Donald Trump’s criticisms of U.S. intelligence agencies have been provocative for quite a while, but perhaps the lowest point came when Trump suggested American intelligence professionals had acted like Nazis.
In January, shortly before the president was inaugurated, the public learned about Christopher Steele’s dossier, which claimed, among other things, that Russia had compromising information on Trump. The Republican did not take the news well, launching into one of his more vituperative Twitter tantrums, which culminated in this missive:
“Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to ‘leak’ into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?”
A few hours after publishing his tweet, the then-president-elect re-emphasized his argument during a press conference, insisting that he believes it was “disgraceful that the intelligence agencies allowed any information that turned out to be so false and fake out.” He added, “That’s something that Nazi Germany would have done and did do.”
As regular readers may recall, this didn’t make sense for a wide variety of reasons, including basic historical details: of all the nightmares associated with Nazi Germany, leaks from intelligence agencies weren’t the principal problem.
But Saturday’s events in Charlottesville got me thinking anew about Trump’s message from January.
At a minimum, the question offers proof that the president is at least familiar with the word “Nazis.” Trump seems to think he understands it, and was even comfortable using it.
But the president’s judgment appears to be a mess. He was willing to publicly accuse U.S. intelligence agencies of acting like Nazis, but over the weekend, Trump wasn’t willing to denounce actual Nazis.
I’ll look forward to hearing the White House’s explanation for why this is.