Trump Claims Special Knowledge of Hacking; Will Let us Know Later

Trump's populism, personalism, and irresponsibility are on display.

Donald Trump ShrugVia the NYT:  Trump Promises a Revelation on Hacking

Speaking to a handful of reporters outside his Palm Beach, Fla., club, Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump cast his declarations of doubt as an effort to seek the truth.

“I just want them to be sure because it’s a pretty serious charge,” Mr. Trump said of the intelligence agencies. “If you look at the weapons of mass destruction, that was a disaster, and they were wrong,” he added, referring to intelligence cited by the George W. Bush administration to support its march to war in 2003. “So I want them to be sure,” the president-elect said. “I think it’s unfair if they don’t know.”

He added: “And I know a lot about hacking. And hacking is a very hard thing to prove. So it could be somebody else. And I also know things that other people don’t know, and so they cannot be sure of the situation.”

When asked what he knew that others did not, Mr. Trump demurred, saying only, “You’ll find out on Tuesday or Wednesday.”

(Emphasis mine).

Given that we know the president-elect is both not all that keen on getting intelligence briefings and that he had dismissed the current administration’s views on this subject, what in the world would his source be?  Weirdly, this sounds like nonsense.

I noted two reactions this morning worth sharing:

First, from my friend and fellow political scientist, Greg Weeks on Twitter:

And from Susan Wright at Red State:

I’ll just put this out there as a little morsel to ruminate on: A U.S. president-elect is asking us to doubt the media, doubt U.S. intelligence, doubt other elected officials, all while assuring us that he is the only trustworthy voice and he is the only one who can save the nation (he has said as much).

Nothing about that should make you feel comfortable.

Indeed (emphasis hers).

 As I have noted in other circumstances, this is not the behavior of a responsible elected official.

Also:  his critiques of the intelligence community vis-a-vis the Iraq invasion would have more salience if a) there was even the hint of a suggestion that he had some reform ideas in mind for improving the intelligence community, and b) if he wasn’t considering John Bolton for a serious State Department position.  Really, all he is doing is simplistically using an example of intel being bad in past so that he can deflect about intel now.  That is the way children argue.

At a minimum, this is Trump’s populism, personalism, and irresponsibility on display.

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Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. James Pearce says:

    “If you look at the weapons of mass destruction, that was a disaster, and they were wrong,”

    Funny, I don’t remember the intelligence about weapons of mass destruction being “wrong” per se.

    It was “cooked.” It was turned around and twisted, not to present a factual or accurate read on the situation, but to serve other purposes. I feel like something similar is happening here.

    Regardless of what the intelligence says, it’s in Trump’s interest to make sure the hacks were not committed by the Russians with the intention of throwing the election. So watch for intel cooking here too.

  2. Gustopher says:

    He added: “And I know a lot about hacking. And hacking is a very hard thing to prove. So it could be somebody else. And I also know things that other people don’t know, and so they cannot be sure of the situation.”

    If it’s so hard to prove, and he knows things that everyone else doesn’t… was it Barron? That rambunctious rascal staying up past his bedtime and hacking into the DNC.

    Seriously though,the only way he could be so confident it wasn’t the Russians, despite the entire intelligence community believing it was the Russians, would be if he knew exactly who really did it. And we know that his campaign was, and the incoming administration is, filled with people who have had very close connections to an assortment of Russians as well as Asange. Did he or someone in his campaign ask or employ the Russian hackers to do this?

    I mean, it’s either that, or the President-Elect is a blithering idiot who knows nothing but speaks anyway. Either option is unpresidented.

  3. James in Bremerton says:

    More sand flung in the air. The U.S. is on a perilous course with the man-baby in charge.

  4. bill says:

    yeah, the russians hacked the vermont power grid too……
    i notice there wasn’t much spewed in here about he purported “russians hack our election” as that didn’t happen. “somebody” was able to plant a bug in “someones” laptop and get factual emails that showed what bags of sub-human sleazebags they really are/were. and somehow the russians tried to influence our elections by doing the medias job for them?
    that’s “special” i guess……

    maybe they hacked mariah carey’s show last night too? LOL…..happy new years.

  5. Lit3Bolt says:

    Trump sees the word “hacking” on cable news.

    Announces he has Dick Tracy Secret Decoder Ring information about “hacking,” interjecting himself in a story for no other reason than because.

    Press, bloggers, and pundits turn all eyes to Trump.

    Trump smiles and mumbles a word salad about hacking, Russia, the CIA, Hillary, and Obama. The gist is Trump = Good, Everyone else = BAD/LIAR.

    Lather, rinse and repeat for any subject.

    In the meantime, the Republican looting from the government and people proceeds apace.

  6. al-Ameda says:

    “At a minimum, this is Trump’s populism, personalism, and irresponsibility on display.”
    Lower than my already very low expectations.
    Trump is a grease ball.

  7. Pch101 says:

    There is a significant minority of the American population that is threatened by rational thinking and genuinely appreciates stupid. (What smart people consider to be ridiculous is what the idiots believe to be “straight talk”.) The lowest common denominator should be pleased.

  8. Terrye Cravens says:

    @James Pearce: I don’t think the intel was cooked. I can remember the 90s. I remember the UN weapons inspectors saying Saddam had wmd, after all, he used them on his own people. I can recall the force resolutions, the no fly zones, the sanctions regime…all of that. And I can remember 99 Senators voting to pass the Iraqi Liberation Act. Clinton signed it saying that not only did Saddam have weapons of mass destruction “Mark my words, he will use them”. And that was before Bush came to Washington. Truth is we don’t know what happened to the weapons stockpiles but the programs together with yellowcake and sarin gas were found. The problem was that we lacked people on the ground to get new information. That is not the case with the hacking from Russia. After all, they hacked us and we have evidence of that. It is apples and oranges and Trump is trying to deflect.

  9. Lit3Bolt says:

    @Terrye Cravens:

    The problem was that “WMD” was conflated to mean “nuclear warheads on ballistic missiles.” Blame either the Bush administration or the media for that confusion.

  10. Slugger says:

    These comments together with the tweet about “enemies ” make me doubt his mental stability. A president who can’t control his own mouth is a problem. Will he accept input from other people? Certainly, a healthy skepticism is an asset, but thinking you know everything is not. I am trying to give him the benefit of the doubt.

  11. Benjamin Wolf says:

    “I just want them to be sure because it’s a pretty serious charge”


    “If you look at the weapons of mass destruction, that was a disaster, and they were wrong,”


    “And I know a lot about hacking.”


    “And hacking is a very hard thing to prove.”


    “So it could be somebody else.”


    “And I also know things that other people don’t know”

    Everybody does

    “And so they cannot be sure of the situation.”

    We never can be

    “You’ll find out on Tuesday or Wednesday.”


    As a Trump day goes, it could be a lot worse.

  12. Guarneri says:

    The stuff that comes out of his mouth is ridiculous, isn’t it? Next thing you know he’ll be calling the police stupid, conducting beer summits or telling us attacks on embassy’s are caused by YouTube videos. What an idiot.

  13. Guarneri says:

    And a hack, hack, here. A hack, hack there. Here a hack, there a hack, everywhere a hack, hack.

  14. michael reynolds says:

    I’m sure Trump will ask Putin about it, if he can ever get Putin’s d–k out of his mouth.

    People have this all wrong. This isn’t Trump being merely stupid about Putin, or being part of some mutual admiration society – Trump’s slavishness is too profound and runs too much against Trump’s core character. I think Putin has a hold on Trump. Don’t forget, Trump is a pig to women and too dumb not to have have something captured on video at some point. And of course Trump will do anything for money. I don’t know if what we are seeing here is blackmail or bribery or both, but Putin’s control is way too complete, and Trump’s toadying way too self-destructive for it to be a matter of mere friendship.

    Trump: the legal-but-not-legitimate president.

  15. george says:

    Trump is a nut. I doubt anyone has doubted that from the start, even his supporters have been saying variations of “yes he’s a nut, but he’s our nut”. The debate instead has been on how much it matters.

    Now most of us might think having a nut as President might create create a problem or two (nuclear Armageddon, collapse of economy, little things like that), but there’s an interesting if small sub-group out there who believes (or so a few of them have told me) that it doesn’t matter, because the people who really run the country (I’m not sure if they mean the “establishment” of the sixties, or the anonymous people in “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”) won’t let him do anything really stupid – the ‘President as figurehead’ conspiracy theory.

    I think that theory is going to be put to the test very soon – for once I hope the conspiracy theory people have it right.

  16. michael reynolds says:

    Yeah, that was a big part of it. Saddam did have WMD if by WMD you mean poison gas, and if my ‘had’ you meant ‘still had’ as opposed to ‘once had.’ I fought my pointless little battle against equating nerve gas (very, very bad stuff) with nukes (orders of magnitude worse stuff) and shockingly did not prevail. ‘WMD’ had such a nice, easy ring to it, no need to ask questions like, ‘what kind of WMD?’

  17. gVOR08 says:

    Is anybody maintaining a list of the stuff Trump is “gonna” do? There was Ivanka’s follow up speech. the press conference on how he was going to straighten out his business conflicts, and now he’s “gonna” explain hacking. What am I forgetting?

  18. wr says:

    @Guarneri: Shorter Drew: “I love Trump. He’s white.”

  19. michael reynolds says:


    It’s as simple as Trump tweeting something like, “If North Korea explodes another bomb we will destroy them!” (Although I assume ‘Korea’ will be misspelled.) He can start a war with nothing but a tweet. Fortunately he’s not the kind of idiot man-baby who is so incapable of adult behavior that he would act on impulse. No, he carefully consults with experts before waking up at 3 AM to call a woman a fat pig, or claim that Ted Cruz’s father killed JFK.

  20. @wr: Even that is giving too much coherence to the comments in question.

  21. michael reynolds says:


    I think that’s unfair to Drew. Drew has multiple issues that are very important to him:

    1) Money.
    2) Spite.
    3) Money.
    4) Racism.
    5) Money.
    6) Money.
    7) Money.
    8) More spite.
    9) Money.
    10) And some more money.

    You know, your basic old, white, male Republican relic.

  22. MarkedMan says:

    @michael reynolds: I agree that Trump does seem to act as if Putin has a hold over him, but if so I doubt it’s anything so mild as naughty videos. Trump is involved in a capital intensive business but had lied and cheated so often that no legitimate bank will lend to him. I think the NY AG should do the country a favor and see if Trump is wholly owned by the Russian mob. Trump has always struck me as a coward and if a scary mobster told him to roll over, he would do it.

  23. wr says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I know. But I find it fascinating that this is the incident that still rankles the Drews of the world years later. Because it was about this uppity black boy refusing to respect the authority of a beat cop — that is, the lowest ranking white cop on the force is still societally superior to any nigra, even ones who get themselves elected to high office.

    It’s as pure a declaration of race hate as you can find.

  24. CSK says:


    Well, Trump did also say that he was gonna throw Hillary in jail and that he was gonna deport all the Mexicans and Muslims, and he’s forgotten those promises, so…

    But I’ve come to realize that none of that matters to Trumpkins. They don’t care what promises he breaks as long as he continues spewing misogyny, racism, and xenophobia and thus licensing them to do so. This is his true appeal–he’s as ignorant, vulgar, and crude as they are.

    One of them is finally president.

  25. gVOR08 says:


    There was Ivanka’s follow up speech

    Sorry, Melania. They all look alike to me.

  26. george says:


    One of them is finally president.

    I thought they already had Reagan, Bush Sr and Bush Jr, all of whom were regularly called racist, ignorant, and sexist. Though I suppose they generally weren’t called crude or vulgar.

  27. Mr. Bluster says:

    “You’ll find out on Tuesday or Wednesday.”

    I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.

  28. CSK says:


    The Trumpkins loathe both Bushes and, at this point, I’m not sure how enthusiastic they are about Reagan. (Trump called Reagan an empty suit in The Art of the Deal).

    The point is that for Trumpkins, Trump’s overt vulgarity, ignorance, rampant misogyny and racism, and xenophobia, plus his assorted psychological defects and character flaws, are features, not bugs.

  29. Mr. Bluster says:

    @Slugger:..I read that as enemas

    (2017: Year of my dementia)

  30. dxq says:

    I like the part where trump called us his enemies.

  31. george says:


    Don’t disagree, just commenting that every GOP President in recent memory has been called racist and sexist, and since its generally treated as binary condition (you either are or aren’t) there’s nothing unique about Trump in that regard. And you could probably add fascist to that list as well for Reagan and Bush Jr, though I don’t recall Bush Sr. being called a fascist.

    Trump is vulgar, so he stands out in that regard. In terms of the election, 90% people who vote just vote party whatever they think of the candidate, so they’re never in play anyway. You can hate your local team’s quarterback, but you’ll still cheer for him because of the team. This seems so obvious that I wonder why its so seldom mentioned in post election analysis. Trump started out with 45% of the vote just by being the GOP candidate, completely independent of his personal qualities; how GOP voters felt about him was irrelevant, they vote team (as do most people around the world). This was standard wisdom in previous elections, but seems to have been forgotten for some reason for this one.

  32. CSK says:
  33. Rick Zhang says:

    This is another ploy from Putin’s playbook: cast enough doubt on something, phrased in a reasonable way, and deny deny deny. This throws sand in the gears and obscures the facts among the uninformed, giving them an easy out to believe what they need to believe in order to stay in the tribe and avoid cognitive dissonance.

    See Taylor’s recent post on the power of partisanship. When faced with the option of accepting facts and evidence in order to change your mind about something vs believing the impossible and continuing to participate in tribal groupthink, people choose the easy out rather than rigorous intellectual examination of their ideas.

    Anyone with a high school education and enough training in critical thinking can see through what he’s doing.

  34. @michael reynolds:

    I think that, in 2003, the poison gas that Saddam had was already out of time.

  35. Barry says:

    @Terrye Cravens: “The problem was that we lacked people on the ground to get new information.”

    Aside from the UN inspection team, who were right.

  36. Mr. Bluster says:

    …enough training in critical thinking…

    Dream on!

  37. James Pearce says:

    @Terrye Cravens:

    I don’t think the intel was cooked.

    Oh it was definitely cooked. We didn’t invade Iraq because they had some leaky canisters of now-inert sarin laying around forgotten in a warehouse.

    We invaded Iraq because they were this close to building nuclear weapons that they were then going to use on the American homeland, or so we were told. It was a “pre-emptive strike.”

    Remember Condi Rice: “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”

  38. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Rick Zhang:

    Anyone with a high school education and enough training in critical thinking can see through what he’s doing.

    You can’t get enough training in critical thinking from a high school education anymore. Just sayin’. (I’m not even sure you can get enough by going to university anymore.)

  39. Tyrell says:

    I wonder what kind of protection was being used. There is plenty of good protection out there – anti-malware and spywareprograms. Some of the programs are even free.

  40. C. Clavin says:

    You’re so damn cute.

  41. Blue Galangal says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker: At our university it depends on the program and the quality of the faculty teaching. I mostly work with (soft) liberal arts so I’m skewed. Surprisingly, we’re seeing critical thinkers out of, of all things, our communications department, where bad English majors usually go to die. Women & gender studies is predictably (due to its comparative nature and historical contexts) reliable for turning out critical thinkers; history used to be reliable but lately is shading into hit-or-miss (both our history and our English departments are suffering from a reliance on reputation rather than teaching quality, and it shows in their students); and philosophy and political science? UGH. Used to be reliable, not any more. Cultural anthropology, more hit than miss. Psychology more miss than hit, ditto sociology. Our economics program has never been good at producing critical thinkers. Engineers, sure, if you can get them, but they’re hard to attract across colleges – they tend to take electives in their own college. Business majors across the board – no, except for the students in business analytics.

  42. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Blue Galangal: My experience at 2-years was that the biggest problem is convincing students to consider ideas that may turn out to be wrong. Where I live (PNW) the K-12 schools have managed to lock students into intellectually low-risk behaviors. Invariably when I found a students in my classes who showed good potential for critical thinking, that student had been kicked out of their high school for “being a troublemaker” and was taking classes at the CC to get enough credits for a diploma.

    Another group of good critical thinkers was students who would allude to having been homeless or in prison in their writing. Hmmmm…

  43. Blue Galangal says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker: Yes, and there are, as you point out, a variety of confounding variables in this whole discussion. I have a couple of grad students with learning disabilities who are really good critical thinkers in part because they have the persistence to continue despite frustration and an awareness that mistakes happen.

    We work with local high schools on an NSF STEM grant to train teachers to teach STEM subjects using the engineering design process and challenge-based learning. It’s tough to get the *teachers* to let the students come up with, for instance, the big “idea” or to let the students make mistakes; refine and redesign are key elements of EDP/CBL. So this is learned behaviour, in part because of performance based assessment for *teachers* and the really tight schedule teachers might be on to get through specific units (some experienced teachers keep these units for “down time” before break or before the end of the year to allow the students to have the luxury of time to refine/redesign).

    One of our findings is that the students who have the most issue with the EDP/CBL process are the typical “A” students, who are used to learning and regurgitating; it’s the “disengaged” and sometimes disaffected students who get drawn into the hands-on EDP process, and it’s instructive to hear the teachers make comments like, “It’s the students who usually sit in the back who are up front calculating how much of a slope the roller-coaster car can tolerate before it leaves the track.”

  44. Matt says:

    @Tyrell: A well written program utilizing a zero day exploit will almost never be picked up by any commercially available scanner.

    Zero day exploits go for good money on the black market and surprise surprise it’s usually Russian hackers doing the selling..

  45. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Blue Galangal: “it’s instructive to hear the teachers make comments like…”

    I hope that it’s instructive for the teachers, too, but my inner cynic doesn’t hold much hope.

  46. grumpy realist says:

    @michael reynolds: Wasn’t there a comment someone made about “yeah, we know that Saddam has WMD because we’ve got the sales receipts!”

  47. michael reynolds says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker: @Blue Galangal:

    Disengaged? Homeless? Kicked out/dropped out? Prison? Not an ‘A’ student regurgitating? It’s like you’re writing my biography.

    You know why we don’t teach critical thinking in high school? Critical thinking tends to lead to atheism, and this is still a Christian country. Objectivity and skepticism are not friendly to religion.