John Podesta, the chair of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, served as counselor to President Barack Obama and chief of staff to President Bill Clinton.
Weaving through the mountains on a cross-country road trip with my wife, I was quite surprised to discover that — at least according to President Trump — I am the talk of the Group of 20 meeting.
Trump tweeted: “Everyone here is talking about why John Podesta refused to give the DNC server to the FBI and the CIA. Disgraceful!”
Really? Everyone? I’ve been at my share of global summits, so I sort of doubt that. The world leaders certainly have more important topics to grapple with. To take one issue close to my heart: how to deal with the challenge of climate change now that the president has declared that the United States will be withdrawing from the Paris climate accord. Or how to deal with the leadership vacuum now that Trump has turned his back on our traditional allies in Europe and Asia.
On one level, the president’s tweet is so obviously wrong and so evidently self-serving that the temptation is simply to ignore it. But, because he is the president, his words warrant a response.
First, I had nothing to do with the Democratic National Committee — I chaired Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. So there was no DNC server for me to refuse to give and I was never asked for one. Second, the CIA has no role in domestic intelligence-gathering — in fact, it’s prohibited. The CIA would never ask anyone at the DNC for a server. Whether the FBI asked the DNC for access to a server, I don’t know, beyond what I’ve read.
What I do know is this, which is why I’m choosing to respond to Trump’s tweet: The Russians stole my emails. When they did that, they committed a crime. They also invaded my privacy, and the privacy of a multitude of friends, family and colleagues with whom I communicated. That, combined with vicious lies spread by the alt-right media such as the so-called Comet Ping Pong conspiracy, exposed them to potential harm, as was evidenced by the shooting at Comet. The crime the Russians committed, as the intelligence community has concluded, was for the purpose of helping Trump get elected president.
So the responsible thing for a U.S. president to do, in these circumstances, is to have the backbone to stand up against Russian interference in U.S. democracy — not to question, as Trump did on Thursday, the competence of our own intelligence community and to publicly doubt, once again, the conclusion that Russia was behind the hacking. Trump talks big on Twitter, but when he came face to face with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday, we heard him say what an honor it was to meet him. It has been reported that Trump asked Putin about the election hacking, giving Putin the chance to issue an obligatory denial, despite all the evidence gathered by the U.S. intelligence community. One can only hope that Trump made clear to Putin that the United States won’t tolerate continued Russian interference in elections, as we’ve seen in the United States, France and now in Germany and across Europe. (This is one conversation that it would be nice to have a tape of.)
As president, Trump is supposed to be doing his job representing the United States in a respectable fashion to make sure we maintain and enhance our standing around the world. Instead, he has his face glued to his phone. It’s really sad that the U.S. president can’t get his head in the game even at the G-20 summit of world leaders.
God only knows what our president will be tweeting by the time my wife and I get to Utah.
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