Once the interview with George Stephanopoulos aired, showing President Trump saying “I think I’d take it,” regarding foreign governments and oppo research, the media pounced. Ed broke it down into questions involving Norway, Russia and Ukraine, but we could presumably be talking about any country in the world. Everyone and their brothers leaped on this as an admission of… something, I guess. One analyst on CNN this morning declared it was clear proof that the President was signaling Russia that he was open for business and ready to take any other dirt they might have on Joe Biden or whoever eventually winds up winning the Democratic nomination.
Once the blowback kicked into gear this morning (and there was plenty of it), the President was back on Twitter explaining how the media had missed what he was saying.
Before getting to the substance of his response, allow me to toss out my own hot take here. I’d be willing to bet this was intentional and Trump is just trolling the media and the Democrats again. Ed described the President’s original answer to the question as, “a remarkably tone-deaf argument, especially after the last two-plus years.” On the surface, it certainly seems that way. So that leaves us with two possibilities. Either you have to believe that Donald Trump is so dim-witted that he would forget all of the screaming that’s gone on for two years and blithely say that he’d accept interference from a foreign government, or he’s doing something else.
What’s the other possibility? That Donald Trump is only in his comfort zone when he has the press and the Democrats up in arms and screaming about something. He goads them and prods them constantly. The question Stephanopoulos asked was so crazy as to be insulting and I’m guessing that he nearly wet himself when he got the President to answer in the affirmative. He knew he’d hit a jackpot that would consume the news cycle for at least the next day. (And he obviously did.) Given all of that, I wouldn’t be in the least surprised if President Trump heard the question and made a “shoot from the hip” decision to toss Stephanopoulos a bomb and let him run with it. He thrives when his opponents are in a state of chaos and that’s precisely where things stand now.
As to the President’s tweets, his answers aren’t entirely off base, though they don’t really address the original question. Obviously, Monarchs, Prime Ministers and Presidents of other nations would have many subjects to discuss with the American President, but it’s unlikely they’d be handing over dossiers of dirt on Democratic candidates. Even if one of them made a joke in private about Joe Biden acting creepy or something, the President still wouldn’t run to the FBI or anyone else with that.
But what if another agent of a foreign government strolled up with some actual oppo research? We don’t know the response to that one because the President isn’t saying. But I’d be willing to wager that he’s flipping through the cable news channels today and watching Nancy Pelosi and the commentariat set their hair on fire. And I’m guessing he’s probably smiling. Whether or not this is good political strategy won’t be known until next November.