Just as comparing Trump’s actions with things he has tweeted in the past shows a level of hypocrisy that is unparalleled in politics, an occasional review of what Hillary Clinton said during the campaign can show us how well she identified the risk this country would be taking if we were to elect him as our next president. Today I’m thinking of all the times she described Trump as “temperamentally unfit for the presidency.”
I was reminded of that warning when I read what Ryan Lizza wrote about “the continuing fallout from Trump and Nunes’s fake scandal.” To put this in perspective, it all started when the president became furious that AG Sessions recused himself from the Trump/Russia probe after it was revealed that he lied during his confirmation hearing about meetings with the Russian ambassador. In his fury, Trump tweeted that Obama had wire tapped him during the election.
We now know that at the time Trump sent that tweet, he didn’t even know the process for obtaining eavesdropping warrants from the FISA court. But in a fit of rage he made up a scurrilous lie about his predecessor and ran with it. What Lizza wrote picks up what happened from there.
The intelligence source told me that he knows, “from talking to people in the intelligence community,” that “the White House said, ‘We are going to mobilize to find something to justify the President’s tweet that he was being surveilled.’ They put out an all-points bulletin”—a call to sift through intelligence reports—“and said, ‘We need to find something that justifies the President’s crazy tweet about surveillance at Trump Tower.’”
So after the president lied, the White House mobilized to find something…anything…that would justify what he had tweeted during a burst of outrage. That is where former National Security Advisor Susan Rice comes in. As Lizza explains, she had to log her “unmasking” requests on a White House computer, which Trump aides had access to. They grabbed some of those intelligence reports, showed them to Nunes, and he told the press that he had seen “evidence” that Trump associates had been surveilled. The president and right wing media immediately announced that he had been vindicated and Susan Rice was accused of doing something criminal. Sebastian Gorka went so far as to say that Watergate was a little spat in the sandbox compared to what Rice had done.
As I wrote previously and Lizza now confirms, all of that was a lie too.
It is now clear that the scandal was not Rice’s normal review of the intelligence reports but the coördinated effort between the Trump Administration and Nunes to sift through classified information and computer logs that recorded Rice’s unmasking requests, and then leak a highly misleading characterization of those documents, all in an apparent effort to turn Rice, a longtime target of Republicans, into the face of alleged spying against Trump. It was a series of lies to manufacture a fake scandal. Last week, CNN was the first to report that both Democrats and Republicans who reviewed the Nunes material at the N.S.A. said that the documents provided “no evidence that Obama Administration officials did anything unusual or illegal.”
I spoke to two intelligence sources, one who read the entire binder of intercepts and one who was briefed on their contents. “There’s absolutely nothing there,” one source said.
The pattern we’re seeing on display is the same morass of rage, lies, blame, cover-up and more lies that we’ve seen throughout Trump’s history. I fear that we are becoming immune to how shocking this behavior is because the Republicans in Trump’s Cabinet and in Congress are more intent on winning political power games than they are in putting a stop to all this.
Meanwhile, our allies and opponents around the globe are seeing the same pattern and calling the President of the United States “unpredictable, unhinged and dangerous.”
I don’t find much solace these days in the fact that Hillary was right to suggest that Trump is temperamentally unfit to be president. But given that might be all we’ve got right now, I’ll take it.