“I Just Received A Beautiful Letter”
Donald Trump’s comments all week have continued to fuel speculation about his fitness and precarious state of mind. For the second time since May, he sided with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, going from an outlandish endorsement of a foreign government’s nasty insults about a former American Vice President, to a bewildering denial of factual reports that Jong Un’s half brother was working with the C.I.A. before he was murdered. Trump then deflected questions about this new American asset with outlandish praise for Jong Un and the “beautiful letter” he had sent.
“I see that, and I just received a beautiful letter from Kim Jong Un. I think the relationship is very well, but I appreciated the letter. I saw the information about the CIA with regard to his brother or half brother, and I would tell him that would not happen under my auspices. I wouldn’t let that happen under my auspices. I just received a beautiful letter from Kim Jong Un.”
It was difficult to tell if Trump was just completely unaware of the news on Kim Jong Nam or if he was trying to play dumb and pretend he didn’t know. But considering how much Trump says he’s advanced negotiations with Kim, it would seem impossible that he hadn’t been briefed on Nam’s relationship with the CIA. The idea that he would actually be attempting to negotiate without understanding his own intelligence advantages is even more alarming to consider.
Trump choosing to side with a hostile foreign nation over his own CIA was just another tipping point, and a clear way to send a message to anyone who might work with the United States that Trump’s own mercurial nature means he won’t even defend his own agencies, so you’re on your own.
“You Don’t Call the FBI”
Next Trump does an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, set in a variety of intimate settings like the Oval Office and the Rose Garden so that the viewer feels they have a real inside look at how things work. Then he admits that he would be willing to listening to information from foreign governments that might damage his opponents in the next election. When pressed about this, he doubles down and elaborates to defend his precarious position saying, “It’s not an interference. They have information-I think I’d take it.” He goes even further saying that this kind of assistance is just normal “opposition research.” For the record, this is not regular opposition research and has even been called out and deemed inappropriate in the Mueller Report.
When asked whether he'd take information offered from a foreign government or alert the FBI, Trump says he might do both
"I think you might want to listen, there isn't anything wrong with listening. If somebody called from a country, Norway, [and said,] 'We have information on your opponent'-Oh, I think I'd want to hear it." Donald Trump
He then tried to roll the comment back this morning by tweet, saying that it would be “ridiculous” to alert the FBI to every conversation he has with foreign leaders and that it would cause him to lose their trust, but clearly the question was asked in the context of Trump the Candidate, not Trump the President.
Another alarming moment from the interview occurred when Stephanopoulos reminded Trump that FBI Director Christopher Wray told Congress that he believes political campaigns should contact law enforcement if they are approached by foreign agents. Trump sharply countered with: “The FBI director is wrong. Give me a break. Life doesn’t work that way.” ABC also released these poignant clips from this interview while Donald Trump Jr. was behind closed doors with Congress, testifying about the meeting in Trump Tower in June 2016 with Russian nationals who offered “dirt” on then-Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. The Trump Administration did not seemed too concerned with the ramifications for Don Jr. with regard to the timing of Trump’s baffling statements.
These candid missteps by Trump all week have led to a new resurgence in the impeachment debate. This is another, more egregious reboot of the “Russia, if you’re listening” comment and Democrats are seizing on the chance to move the ball downfield. Many are revisiting the impeachment argument and are calling for renewed movement given the continued audacity of Trump’s statements and his clear disrespect for policy and the law. Republican’s are also being forced to hold press conferences to actually say that they don’t support foreign interference in elections, which is in direct opposition to Trump’s earlier interview.
He disrespected the CIA, he disrespected the FBI and he continues to disrespect the basic rule of law. What’s becoming painfully clear is that we are running out of options as a nation to restore our standards to a critical level necessary to maintaining what the presidency should represent. We are quickly approaching the point of no return on condemning this unacceptable behavior with the proper response of proportionate action.
(Do you have a strong viewpoint on this behavior and these impeachment issues? Sound off here on this comment thread and let’s start a discussion about where we go from here.)
Amee Vanderpool writes the “Shero and a Scholar” Newsletter and is an attorney, contributor to Playboy Magazine, analyst for BBC radio and Director of The Inanna Project. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @girlsreallyrule.