An unusual statement from Trump

At the joint press conference following their summit meeting, Donald Trump made an unusual statement where he seemed to suggest that he was more inclined to believe Russian president Vladimir Putin rather than his own intelligence agencies about Russia’s role in US elections.

“My people came to me, [Director of National Intelligence] Dan Coats came to me and some others, they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

What is extraordinary is not that Trump may not believe entirely what his own intelligence people are telling him. He has a somewhat paranoid personality and seems to think that there is some ‘deep state’ conspiracy against him that includes the Washington establishment, the CIA, the FBI, the NSA, and who knows whom else.

What was unexpected was to say such things aloud while in Moscow Helsinki in the presence of Putin at a time when there is a cacophony of voices suggesting that he is somehow beholden to the Russian leader. It was after all, a gratuitous statement that he could have easily omitted or sidestepped.

It puts the intelligence agencies in an awkward position and immediate questions were posed as to whether the heads of those agencies would resign at this sign of no confidence from their boss. There has been no response as yet and I doubt they will resign. The principled resignation is a rare species these days with political appointees. Coats did however issue a statement.

“The role of the Intelligence Community is to provide the best information and fact-based assessments possible for the President and policymakers. We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy, and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security,” Coats said.

The intelligence agencies routinely lie to the media and the American public, which is why the Democratic party establishment now portraying them as paragons of virtue and rectitude is so bizarre. But it was presumed that they tell the president the truth in private though they may shade the truth in pursuance of their own agendas.

So this kind of public disagreement between the president and the agencies that directly serve him is weird.


  1. jrkrideau says

    Donald Trump made an unusual statement where he seemed to suggest that he was more inclined to believe Russian president Vladimir Putin rather than his own intelligence agencies about Russia’s role in US elections.

    Sounds more or less reasonable to me. Not that I would not expect Putin to lie about things. That is part of the job of a head of government. I just don’t have any trust in the US intelligence services. And the original story is too silly for belief.

    it was presumed that they tell the president the truth in private
    I have managed to stop laughing. I suspect that there are lots of loyal civil servants who would do this. At the senior levels, meh….

    while in Moscow
    Err, I thought the meeting was in Helsinki? Or did Trump accept an invitation to Putin’s “dacha” at Novo-Ogaryovo for the weekend?

  2. jrkrideau says

    @3 mano
    Yes, of course it was Helsinki.

    Beware the US media! They still have not mastered the difference between the former USSR and the current Russian Federation. Well that goes for a lot of people in the “West”. I still talk about the “Traffic Circle” (roundabout to many readers) that disappeared 25 years ago.

    As an aside, I am not sure the younger reporters could find Helsinki on a map
    Perhaps I am being unkind. Let me rephrase that. am not sure most US reporters could find Helsinki on a map .

  3. rq says

    have not mastered the difference between the former USSR and the current Russian Federation

    Uh, generally I agree with that statement, but Finland was never occupied into the USSR. I guess we’re all the same up here in north-eastern Europe, eh?

  4. sonofrojblake says

    Indeed, Finland was never part of the USSR. The Winter War was a hell of a thing -- imagine the rest of the USA tried to invade Connecticut, and got their ass handed to them. It’s all the more odd because it’s historically usually Russia holding off invaders who underestimated weather, terrain and defenders. Also, the Finns had Simo Hayha, so it wasn’t a fair fight.

  5. Dunc says

    These days I often feel like I’m trapped in a variant of that logic puzzle with two doors and two people, one of which always tells the truth and the other always lies -- except in this version, I’m faced with two people who always lie.

  6. cartomancer says

    From a non-US perspective I’m actually quite glad that Trump is so deferential to Putin. The friendlier they are the less chance there is of the all-out nuclear war that might destroy us all. Russia has felt besieged by the US and its NATO allies since the days of Gorbachev, and the US has been a bunch of imperialists and warmongers for two centuries at least. If Trump’s abject stupidity has any silver lining, it’s that he’s too stupid to follow standard US foreign policy and hence ratchet up the tensions further.

    What are the down sides? That Putin gets a free pass on his atrocities in Chechnya and the Crimea? Well, that’s not ideal, but all the resistance provided by the Obama administration didn’t seem to help much, and the European leaders are fairly united in their condemnation of those abuses and applying their own pressure.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think Putin is a vile tyrant and Russia deserves far better than him. But since we live in a world where these two are in charge, I’d prefer it that they were hugging and kissing than launching missiles at each other. And if it causes discord, disruption and the breakdown of the US government’s ability to execute its foreign policy, well, that foreign policy is vile and anti-human anyway.

  7. cartomancer says

    Also, even if Russia did try to meddle in the US election, a) the US has been rigging and influencing and outright ignoring elections in other nations for decades, and b) anything the Russians did pales into utter insignificance compared to the manipulation of the electorate undertaken by corporate interests and their media mouthpieces.

    Just because it is technically legal for US corporations to buy elections, where it isn’t legal for foreign governments to flick at the edges in the hope something gets upset, that doesn’t mean we should be focused on the latter. The former is far more corrosive and damaging, because it is far more effective.

  8. says

    It’s vile tyrants all the way down.

    And after what the US and its allies did to Libya, Syria, and Iraq I get queasy when Americans yell about Russia annexing Crimea.

  9. Gorogh, Lounging Peacromancer says

    Hm. I am not surprised by that at all. Little by little, bit by bit, notions like this are being injected into the discourse, until they are not outrageous anymore (think Overton window but without policy positions). He had to take that step eventually. I just hope this is all going down in flames so hard, but I am not holding my breath.

    Also, I believe it is time to accept that whatever hallowed status the US constitution has for many, it doesn’t mean shit if it cannot prevent corruption at the highest level of government, a partisan stacking of courts, etc. “Unconstitutional”, “constitutional”, none of that has valence.

  10. says

    The most amazing thing about all of this is that even people at Fox News are voicing their displeasure at what happened. That has to sting Donald the most.

  11. mnb0 says

    Donald the Clown’s ego is too big to feel any sting.
    What surprises me is that so many people still take him seriously. By now I doubt if he’s even capable of launching any missile. The procedure probably is too complicated for him.

  12. jrkrideau says

    @ 5 rq

    Finland was never occupied into the USSR.

    I must have been more incoherent than usual. I was not suggesting that Finland had been part of the USSR. I had intended that statement in a more general sense. Most US policy “gurus” do not seem to have comprehended that modern Russia is not just the USSR under a new label.

    A brilliant example of this is an article by James Risen in the Intercept where he says “His many critics will take it as further evidence that he [Trump] really is a KGB agent.

    According to a quick Wiki check the KGB was split into the SVR and the FSB in 1991. There is no KGB. I suppose Risen could have claimed he’s an alumnus.

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