One of the strange stories to come out of the new Bob Woodward book about the Donald Trump administration is the story of how advisors to Trump would swipe documents from his desk that they thought he should not see or sign. A specific case that was cited was former economic advisor Gary Cohn seeing a letter on Trump’s desk that was awaiting his signature calling for an end to a long standing trade agreement with South Korea. Cohn took the letter away and apparently that was the end of the story. Cohn apparently did something similar with a letter about NAFTA.
That Korea letter is now available to be seen.
The first thing to note is that it is clear that Trump did not draft it. The letter is far too wonky and detailed for him to have anything but the most general idea of what it says. It was most likely drafted by his trade representative and co-signatory Robert Lighthizer who would know the most about the issue
So the puzzle is that even if Trump is so befuddled to realize that he had not signed the letter and that it had disappeared and that the Korean trade deal was still intact, surely Lighthizer would have noticed this omission and either tracked down what happened to the letter or provided a new one to sign? After all, this letter is a year old. And who provided the letter to Woodward if not Cohn?
Seth Meyers comments on the letter and other issues in this strange administration.
Marcus Ranum says
The first thing to note is that it is clear that Trump did not draft it. The letter is far too wonky and detailed for him to have anything but the most general idea of what it says.
I doubt he’s even literate.
RM@#1: “I doubt he’s even literate.”
It fits. And it would help burnish his credentials as being ‘strong and unwavering’ (Immune to facts), ‘bold and innovative’ (Immune to reality), and ‘inspired’ (Operating entirely from gut-level instincts). It figures that he would develop a talent for reading people and identifying what they want/ need to hear if he can’t process written information. I’ve seen people who were functionally illiterate but intelligent compensate by listening closely snd memorizing what has been said. They have lots of ways to get someone to read and summarize things for them. Trump has used the claim that he didn’t have his glasses when making a deposition.
I can easily see this working… None of the wonks want this letter signed so they aren’t going to ask about it, and hope it just fades into the dustbin of stupid crap in the past. Trump is like a toddler, he has no object permanence, so while he is riled up about something he issues all sorts of dumb orders, and as long as you can keep it from him until he fixates on something else he will never come back to it. Basically he lacks intellectual object permanence.
Perhaps Trump told Lighthizer to write the letter (in “Tell these [insert offensive term for East Asians] we’re sick of them swindling America and they can fuck off” terms), Lighthizer obediently wrote it, then tipped off whoever is the semi-official letter-remover. That would explain why Lighthizer didn’t complain.