"Mr. Woodward, I understand that you are only asking me for directions, but I must reiterate that I have NO COMMENT."
How hard is it to say that?
A quick note on which stories are important and which stories are important. By now, you have heard that Donald Trump - for whatever reason - sat down and spoke to Bob Woodward on the record for a thousand years so that Woodward could print every single insane thing Trump said in his upcoming book, Rage. This includes the much-discussed excerpt that Trump knew the Coronavirus was highly transmissible in early February; that it was affecting more than just the elderly; and that the United States would be in trouble if it could not be contained.
That is an important story, but in reality it tells us something we already knew: Trump colossally mishandled the Coronavirus pandemic and downplayed the severity of the disease, even when he knew privately that it had the potential to kill many Americans.
I am not sure what would have changed had we learned this information on February 8, 2020, given that Trump is Trump and would not have magically become competent had a certain story come out in the news.
Here is a story that is important: A whistleblower (throwback to impeachment which was ALMOST A YEAR AGO) has alleged that he “was told to stop providing intelligence analysis on threat of Russian interference.” I have linked to the Washington Post’s story, but here is the actual complaint itself and I want to highlight a special little nugget on page 12:
In mid-May 2020, Mr. Wolf instructed Mr. Murphy to cease providing intelligence assessments on the threat of Russian interference in the United States, and instead start reporting on interference activities by China and Iran. Mr. Wolf stated that these instructions specifically originated from White House National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien. Mr. Murphy informed Mr. Wolf he would not comply with these instructions, as doing so would put the country in substantial and specific danger (my emphasis).
So, I am going back to this post again, specifically right here:
It’s for that reason that I think one of the bigger and less-talked about stories of the past few weeks has been the Director of National Intelligence’s (DNI) mediocre press release on foreign interference in the 2020 election. The press release makes it clear that Russia is up to its old tricks, but it conflates that (illegal) campaign - which includes things like hacking and manipulation of social media - with China’s preference for Joe Biden.
Nation states make statements all the time about who their preferred election winner would be, which is part of normal international politicking. There is a stark difference between that and Russia’s attempts to manipulate voters. The DNI’s conflation of the two is an ominous sign for November, because it suggests heavily that even the intelligence community is becoming politicized by Trump (my emphasis again, but because it’s my post I could have gone back and put the bold part in and you would never had known!).
I don’t want to downplay the seriousness of the things described in Woodward’s book, and I am sure there are going to be other, flat-out bonkers stories that we learn the closer we get to its publication date. But one of these items is important and the other one is important. There is evidence emerging that Trump’s Administration is trying to cook up something on China and Biden, and that they are using the power of the Executive Branch to do it. That is bad, and not just why-did-you-even-think-about-talking-on-the-record-with-Woodward bad.
See you over the weekend.