Finally, Donald Trump held a press conference. I know you want to hear the sex-in-Russia part.
The world learned this week about memos from a retired British intelligence officer on relations between the Trump campaign and the Russians. They included some speculation about whether there were compromising videos of Trump cavorting in a Russian hotel that might explain his enthusiastic support for Vladimir Putin.
The report wasn’t prepared by our intelligence agencies — it was opposition research done on contract for some other campaigns. It had been bouncing around Washington for a while. You didn’t hear about it because nobody could confirm any of the allegations.
But a summary of the memos showed up in the briefing Trump got from the intelligence agencies last week. Wouldn’t you have liked to be there to see the reaction?
Then, a version of the report showed up online, and naturally it came up Wednesday at Trump’s press conference.
About that press conference. Here are some of the things we learned:
▪ The reason he hasn’t shown up to answer questions from reporters since July is “inaccurate news.”
▪ The Russians don’t have any secret tapes of him behaving badly in a hotel room because every time he goes to hotels abroad, he warns everybody: “Be very careful, because in your hotel rooms and no matter where you go, you’re gonna probably have cameras.” Of everything Trump said during the press conference, this was perhaps the most convincing.
▪ He is not going to divest himself of his businesses, but his two adult sons will be running them. He was just doing this out of his ethical heart, since there are no conflict-of-interest rules for the president. (“ … as president I could run the Trump Organization — great, great company. And I could run the company, the country. I’d do a very good job, but I don’t want to do that.”)
▪ He’ll release his taxes once the audit is finished. (You remember that audit. Its friends call it Godot.)
▪ The inauguration is going to be “a beautiful event” because “we have great talent.” (Military bands were mentioned.)
▪ “If Putin likes Donald Trump, I consider that an asset, not a liability.”
▪ “Over the weekend I was offered $2 billion to do a deal in Dubai.”
He was all over the place. It was, in a way, a great strategy. We’ve been waiting for a long time to hear how Trump would deal with his businesses, and his refusal to divest drove ethics watchdogs crazy. But on Wednesday, the whole topic got drowned in the hubbub over the leaked report. And Trump’s relationship with Vladimir Putin. And his theory on hotel cameras.
This kind of rapid-fire diversion could be the work of a political genius, but in fact it’s just how our next president’s mind naturally seems to operate. It bounces hither and yon. The only ongoing focus is what it all means to Trump. Did he look good? How was the crowd? Did anyone betray him?
He was definitely playing the victim when it came to the leaked report. He blamed the intelligence services, which he compared, with great originality and careful choice of words, to Nazis.
Keep in mind that although government investigators have been looking into these allegations for a long time, they never became public during the campaign. “I would never comment on investigations — whether we have one or not, in an open forum like this,” FBI Director James Comey said during one of the multitudinous Senate hearings this week.
This is, of course, the same guy who told Congress — 11 days before the election — that the FBI was investigating Hillary Clinton emails that wound up on a laptop owned by Anthony Weiner, aka “Carlos Danger,” world-famous sex texter and the estranged husband of her aide.
The FBI later announced it had found nothing. Meanwhile, people who were already voting in some states had been reminded to connect Clinton with a guy who sent pictures of his private parts to strange women. Clinton thinks it cost her the election. There’s no way to tell. She got nearly 3 million more votes than Trump, but by the rules we live under, she lost. End of story.
Trump is never going to admit his win was anything but a record-shattering triumph. But his preening, and his whining about being persecuted by the intelligence services, really twists the knife.
Since the election, the media and many Democratic politicians have wrung their hands over their failure to pay attention to the legitimate anger in the Trump-tilting parts of the country. And good for them.
But it’s time to remember that there are about 66 million Clinton voters who have a right to be angry, too.
Gail Collins writes for The New York Times.