It's a very big day for President Trump: the day he meets and sits down with Russian President Vladimir Putin for the first time. So naturally he got it started with a strange tweet.
When it comes to strange tweets, Trump is, well, no stranger. But this one is inexplicable in so many ways that I thought it worth a quick recap.
1. It fails the smell test spectacularly: Okay, even if we grant that perhaps foreign leaders are talking about Russian hacking of the 2016 election or even second-guessing how it was dealt with, this would be an extremely specific and insider-y thing to zero in on. Podesta, who was Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, hasn't really been in the news for months, nor has the Democratic National Committee's decision not to turn over its servers. Perhaps the leaders might be talking about President Barack Obama not doing more about Russia before the election after Trump broached the topic Thursday, but this is weirdly specific fare for leaders at the Group of 20 summit.
2. The FBI requested the servers: There is no indication that the CIA, which deals with foreign intelligence and surveillance, was involved.
3. Podesta wouldn't have had control over this decision: He was not a DNC official, and even if you argue that Clinton's campaign could have exerted control over such a thing, she wasn't the Democratic nominee when the situation came to a head. A quick timeline:
- July 22: WikiLeaks releases hacked DNC emails
- July 25: The FBI confirms it is investigating the matter
- July 26: Clinton is officially nominated at the Democratic National Convention
Then-FBI Director James B. Comey confirmed in January that the FBI had sought access to the DNC servers and been rebuffed, but there is no indication this was Podesta's decision. And it would be somewhat odd if it were. Either Trump knows something we don't and he's disclosing new information here, or he's confused.
The latter seems to be the most likely explanation. It looks a whole lot like, in his effort to stir the pot, Trump is conflating Podesta's own hacked emails with the DNC's.
And it actually wouldn't be the first time he had appeared to do this. Back in January, he referred to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's admonition that a 14-year-old could have hacked Podesta's emails by tweeting, “Why was DNC so careless?”
Never mind that the DNC had nothing to do with Podesta's emails when they were hacked in March 2016. Also, Podesta's emails appear to have been attacked in a different manner than the DNC's, using a much-simpler phishing method rather than malware.
So Trump's tweet then didn't make sense — nor does his tweet today.
Update: Podesta has responded.
And here's House Intelligence Committee ranking Democrat Adam Schiff (Calif.):