Sunday, July 22, 2018

What did Donald Trump do today?

He completely walked back his partial walk-back of his siding with Putin on the 2016 election attack.

To judge from Twitter, today has been emotionally fraught for Trump, in spite of having spent all day (and all weekend) at his New Jersey golf course. His outbursts included an all-caps rant about Iran, an attack on the concept of search warrants, and an attempt to rebrand his "advisor" Carter Page as a spy for anyone other than Russia

It is sometimes hard to tell what parts of Trump's Twitter outbursts are deliberate lies and what parts are simply falsehoods he's convinced himself are true. But one in particular is notable either way. Trump is ending the week where he started it on the question of Russia's disinformation campaign and cyberattack on the United States election that put Trump in power: it was a "all a big hoax" perpetrated by President Obama.

In reality, the Obama administration did warn Trump as early as July 19 that Russia was attempting to infiltrate his campaign. But by then, the Trump campaign had already established contacts with Russian agents and begun actively courting them right back.

By way of reminder, last Monday, Trump explicitly took Vladimir Putin's denials of Russia's involvement over the unanimous findings of the entire U.S. intelligence community. After a day of bipartisan outrage, a visibly reluctant Trump attempted a walk-back on Tuesday, but could not resist giving Russia an out. On Wednesday he immediately reverted to the pro-Putin stance, saying that Russia was no longer attacking U.S. elections--again contradicting the entire intelligence community's findings. White House staff later insisted he had been misinterpreted.

On Thursday, Trump invited Putin to visit the United States this fall, to the visible shock of his own Director of National Intelligence, who--like the U.S. military--has still not been told what Trump and Putin discussed in their first summit.

What does it matter?

  • At this point it doesn't really matter whether Trump is unable or unwilling to accept reality where Russia is concerned.