Tuesday, October 20, 2020


New York and parts of Florida (Oct. 24), Maryland (Oct. 26), Washington D.C. (Oct. 27), and Oklahoma (Oct. 29).

What did Donald Trump do today?

He said he didn't really mean what he said if it meant having to do what he said.

On October 6, Trump tweeted that he had "fully authorized the total Declassification of any & all documents" related to what he calls the "Russia hoax"—or, in other words, the U.S. government investigation into Russia's attempts to infiltrate his campaign and interfere the election. (It was not a hoax.)

This was surprising for two reasons, if anyone was taking Trump seriously. First, there's a reason the government doesn't usually make public how it catches foreign spies. "Sources and methods" need to be kept secret to work, although Trump has carelessly revealed them to Russian officials in the past. 

And second, there's no reason to think the full story would clear Trump, given the enormous number of connections between Russian intelligence operatives and senior campaign staff, to include his adult children. In other words, if Trump were to actually release documents about the Russia investigation, it would only demonstrate why the United States counterintelligence agencies were so convinced that the Putin regime had infiltrated Trump's inner circle.

News organizations immediately petitioned the government to see these documents, but were told that no declassification had taken place. In court, the Justice Department was forced to argue that even though Trump really can order declassification via tweet, he didn't mean it in this one case. The judge ordered Trump to respond by today about whether he was serious—in which case the documents really would be released—or not.

Trump, through his chief of staff, admitted today that he never actually intended to declassify anything.

So what?

  • It's wrong to lie to the American people.
  • Major policy decisions probably shouldn't be done via spontaneous Twitter declarations.
  • Pretending that Trump didn't ask for and receive help in the form of criminal interference by Russia doesn't mean it didn't happen.