The Predictable Arc Of The Trump Scandal
The first four months of the Trump presidency have shown a pretty predictable arc to the weekly, if not daily, Trump scandal. There are really four distinct phases: outright denial, non-denial denial, blame the messenger, and admit the truth. We see these phases quite clearly, but in an extraordinarily compacted 12 hour span, in the reaction to the Washington Post story that Trump leaked the most top-secret intelligence to the Russians in a meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister and Ambassador which the American media was barred from attending but in which TASS, the official Russian news agency, received access.
The first response was the outright denial. Dina Powell, Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategy, said quite clearly, “This story is false. The President only discussed the common threats that both countries faced.”
About 30 minutes later, NSA H.R. McMaster came out in front of the White House and issued the non-denial denial. McMaster said, “The story that came out tonight, as reported, is false. The president and the foreign minister reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries, including threats to civil aviation. At no time — at no time — were intelligence sources or methods discussed. And the president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known. Two other senior officials who were present, including the secretary of state, remember it being the same way and have said so. Their on-the-record accounts should outweigh those of anonymous sources. And I was in the room. It didn’t happen.” Of course, the Washington Post article never claimed the President discussed sources and methods. It did, however, report that the President discussed details of an ISIS plot based on intelligence provided by a Middle Eastern ally under the assumption that it would be treated confidentially and as highly classified.
That was followed by the blame the messenger defense that was picked up by the Republican right wing media outlets. Breitbart highlighted that defense with its headline, “Deep State Leaks Highly Classified Info To Washington Post To Smear President Trump”. Jesse Waters on Fox News took a similar tack, tweeting, “If you’re a disloyal person, you sing to @washingtonpost. If you’re a loyal person, you take it to your superior.”
Then, less than twelve hours later, this morning we finally got the “I’m the President and I can legally do what I want” defense, essentially admitting the truth of the Washington Post report. Trump tweeted, “As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining….to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.” And now McMaster has just come out and defended the President’s actions were “wholly appropriate”, while admitting that the President has the right to reveal whatever information he wants.
Finally, the reactions of Republicans in Congress are also largely predictable and summed up by Mitch McConnell’s comments, “I read the Washington Post story and I read General McMasters’ response, which tends to refute the story, rebut the story. I think we could do with a little less drama from the White House on a lot of things so that we can focus of our agenda, which is deregulations, tax reform, repealing and replacing Obamacare.” Trump was right during the campaign that he could murder someone in cold blood in the middle of Fifth Avenue and get away with it. Republicans in Congress will do nothing to rein in Trump in pursuit of their agenda to provide tax cuts to the rich, roll back regulations for their corporate overlords, and strip away the social safety net from the American people.
I’ve also written about this and other issues on my personal blog at [tidalsoundings.blogspot.com]