Friday, September 27, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He pretty much lost it over the Ukrainian shakedown call, and then things got much worse.

Trump hit send on this tweet at 7:02 A.M.

For the record: Trump did indeed refer to the Chair of the House Intelligence committee as Liddle' Adam Schiff in a tweet from 19 months ago. That is to say, Trump is correct that he included an apostrophe (which he confuses with a hyphen) after the (made-up) word "liddle." It's not clear why Trump felt that leaving the apostrophe off was so unfair, although Twitter had a lot of fun at his expense today trying to figure out why.

That said, the reason Trump is angry at Schiff today is because yesterday, Schiff summarized the White House memo in which Trump tried to strongarm the Ukrainian government into conducting an investigation into Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. (Biden beats Trump in all recent national polls, sometimes by double digits.) This is how Trump explained it a little later in the day:

Schiff's statement, in which he describes the "sum and character" of that conversation as akin to a Mafia shakedown, can be seen here. He didn't "make up" the conversation because there is no transcript to deviate from—just a memo describing it.

Later today, multiple news outlets confirmed that the Ukrainian memo Schiff was referring to was not the only damning document of Trump's conversations with foreign leaders kept on a secret server. The Washington Post reported this evening that Trump told visiting Russian officials in May of 2017 that he wasn't bothered by Russia's attack on the 2016 election because in the past, the United States had interfered with other governments. (This was the same meeting where Trump revealed ultra-secret Israeli intelligence to Russia, in the process exposing Israel's sources and methods.) Three Trump administration officials confirmed to the Post that his staff made sure to hide documentation of those conversations from executive branch staff who would normally read them as part of their regular duties.

CNN also reported that Trump's conversations with the Saudi royal family, and Vladimir Putin, were given the same treatment, being stored on a server requiring codeword-level clearance to access, even though there was nothing classified about the actual contents. CNN also cited Trump administration officials in its reporting.

In other words, when Trump had non-classified discussions with Saudi or Russian officials—two governments he's known to be personally, financially beholden to—his staff put the details of those conversations on an ultra-secure server. And the reason is that because what he said was so obviously shocking and contrary to the national interest that his supporters were afraid whistleblowers would find a way to make them public.

Trump has so far refused to comment on these latest revelations, and has made no further angry tweets about how his spelling is covered by the news media.

Why does this matter?

  • It's wrong (and illegal) to try to hide information in the public interest by abusing the classification process.
  • Inviting foreign countries to attack American democracy is an evil act.
  • People who have done nothing wrong don't need to go to extraordinary lengths to cover up their actions.
  • Even if it was intended as a distraction, that tweet is not the product of a healthy mind.