If there’s one thing Donald Trump knows how to do it’s dominate a news cycle. However the story that has most consistently been in the news since Election Day is one that Donald Trump wishes would go away: the Russian hacking & interference in our election. I haven’t commented on this story so far because it’s gotten saturation coverage, and Trump’s response to it is so obviously absurd, there’s not much to say about it.
However, yesterday, President Obama announced sanctions against a number of Russian operatives & entities in response to the email hacks (among other things), and I think there was something noteworthy about the response from Trump this time. Here’s his statement:
It’s time for our country to move on to bigger and better things. Nevertheless, in the interest of our country and its great people, I will meet with leaders of the intelligence community next week in order to be updated on the facts of this situation.
Of course this is ridiculous, demonstrating that Trump continues to be dismissive of the entire episode, downplaying its significance and trying to sweep the whole thing under the rug. But it doesn’t really get much bigger than a foreign adversary manipulating our presidential election, so Trump is just defying logic. However this attitude is nothing new for Trump, and in a way, I suppose you could consider it a slight improvement, as he didn’t try to deny that it happened or claim that it was just the work of a lone 400-lb guy sitting in his bedroom.
But what was interesting about this particular response is that, unlike many (though not all*) of Trump’s controversial comments, this wasn’t a hastily written tweet or an off-the-cuff answer Trump gave in response to reporters shouting questions to him from the driveway of Mar-a-Lago. It wasn’t even a case of one of his more experienced advisors getting tripped up on a Sunday morning show. This was actually a prepared statement put out by the Trump transition team. And the Trump transition team includes a number of people who have many decades experience working in politics, so when they write a statement they know exactly what they’re doing. They know how significant it is that Russia interfered in our election. And they know that when all 17 intelligence agencies agree that that’s what happened, it’s probably a pretty good indication that you should at least consider the evidence. They are also very, very aware that when the President-elect of the United States speaks it reverberates around the world.
And while news of the sanctions broke early Thursday morning, Trump’s team didn’t put the statement out until that evening, which means that this was a statement they had all day to prepare and consider. So the words they put out were carefully chosen to say exactly what they wanted to say. And what the President-elect’s team chose to say about one of the most significant foreign policy dilemmas that will be facing him as soon as he takes office was especially “get over it.”
*Of note, the first time Trump called for a complete ban on Muslims entering the country, he was speaking from a prepared statement that he’d composed himself, even though that seems like the type of thing he’d blurt out off the cuff.