Friday, June 29, 2018

What did Donald Trump do today?

He got punked.

Comedian "Stuttering John" Melendez revealed today on his podcast that yesterday he had bluffed his way into a phone call with Trump and successfully posed as New Jersey senator Bob Menendez. 

Normally there are safeguards to prevent the President of the United States from being duped in this fashion. But this time, the call went through because Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, traveling with him at the time on Air Force One, involved himself and gave Melendez' number to Trump. Trump then called Melendez back from his personal cell phone. 

Trump congratulated "Menendez" for his recent mistrial verdict on federal corruption charges, which he said was "a tough, tough situation and I don't think a very fair situation." The fake senator, a Democrat in reality, dangled the prospect of political cover for the ongoing immigration fiasco and Trump's upcoming Supreme Court nomination, to which Trump reacted enthusiastically and praised "Mendendez" for his "good relationship with the [Democratic] party." (In reality, Menendez almost lost his primary race to a complete unknown and has been marginalized within the party because of the corruption allegations.)

While nothing in the call was especially scandalous in and of itself, the incident highlighted two recurring themes in the Trump presidency. Security experts have bemoaned Trump's carelessness with his phones, both for his inexplicable unwillingness to use secure models and for his habit of using them to circumvent his own staff--which is what allowed Melendez to get through in this case. 

For their part, intelligence experts have been alarmed at how easily manipulated Trump is--something that is especially troubling given his upcoming meeting with Russian president and ex-KGB operative Vladimir Putin.

Neither Trump, Kushner, nor the White House were willing to comment on the story today.

Why should I care about this?

  • When unqualified people are given important jobs because of who they're related to, bad things can happen.
  • It's not a good sign if the one member of the opposition party that a president feels comfortable talking to is the one most closely associated with corrupt political dealings.