Thursday, July 19, 2018

What did Donald Trump do today?

He forgot to tell his administration a few things about Russia.

While much of the week's attention has been focused on Trump's servile performance at his joint press conference with Vladimir Putin, less is known about what happened in the two-hour meeting immediately before. This is because Trump refused to allow any other Americans (besides translators) in the room with Putin. 

Trump hasn't shared any of the details of the meeting with the public or his senior staff, although the Russian government has been gleefully announcing that it is already implementing "agreements in the sphere of international security," including "cooperation in Syria." (Although Trump sometimes forgets, the United States and Syria are on opposite sides of the civil war in Syria.) 

Trump has not contradicted these announcements, but this morning, the commander of U.S. forces in the Syrian theater said he had received no instructions about cooperating with Russia. One possibility is that Trump actually did reach some kind of agreement with Putin but neglected to tell his own Defense Department--like he did at the Singapore meeting with Kim Jong-un. The other is that Putin is lying about what happened in the meeting, but Trump is unwilling or unable to push back against those lies.

Later in the day, Trump announced that he would be meeting with Putin in Washington this October. At the time of the announcement, Dan Coats, the Director of National Intelligence, was being interviewed by NBC's Andrea Mitchell. This is how Coats, whose version of the 2016 Russian attack Trump publicly rejected in favor of Putin's, learned about the summit:

Why is this a bad thing?

  • The only reason for a president not to tell his own government about major developments is if he's trying to hide something.