Don't mistake the president's blunders for signs of a grand conspiracy.
Welcome back to Evesplaining, politics writer Eve Peyser's new column about why everyone else is wrong and she's right.
You don't have to be the House minority leader to be asking questions like that today. The notion that the president is some sort of Russian agent has been floating around liberal circles since the campaign, no matter how little evidence there is for it. Trump, almost inevitably, has helped fuel the conspiracy theories by firing FBI director James Comey in the middle of an investigation into the Trump campaign's alleged Russia ties, then disclosing classified info to Russian officials in a closed-door meeting.
But Trump doesn't have to be compromised to makes these moves. Why ascribe malice to the president when incompetence alone explains everything? Remember these three words: Trump is stupid.
With that in mind, let's take a look at how this latest scandal shook out:
1. In the meeting where Trump spilled the beans, he boasts to Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and ambassador Sergey Kislyak, "I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day," according to the Washington Post. Bragging about his power without regards for the sensitivities of the conversation is typical Trump.
2. National security adviser H.R. McMaster half-heartedly denies the Washington Post report, which at that point has been confirmed by Reuters, the New York Times, and BuzzFeed. "At no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed," he said. But as the Washington Post points out, the paper's reporting never claimed intelligence sources or methods were disclosed: "Officials worried that this information could lead to the discovery of the methods and sources involved, but it didn't say Trump discussed them." Again, this covering of Trump's blunders after the fact is typical.
3. On Tuesday morning, Trump sends a series of tweets defending himself while also seemingly confirming parts of the report, then blaming leakers for everything:
We saw this same pattern when Trump fired Comey: first an impulsive decision that makes the president look extremely bad, then an attempt by administration officials to justify it, then Trump stepping forward to undercut the credibility of his own spokespeople.
A former senior government official close to current senior officials in the White House told the Washington Post, "Trump seems to be very reckless, and doesn't grasp the gravity of the things he's dealing with, especially when it comes to intelligence and national security. And it's all clouded because of this problem he has with Russia."
Donald Trump is stupid.
Trump's impulsive recklessness, his pathological need to impress, is his defining characteristic. As New York magazine's Olivia Nuzzi remarked on Twitter, "President Trump once read a Senator's cell phone number aloud just to fuck with him. Of course he can't keep classified info to himself."
We're dealing with a man who literally thinks exercising too much is bad because your body has a finite amount of energy. He told the Economist that he invented the very common expression "priming the pump," which would be sort of funny if he was joking. What does Russia "have" on Donald Trump? The same thing everyone does:
Trump is stupid.
Follow Eve Peyser on Twitter.