Donald Trump may be headed to India today to focus on foreign policy, but he still managed to incite some domestic political furor before he left on his overseas journey.
Speaking to reporters on the White House lawn right before boarding a helicopter waiting to transport him to Air Force One, Trump was asked about press reports concerning a classified briefing given to members of Congress that indicated that Russia was already actively interfering in this year’s presidential election by seeking to boost both Trump and also the candidacy of Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
Shaking his head upon hearing the question, the president denied having heard any such intelligence report, despite the fact that multiple intelligence officials — including FBI Director Christopher Wray — have been warning about Kremlin meddling for a long time.
“Nobody said it. I read where Russia is helping Bernie Sanders. Nobody said it to me at all. Nobody briefed me about that at all,” Trump claimed.
With recent reports warning that the heads of U.S. intelligence agencies are now afraid of appearing to contradict the president — particularly given his spate of retaliatory axing of those who dared to testify under oath in his impeachment hearings about his attempts to seek out just such electoral intervention — it is entirely plausible that Trump was indeed not told about intelligence reports that would contradict his public denials of Russian aid to his campaign efforts simply because no one wanted to face his potential wrathful reaction.
After implying that the information is false because he hadn’t been briefed on it, Trump then inexplicably and illogically pivoted to accusing House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) of leaking the supposedly non-existent intelligence.
“They leaked it, Adam Schiff and his group, they leaked it to the papers, and, as usual, they oughta investgate Adma Schiff for leaking that information. He should not be leaking information out of intelligence. They oughta investigate Adam Schiff,” Trump accused the congressman who headed the impeachment inquiry in another fit of psychological projection.
For his part, Representative Schiff responded by complimenting the president on his feeble attempts to deflect attention from the main point of the leaked intelligence: that any Russian support of Senator Sanders’ candidacy was fully in service to its main goal of reelecting their servile puppet Trump — a president who has done everything in his power to achieve the goals that Vladimir Putin would love to see him accomplish, including weakening America’s bond with our European allies, withholding military support for Ukraine, withdrawing troops from Syria, and fiercely dividing the U.S. populace through his polarizing rhetoric.
Nice deflection, Mr. President. But your false claims fool no one.
You welcomed Russian help in 2016, tried to coerce Ukraine’s help in 2019, and won’t protect our elections in 2020.
Now you fired your intel chief for briefing Congress about it.
You’ve betrayed America. Again. https://t.co/WlMDaz8stF
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) February 23, 2020
Touche´, Congressman Schiff!
With Bernie Sanders now leading the field of Democratic candidates in the delegate count after yesterday’s victory in the Nevada caucuses, Trump and his Kremlin helpers may come to regret their assessment that Sanders would be the easiest candidate for Trump to defeat in the general election because they believe that their fearmongering using cold war-era anti-Socialist tropes will dissuade moderate voters from supporting him and either picking Trump or staying home instead.
The broad popularity of Sanders’ Medicare-for-All plan at a time when Trump is lying about his promise of protecting coverage of pre-existing conditions while his Justice Department is actively trying to overturn that requirement of Obamacare in the courts, could be the reason that Sanders will be a much more formidable opponent than Trump and his Kremlin plotters initially realized.
Original reporting by Jeff Mason and Tim Ahmann at Reuters.