Donald Trump
Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

On Thursday morning, President Trump made an appearance at the Intercontinental Hotel in New York City where he was supposed to show his appreciation to UN ambassador Kelly Craft and her staff for their hard work and dedication during his time holding meetings this week at the United Nations. Instead, per the Los Angeles Times, he launched into an unhinged diatribe.

Speaking at a private event in New York, Trump described reporters as “scum” and raged at the Democrats’ new impeachment proceedings, which were spurred by the whistleblower’s complaint alleging that Trump tried to strong-arm Ukraine’s leader to interfere in the 2020 election…

…“Basically, that person never saw the report, never saw the call, he never saw the call — heard something and decided that he or she, or whoever the hell they saw — they’re almost a spy,” Trump said.

“I want to know who’s the person, who’s the person who gave the whistleblower the information? Because that’s close to a spy,” he continued. “You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? The spies and treason, we used to handle it a little differently than we do now.”

Trump was clearly expressing his desire to have some people executed for causing him problems. He then repeated a now familiar refrain that he usually reserves for campaign rallies:

“You know, these animals in the press,” Trump went on. “They’re animals, some of the worst human beings you’ll ever meet.”

I’m not sure that a private reception in Manhattan among career government employees was the most effective or sensible setting for these outbursts, but he appears to have had at least one sympathetic ear in the audience.

Someone in the room shouted out “Fake news!” egging the president on.

“They’re scum,” Trump continued. “Many of them are scum, and then you have some good reporters, but not many of them, I’ll be honest with you.”

To be clear, the president of the United States thinks someone should be killed. If not that whistleblower, who the New York Times is reporting to be a highly regarded CIA analyst once detailed to the White House, then the people who talked to the whistleblower should be dead.

Aside from the obvious moral depravity on display here, it’s a further demonstration that the president cannot understand basic facts. According to the Washington Post, his behavior leading up to the July 25 call with Ukrainian president Zelensky call was so concerning to people in the White House sought to prevent the call from happening at all. The reason the whistleblower knew about the conversation is because it set tongues wagging throughout the White House and national security team, as it confirmed their preexisting worst fears.

It wasn’t a closely held secret that Giuliani was acting on behalf of the president with Ukraine, in part because Giuliani advertised it to the world and in part because it was causing problems for the State Department requiring them to try to clarify to Ukrainian officials America’s true position on important matters, including future military aid. The suspension of military aid was itself a topic of widespread confusion and speculation, with responsible officials only informed that the decision came directly from Trump.

A future tip to Trump is not to employ an untrained media hound like Giuliani to carry out clandestine dirty tricks campaigns. It’s delusional to think that news of the call slipped out due to one or two “spies.” A wide group of people responsible for Ukraine policy knew about it because it helped explain things they urgently needed to know, like what to convey to the Ukrainian government about where they stood and when they might expect to get their assistance.

People talked because we can’t run a government or state-to-state relationships based on some ridiculous and private scheming between the president, his friend/lawyer and a corrupt attorney general. There was never any prospect that this would all be kept secret, and the only question was whether Congress would receive the information in a credible and usable form.

The administration tried to prevent that from happening, too, and failed miserably.

If the president wants to blame someone for his present difficulties, he should blame himself for setting up a Keystone Kops version of a spy mission.

In any case, I doubt he’ll take the blame or accept the kind of punishment he thinks it “smart” to dole out to others.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at