Monday, September 9, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He gave a fairly typical press availability.

As is his habit, Trump took reporters' questions today while standing next to the helicopter that was about to take him to a campaign rally. In most respects it was fairly typical of a Trump press availability. Among the things he said:

TRUMP: Well, Gianni, we’re going to have to extend my second term because 2026 -- I’m going to have to extend it for a couple of years. I don’t think any of you would have a problem with that. But I hope you’re going to remember me in 2026.

Trump, who is not known for his sense of humor, "jokes" about this a lot.

Q Did you get talked out of that meeting with Taliban? 
TRUMP: [Peace negotiations are] dead. They're dead. As far as I’m concerned, they’re dead. They thought that they had to kill people in order to put themselves in a little better negotiating position. ...When I heard, very simply, that they killed one of our soldiers and 12 other innocent people, I said, “There’s no way I’m meeting on that basis. There’s no way I’m meeting.” They did a mistake.

The Taliban had been attacking American soldiers all the while Trump was trying to arrange a Camp David meeting during the week of 9/11 observances. They have increased the pace of attacks resulting in American fatalities since Trump took office.

There is a more likely explanation for why Trump's Camp David moment didn't materialize, but it's not one that makes Trump look good.

TRUMP: And we’ve hit the Taliban harder in the last four days than they’ve been hit in over 10 years.

As with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's recent claim that a thousand Taliban fighters were killed in response to a suicide bombing that killed an American servicemember, there is very little evidence that this is true.

Q Mr. President, are you willing to debate the Republicans who are running against you? 
TRUMP: You know, I don’t even know who they are, other than I know that --

Oh yes he does.

TRUMP: And the third one -- Mr. Tallahassee Trail or Appalachian Trail -- he’s the Appalachian Trail, right? The Tallahassee Trail is nice, too, but I think he was the Appalachian Trail. But he wasn’t on the Appalachian Trail; he was in Argentina.

There is no such thing as the "Tallahassee Trail," although Trump's gotten confused about that in the past. He's referring to former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford, who conducted an extramarital affair while claiming to be on a hiking trip.

Trump has cheated on each of his three wives, although he's learned discretion. His affair with future second wife, Marla Maples, happened in the full glare of the tabloids while he was still married to his first wife, Ivana Trump. But he really tried to keep it a secret when he cheated on his third wife, Melania Trump, with the porn film star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal: he paid Daniels $130,000 for her silence (committing campaign finance crimes in the process), and had a friend who ran the National Enquirer buy the rights to McDougal's story in order to bury it.

TRUMP: A lot of [border] wall is being built. And every time we put up a mile of wall, that helps us a lot.

Considering how much money Trump has taken from the budget for military preparedness and renovations for military base schools and housing, you might think this was true. But almost three years into his term, long after he abandoned his promise to make Mexico pay for any such wall, the number of new miles of border fencing created is still zero.

Q Are you prepared to offer temporary protected status to people from the Bahamas? 
TRUMP: [No, because] we’re also recovering from a hurricane.

The vast majority of the country, from Alaska to Alabama, is not recovering from Hurricane Dorian.
TRUMP: But we have to be very careful. Everybody needs totally proper documentation because the — look, the Bahamas had some tremendous problems with people going to the Bahamas that weren’t supposed to be there. I don’t want to allow people that weren’t supposed to be in the Bahamas to come into the United States, including some very bad people and some very bad gang members and some very, very bad drug dealers. So we are going to be very, very strong on that.

The Bahamian passengers turned away yesterday while attempting to legally travel from a pre-cleared port in the Bahamas had "totally proper documentation," which included affadavits from the Bahamian police that they had no criminal record.

Q On North Korea, sir -- on North Korea, when’s the last time you heard from Chairman Kim? 
TRUMP: Well, I saw a statement was just put out having to do with North Korea, and that’ll be interesting. We’ll see. It just came out over the wires a little while ago. So, we’ll see what happens. 

The "statement" was that North Korea continues to defy the U.S. and U.N. by conducting missile tests. Trump has been pretending to be unconcerned by these clear provocations, because Kim has him over a political barrel. Because Trump pre-emptively declared that he'd solved the North Korea problem once and for all, even before their first meeting, Kim has enormous leverage over Trump.

In the meantime -- in the meantime, we have our hostages back, we’re getting the remains of our great heroes back, and we’ve had no nuclear testing for a long time.

North Korea is not testing nuclear weapons because they've perfected their warhead design and are conserving fuel. The missile tests that Trump is ignoring continue, because North Korea still needs to perfect a reliably delivery system for them.

Q With the judge in the Ninth District Court -- the San Francisco judge that continues to issue nationwide injunctions on immigration policy, do you think that’s constitutional? 
TRUMP: I think it’s very unfair that he does that. I don’t think it should be allowed, and we’ll see what happens.

The judicial branch is allowed to issue injunctions that affect Trump's policies, no matter how "unfair" he thinks it is.

TRUMP: And we’ve won a lot in the courts over the last year. You know, if you look at the beginning, where we were losing, we will have about 180 judges approved over the next three or four weeks -- 180. 
When I came in, President Obama gave us a beautiful gift. He gave us 138 judges that he wasn’t able to get in or didn’t pick anybody, or couldn’t get them approved. One hundred and thirty-eight. I took that. And now, when you add the other that came through attrition and other things that have happened, we’ll have about 180 judges approved very, very quickly.

Trump seems to be forgetting that federal judges aren't supposed to be owned by one president or another. (He repeated the second paragraph, almost word for word, a few minutes later.)

Q Will you respond to the reports today that say that you have mishandled classified information to Russia? 
THE PRESIDENT: No, I know nothing about it. I see the CIA responded perfectly. So whatever the CIA said is fine with me. But I heard they responded perfectly. I know nothing.

Trump presumably does "know nothing" about the CIA's decision to extract a key source within the Russian government, because (according to reports out today) the whole point of exfiltrating that source was because the intelligence community thought Trump would give up his identity to the Putin regime.

Q Mr. President, how do you define -- how do you define victory in Afghanistan? 
THE PRESIDENT: Well, that’s always the question: How do you define victory?

Trump didn't answer the question.

Q Mr. President, on Turnberry: Will you discourage the Pentagon from having troops stay overnight at your properties? 
TRUMP: Soon you’ll find that out because I’ll be, at some point prior to the election, I’m going to be giving out a financial report of me. And it will be extremely complete. I’m going to give out -- I’m going to give or my financial condition. And you’ll be extremely shocked that the numbers are many, many times what you think. I don’t need to have somebody take a room overnight in a hotel.

The question refers to the sudden, unexplained jump in Air Force refueling stops at a failing commercial airport in Scotland that needs to stay open if one of Trump's struggling golf resorts is to stay above water. Military personnel forced to do overnight stays in the area have complained that their per diem allowance wasn't enough to cover the costs of staying at Trump's property.

As for whether Trump needs hotel room fees, he remains hundreds of millions of dollars in personal debt.

Why should I care about any of this?

  • This was a pretty normal 15 minutes in the Trump presidency, by Trump presidency standards.