Sunday, November 12, 2017

Trump thinks Putin's mind works like his

Trump's walk-back of his avowals that he believes Putin's denials with respect to interfering in US elections is a window into Trump epistemology.

Here's the walk-back:
I believe that he feels that he and Russia did not meddle in the election...I believe very much in our intelligence agencies...what he believes is what he believes.
That, incidentally, does comport with what he said about the Putin:
He said he didn't meddle. He said he didn't meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times...Every time he sees me, he says, 'I didn't do that".. And I believe, I really believe, that when he tells me that, he means it.
Trump actually did not say that Putin didn't meddle. He said Putin "means it" when he say he didn't meddle.

In other words, Trump thinks, or purports to think, that Putin thinks like he does: Whatever he wants to believe is true is true. Or, whatever he finds convenient to affirm is true.

That's doubtless not the case with Putin, but it's the case with Trump. He famously testified as much in a deposition taken by a lawyer for reporter Timothy O'Brien, whom Trump sued for claiming in his book about Trump that Trump's net worth was minimal:
Trump: My net worth fluctuates, and it goes up and down with the markets and with attitudes and with feelings, even my own feelings, but I try.

Ceresney: Let me just understand that a little. You said your net worth goes up and down based upon your own feelings?

Trump: Yes, even my own feelings, as to where the world is, where the world is going, and that can change rapidly from day to day …
Trump's (partial) walk-back of his followup suggestion that Putin is more trustworthy than former CIA Director Brennan, former DNI Clapper and former FBI Director Comey follows a similarly revealing pattern.

Here's Fox's account of what Trump said about the intelligence leadership vs. Putin:
I think that [Putin] is very, very strong in the fact that he didn't do it," Trump told reporters on board Air Force One Saturday as he traveled to Hanoi, Vietnam. " ... And then you hear it's 17... Well, it's three. And one is [former CIA Director] John Brennan and one is whatever. I mean, give me a break. They're political hacks.

"I mean, you have Brennan, you have..Clapper, and you have...Comey," Trump went on. "Comey is proven now to be a liar and he's proven to be a leaker."
And here's the "clarification":
I believe that he [PUtin] feels that he and Russia did not meddle in the election. As to whether I believe it or not, I am with our agencies, especially as currently constituted with the leadership...I believe that our intel agencies, our intelligence agencies, I work with them very strongly ... As currently led, by fine people, I believe very much in our intelligence agencies.
He believes the agencies when they're team Trump, and he discredits those who were team Obama, even when team Trump affirms the conclusions of team Obama. He believes them according to how he feels about them. And he believes that that's how Putin's mind works. And presumably, everyone else's.

For Trump, does "Putin believes he didn't meddle" mean "Putin didn't meddle"? Impossible to say. The distinction may not exist in Trump's mind.

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