US intelligence officials are trying to prepare President Trump for his high-stakes meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin Friday by feeding him information the only way they know how: in bite-size 140-character pieces.
It’s a well-reported fact that Trump doesn’t read his daily briefings and prefers “killer graphics” like pictures, videos, and charts, or in-person briefings. Trump aides have come up with some creative ways to keep the president focused — such as mentioning his name as frequently as possible in memos — but this latest strategy might be their most desperate one yet.
According to a report from the Los Angeles Times, Trump aides have prepared “a list of tweet-length sentences that summarize the main points Trump could bring up with Putin” in the hopes that the president absorbs even a little of what he needs to know before sitting down with the canny, and sure to be well-prepared, Russian leader.
Think about that for a second: Trump is preparing for his biggest foreign meeting with the leader of a country that actively tried to undermine America’s democratic process, a leader who sees the US as his personal enemy, by reading tweet-length talking points.
All this further underscores the sense that Trump — and by extension the US — is about to be outplayed. Badly.
Last week, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said the Trump administration doesn’t have a clear plan for the meeting with Putin.
“We have no specific agenda,” he said. “It’s whatever the president wants to talk about.”
This leaves the field open for Putin, who, as Vox’s Yochi Dreazen explains, is most certainly coming with a specific list of demands. Putin, a former KGB intelligence officer, is known as a master manipulator — in 2007, he brought his pet Labrador to a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who reportedly has a fear of dogs.
So not only is Putin coming into this meeting with Trump with a clear agenda, he’s coming armed with the skills to push for them.
All this means that Trump ought to be working harder than usual to prepare himself for this trip to Europe. The fact that he isn’t is making his aides more than a little nervous, especially given what’s at stake.
Trump has only publicly condemned the Russia election hacking once, and a number of his aides, including White House press secretary Sean Spicer, said they can’t confirm if Trump really believes the hacking happened in the first place. So as unbelievable as this may seem, Trump may not even raise the issue of the Russia hacking. Unless, that is, it can be condensed into a tweet-length reminder.