President-elect Donald Trump is so obsessed with reaffirming his own victory that he seems bent on ignoring a real national security threat and making common cause with a foe of the United States against our own intelligence community and the consensus of the vast majority of Democrats and Republicans on the Hill. His dutiful mouthpiece Sean Spicer demonstrated on Sunday just how irrational the Trump team will become when Trump’s frail ego is involved:
KARL: But what’s the bottom line. Just a yes or no answer. Does President Trump, President-elect Trump, now accept the fact that Russia was behind the DNC hack?
SPICER: Well I think that there’s a report that came out the other day, that got issued on the 29th, that the intelligence community has put out, and while the media played it up as this report about the hacking, what it actually is, if you look through it, and its available online, is a series of recommendations that should be taken, like changing passwords, changing administrative rights.
What it shows is that by all measures the Democratic National Committee had a very lax IT support. Now hacking is wrong by any standards. No one supports anyone hacking into any other entity, legal, domestically, or foreign, or anyone interfering with anything, but the fact of the matter is, what this report really does show is that there’s a need for them to go back in and look at their, what they’re doing IT wise to protect their system.
KARL: Absolutely, but you do see, I have the report too, you do see the headline, Russian malicious cyber activity. It makes it clear, and it names Russia, gives the IP addresses…
SPICER: And then it says, actions take, back up the system. Staff training…
KARL: Absolutely. But does he accept that Russia was behind this?
SPICER: Well I think, like I said, he has to have the briefing first from the intelligence community next week.
KARL: So he’s still not there yet?
SPICER: It’s not a question of not there yet, Jonathan, it’s a question of getting the information. Everyone in the media wants to jump forward and make a conclusion based off other sourced information, you know anonymous sources that are coming out of the intelligence community, he’s going to do this right.
KARL: This is no longer anonymous, this is
SPICER: It is…
KARL: This is a public statement.
SPICER: What this says is that the DNC had a problem with their IT security and people tried to hack it and they need to do a better job of protecting it…
KARL: The Russians succeeding in hacking…
SPICER: But the fact of the matter is, but we’re having part of a conversation. Why aren’t we talking about the influence, other influences on the election? Why aren’t we talking about Hillary Clinton getting debate questions ahead of time? That’s a pretty valid attempt to influence an election. Somebody giving her the debate questions and the answers of an election. No, no, no. It’s not hey. We haven’t, no one’s asking those questions. And the fact is is that everyone wants to talk, make Donald Trump admit to certain things. When are we going to start talking about the other side of this. Which is what did Hillary Clinton do to influence the election? Is she being punished in any way? What are we doing to make sure that people don’t get the debate questions ahead of time, because I can tell you this, if my boss at the time, Reince Priebus, had gotten the debate questions, and handed them off, he would have been driven out of this town on a stake, and Donald Trump would have been vilified. No one wants to ask those questions now.
This is about national security and Spicer is talking about Clinton’s campaign. For Trump the two are linked, and anyone pursuing Russian cyberattacks on the United States is attacking him, his victory. This is disturbing to say the least.
There is something more than a little pathetic in reverting to false talking points about Trump “saving” Sprint jobs (that were “saved” before the election) when asked about Trump’s peculiar relationship with Putin:
KARL: Okay. So I want to ask you something, Donald Trump has had a lot to say about Russia over the past couple of weeks.
KARL: In particular about Vladimir Putin. First he praised Putin for sending him a quote very nice letter saying he thought Putin’s thoughts were quote so correct. Then he agreed with Putin’s mocking of Hillary Clinton, saying it was, so true. And now we saw, most recently, praising Putin’s muted response to these new sanctions saying I always knew he was very smart. Sean, you’re a longtime Republican, party of Reagan, is there something a little strange to you to hear the incoming president offering so many words of praise to the Russian…
SPICER: Well let’s look at what happened, right? The United States says were going to impose these sanctions. Expel people, close down sites, et cetera, call out people by name. The Russian government says were going to retaliate in the equal sense. And then Vladimir Putin says, you know what, I’m actually going to wait until Donald Trump goes. That’s actually good for our country.
So the idea is everyone wants to talk about the tweets he sent. But I would actually focus on the action he’s getting. Donald Trump is not president yet and he’s getting action, successes and wins, both abroad and here at home.
Everything he does right now, he gets — he speaks for the head of Sprint, gets 5,000 jobs moved from abroad. And everyone starts to mock him. Oh, those jobs were already announced. They weren’t. The sales jobs have been a previous announce. These jobs were coming from abroad to America.
And instead of trying to mock him or undermine him, it’s time that people started to give him credit for actually getting things done.
Again, for Trump’s team the concern is about Trump being “mocked,” not about threats to the country. Spicer went on to give a convoluted explanation of Trump’s approach to Russia: The reset failed so Trump will do something new. That something new is being even more deferential to Russia? This is akin to President Obama’s mindset with Iran — predecessors failed to get along, so he would have a new relationship. Unfortunately, that new relationship meant never directly confronting Iran and deluding oneself that Iran wanted normal relations with the United States. Put in Trump terms, instead of “losing” to Russia, Trump would concede the match, for the sake of preserving his gigantic and frail ego.
Maybe Trump really is indebted to Russian oligarchs. Perhaps he has natural rapport with other authoritarian bullies. Or perhaps he just wants to be respected and adored — constantly. Whether it is pretending Putin did not interfere with our elections or lying about saving jobs he had nothing to do with, he will do anything to get approbation. His staff and family’s attempts to satiate his ego and avoid his wrath are never fully successful, of course. His “achievements” are often fictionalized, and the “mocking” he receives for claiming credit no doubt fuels his hunger for more praise.
Our concern, however, is not the psychic loop (delusional claim, criticism, anger, new delusional claim) in which he is trapped, but the degree to which he appears incapable of putting the country first. What was exasperating during the campaign is now horrifying as he stands less than three weeks from the presidency.