Friday, September 22, 2017

What did Donald Trump do today?

He called the idea of Russian interference in the 2016 election a "hoax" at almost exactly the same time that the State Department was saying that "nobody takes issue with [the reality of Russian interference] whatsoever."

Trump, who has seen the Mueller investigation draw much closer to him in recent days, once again took to Twitter this morning to complain about "the Russia hoax." Specifically, he disparaged the idea that Russians bought pro-Trump Facebook ads and paid for them in rubles. (This actually, provably happened: the ads promoted fake news stories about Trump and Clinton, and even organized rallies and flash mobs that turned out real Trump supporters.)

Later this morning on CNN, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said, "It’s clear Russia meddled in the campaign and election." Pressed over Trump's repeated denials of that fact, Nauert simply maintained that Trump "had been clear" about Russia's criminal actions on behalf of the Trump campaign.

Taken as a whole, Nauert's statements were half correct. It's true that the State Department, and every US intelligence agency and law enforcement agency that has investigated the matter, has concluded that Russia absolutely did attempt to influence the election. (Also today, the Department of Homeland Security confirmed that at least 21 states' election systems were targeted by Russian hackers in 2016.)

But Trump, who as a candidate publicly asked for Russian cyber-help, has never acknowledged this himself. The strongest language he's used on the subject is to say that Russia might be one of many countries trying to tamper in US elections, but that "nobody really knows." Instead, he has attacked the agencies investigating it, and proposed a joint US-Russia "Cyber Security Unit." This unit would, apparently, somehow ensure that the election-related crimes Trump refuses to acknowledge Russia committed aren't committed in the future.

Why should I care about this?

  • Presidents do not have veto power over reality.
  • A president who cannot acknowledge a fact cannot effectively deal with the consequences of that fact.