What’s this mean? It sounds like a hint that he’s heard something in his classified briefings that calls the accusations against Russia into question, but that can’t be. It’s the U.S. intelligence community that’s giving him those briefings and they’re all-in on the Russia theory. The report released last week was co-authored by DHS, remember. Besides, even Trump has the good sense (I think) not to spill the beans on sensitive government information he’s being told in confidence.
“I just want them to be sure because it’s a pretty serious charge,” Mr. Trump said of the intelligence agencies. “If you look at the weapons of mass destruction, that was a disaster, and they were wrong,” he added, referring to intelligence cited by the George W. Bush administration to support its march to war in 2003. “So I want them to be sure,” the president-elect said. “I think it’s unfair if they don’t know.”
He added: “And I know a lot about hacking. And hacking is a very hard thing to prove. So it could be somebody else. And I also know things that other people don’t know, and so they cannot be sure of the situation.”
When asked what he knew that others did not, Mr. Trump demurred, saying only, “You’ll find out on Tuesday or Wednesday.”
Maybe this is just him playing kick the can, hyping a big announcement to try to pacify his critics and then quietly hoping everyone forgets about it. Remember when he supposedly sent investigators to Hawaii in 2011 to check out Obama’s birth certificate? “I have people that have been studying it and they cannot believe what they’re finding,” he told an interviewer in 2011. Then he decided not to run for president and everyone stopped caring. The amazing findings were never shared, and he ended up renouncing Birtherism shortly before last year’s election. Same deal with that press conference he was planning to hold last month to discuss conflicts of interest and the disposition of his business holdings. That was postponed to give the Trump Organization more time to try to find a solution, and now it’s slipped off the radar as the country squabbles about Russia. Will it ever be held? Who knows?
Sean Spicer, his soon-to-be press secretary, was asked about this earlier today and said Trump won’t be revealing new information so much as discussing his own conclusions:
“It’s not a question of necessarily revealing,” Spicer said on CNN’s “New Day.”
“He’s going to talk about his conclusions and where he thinks things stand. He’s not going to reveal anything that was privileged or was shared with him classified. I think he can share with people his conclusions of the report and his understanding of the situation and make sure people understand there’s a lot of questions out there.“
It occurs to me that one thing Trump could do, a la his alleged birth-certificate investigation, is claim that he has his own private hacking experts who have looked into the DNC and Podesta matters and concluded that it was some other state actor who was behind it, not Russia. Which state actor? Well, he might respond, I’m not at liberty to say. It’s a matter of national security. (People inclined to take him at face value would jump to the conclusion that it’s China.) Will he share this intelligence with the U.S. intel community? I can’t, he might say, or else it’ll compromise my sources. If he made that move, we’d be in a position where the president-elect is entering office having just publicly dismissed the conclusions of the CIA and FBI in favor of his own operatives. Assuming he hasn’t already ruined his relationship with U.S. intelligence, that would do it. His critics would suspect that the secret “experts” he’s citing are either figments of his imagination, conjured up out of thin air to gaslight the country, or actual people with links to Russian intelligence, feeding him propaganda to create plausible deniability for Moscow. His fans would decide that they trust Trump more than they trust “the swamp” in Washington and that, at a minimum, with experts on both sides disagreeing over whodunnit, there’s no way to form a conclusion sturdy enough to justify punishing Russia. It’d be chaos.
Here’s Spicer talking about the hacking and what Trump plans to say. Exit question: Trump said on Thursday that he plans to meet with U.S. intelligence this week to be updated on the facts of the hackings. Is he going to meet with them before saying whatever it is he has to say on Tuesday or Wednesday or will he make his announcement first and then meet with them as a courtesy call? You should want to hear what your own intel bureaus have to say before stating your own opinion, right?