Alarms are being raised on the left and the right today that the tape Trump’s talking about here, which no one else has seen — and of which he says, outright, “I don’t think you’ve heard this anywhere but here” — might be something that he viewed in his first intelligence briefing for presidential candidates. The guy’s had one briefing, the theory goes, and already he’s running his mouth off at public rallies about classified information. That … does sound like something he would do, but help me figure this out: If Iran made a propaganda video of U.S. agents handing over cash for American hostages, why isn’t the tape already on Iranian TV and YouTube? The point of propaganda is to circulate advantageous information publicly. “Top-secret propaganda” would be an oxymoron. And even if there is a tape, why would U.S. intel agents play it for Trump at a briefing? Unless something unusual with national-security implications happened at the handover that the next president had to witness with his own eyes, there’s no point in screening it. The fact of the handover is already public knowledge.
Oh, and one other teensy flaw in the theory: As of yesterday, according to Paul Manafort, Trump hadn’t received his first intelligence briefing yet.
So what the hell is he talking about here? WaPo thinks it’s solved the mystery:
As Fox News reported on the controversial transfer of $400 million in cash to Iran in January, it repeatedly played dark, grainy footage of shadowy figures walking off a small private plane with bags in hand. The video is often labeled as being from Jan. 17 in Geneva where three Americans first landed after being released from prison in Tehran…
The Washington Post asked Trump’s staff to explain what Trump was talking about and emailed a link to a Fox News clip that showed the January footage from Geneva, asking if that was the video the nominee saw.
“Yes,” spokeswoman Hope Hicks responded in an email. “Merely the b-roll footage included in every broadcast.”
Watch the clip and judge for yourself. What he describes sounds nothing like “dark, grainy footage” of a prisoner exchange. He’s describing high-quality footage of delivery of the U.S. payment. Hicks might have agreed to WaPo’s explanation simply to make this go away. So what’s Trump really on about? I’m torn 50/50 between believing that, yes, he’s talking about the January footage but can’t suppress his eternal impulse towards embellishment (the footage is perfect! you probably haven’t heard this anywhere else!) and believing that he hasn’t seen the January footage either and is making up the idea of a tape whole cloth because it adds some color to his standard “America’s being humiliating” message. He’s not spilling state secrets, though. He’s just a habitual liar. Whew.