Thursday, June 13, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He got very, very confused during his attempt to turn yesterday's call for foreign election help on Democrats.

Trump's admission yesterday that he would be willing to use foreign espionage or propaganda to win the 2020 election hasn't gone over well. It's been savaged by legal experts, Trump's fellow Republicans, and the country's chief election law official. In what appears to be an attempt to defend himself today, Trump wrote a series of tweets that, to be charitable, will require some interpretation:

When Senator @MarkWarnerVA spoke at length, and in great detail, about extremely negative information on me, with a talented entertainer purporting to be a Russian Operative, did he immediately call the FBI? NO, in fact he didn’t even tell the Senate Intelligence Committee of........which he is a member. When @RepAdamSchiff took calls from another person, also very successfully purporting to be a Russian Operative, did he call the FBI, or even think to call the FBI? NO! The fact is that the phony Witch Hunt is a giant scam where Democrats,.......and other really bad people, SPIED ON MY CAMPAIGN! They even had an “insurance policy” just in case Crooked Hillary Clinton and the Democrats lost their race for the Presidency! This is the biggest & worst political scandal in the history of the United States of America. Sad!

The "spying," of course, refers to legal warrants issued by courts for surveillance of Russian attempts to infiltrate the Trump campaign.

As for the rest of it, Trump is referring to two separate stories here, but he's confused which Democratic politician goes with which, and in both cases he has the facts exactly backwards.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) contacted a lobbyist while seeking to get in touch with Christopher Steele, the author of the dossier that first laid out the ways in which Trump and his campaign were entangled with Russian intelligence operatives. Contrary to Trump's claims, as Warner's Republican colleagues on the Senate Intelligence Committee admitted at the time, he did so with their full knowledge.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) was the one who was contacted by not one but two Russian comedians, in a prank call where they pretended to be Ukrainian government officials with compromising information on Trump. Trump's account of what happened next is a lie: as the callers' audio proves, Schiff referred them to the FBI, and then contacted the FBI himself.

Trump is not exactly known for his attention to detail, so it may be that he's genuinely confused rather than deliberately lying about these. He also may genuinely believe, as he said yesterday, that politicians "all do it." (They do not.)

Who cares?

  • Even if it's true, but especially if it's not, "other people are doing it" is not a reason to commit crimes against American democracy.
  • Past a certain point, it doesn't matter if a president is lying or disoriented.