Trump And An Odd Turn Of Phrase

Yes, we are going to spend our day over-analyzing a single Trump Tweet. But it’s been bugging us.

It’s all about this Tweet, about FBI Director Christopher Wray:

Here’s what caught our attention: the clunkiness of:

I don’t know what report…Wray was reading, but it sure wasn’t the one given to me”.

When the natural way for a human to put it would’ve been:

I don’t know what report…Wray was reading, but it sure wasn’t the one I was reading.”

Now we know Trump never reads anything, especially probably not a 476- page report from Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz, but that’s never stopped him from saying he did. Which is consistent with his initial catch all response:

It’s everything that a lot of people thought it would be, except far worse.”

So here’s what we think: “given to me” means just 1 of 2 things:

  1. Someone provided a very filtered briefing on the Inspector General’s Report to the President. This could be Attorney General Bill Barr. It could just as easily be from little snippets he’s getting from watching Fox News. Or a combo.
  2. Or (and we think this is far more likely), he didn’t even bother and is just making up what’s in the report based on what he’d like it to say.

In yesterday’s column, we called attention to a couple of things FBI Director Christopher Wray wrote in response to the Inspector General’s Report. Because although—as we pointed out—they did not exactly preclude any of the counter arguments Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr were making about the contents and conclusions of the report, Wray seemed refreshingly sensible. Like, for instance, he said “the FBI accepts the Report’s findings“. In fact, he went a step further, saying the FBI “embraces” the report and is already implementing measures to address the problems identified in it. And that the FBI will “continue to discharge our responsibilities objectively and free from political bias”.

Trump and Barr pointedly don’t “accept”, and they sure don’t “embrace”, and they continue to shout from the rooftops that the FBI is completely biased. Against Trump. As if they weren’t making it clear enough already, Barr’s made that crystal clear now in an interview with NBC News, where we don’t think we’re oversimplifying when we say the AG says the IG’s report doesn’t count for squat.

Wray’s also doing something leadership used to be about: standing up for the people who work for him. Trump’s management style is the opposite: personally taking full credit for anything good, and finding an underling or institution or community to fire or disparage or blame for anything bad he does (all the while insisting he didn’t do any bad at all). But didn’t Trump praise FBI agents in his anti-Wray Tweet? Superficially, yes. But saying over and over again someone’s working at a “badly broken” place, or previously: “reputation in Tatters”, “worst in History!” isn’t exactly a morale booster, or a firm endorsement of support of anything or anybody. It’s just lip service.

After we published yesterday’s piece, FBI Director Wray did an interview with ABC News in which he was asked about Trump’s current favorite conspiracy theory (that’s now widely in vogue among Republicans, probably for no other reason than it’s Trump’s fav at the moment, and they want to show loyalty). And that’s that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 election, and then framed Russia for it.

Here’s what Wray had to say about that:

I think it’s important for the American people to be thoughtful consumers of information, to think about the sources of it and to think about the support and predication for what they hear….And I think part of us being well protected against malign foreign influence is to build together an American public that’s resilient, that has appropriate media literacy and that takes its information with a grain of salt.”

That should be engraved somewhere.

It shouldn’t have to be, because it should go without saying. But in this day-and-age, with this President, it doesn’t go without saying, because so much amounting to the opposite is said. Wray may break our hearts yet. And he stopped short of mentioning the President by name (but went far enough to p*ss the President off, as we showed you at the top of this piece). And his words resonate. In part, because they reflect so much common sense. Something this country used to be all about.

Meanwhile, the President has since Tweeted it would be crazy to impeach him because the economy is strong.

Wray’s answer is a little long. Otherwise it’d be a great mantra for the modern day.