that statement. Nobody really knows. Nobody really knows for sure.
Then this morning, Trump claimed via that "everyone" at the G20 summit was talking about how Democrats themselves were to blame for being hacked. As for how it went when Trump supposedly broached the matter with Putin himself, Russian and US accounts differed. Russia's foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said that Trump "accepts" that Russia did nothing to interfere. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson didn't exactly disagree, but merely claimed that Trump had "pressed" the issue with Putin and that both had agreed not to waste time "re-litigating" the matter.

Why is this a bad thing?

  • Almost nothing is as important to "litigate" than the right of Americans to democratically elect their government.
  • A president who cannot acknowledge reality because it might undermine his legitimacy cannot do his job in the first place.