“Call me, Ahab.”
Photo: Mark Carwardine/Getty Images
Last night, President Trump blithely confessed that if a foreign government offered him dirt on an opponent in the next election, of course he’d take it and definitely would not go to the FBI. This is directly contrary to the practices of previous campaigns, and to the advice his own FBI director gave last month.
Apparently stung by the unfriendly reception, the president tweeted out an indignant defense that, even by the standard of Trump tweets, is notable in several respects:
First, and silliest, Trump identified one of his foreign interlocutors as the “Prince of Whales.” The intelligence of whales is well-established, but they are not known to have organized themselves into a monarchy with a prince, and actually acquiring negative information on American political candidates, who are largely land bound, seems beyond their capability. Another challenge for the whales would be communicating the dirt to Trump, as they lack a common language. (Prince of Whales: Beep boop beeep bip bop. Trump: Oh, interesting.)
Alas, Trump deleted the tweet and replaced it with a reference to the “Prince of Wales.” So the Manchurian Candidate–Star Trek IV crossover scenario the president briefly conjured will sadly have to remain hypothetical.
Second, of the five foreign meetings Trump cites here, two involved ceremonial monarchs. Granted, the English royal family has a dastardly history, but digging up dirt on foreign candidates seems more like Vladimir Putin’s M.O. than the queen’s.
And third, Trump’s defense relies on the notion that he couldn’t report efforts by foreign governments to pass on secret intelligence about his opponents without also reporting literally everything he says to them. Nobody is saying Trump needs to tell the FBI everything he hears from a foreign government. (Though letting his own foreign policy apparatus know what he’s talking about in his secret confabs with Putin might be a good start.)
You can keep to yourself most of what you talk about with the leaders of foreign governments, or ceremonial monarchs, or large oceanic mammals. Just report the offers of covert election interference!