“I just asked him again, and he said he absolutely did not meddle in our election. He did not do what they’re saying he did. … I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it. … I think he’s very insulted by it, if you want to know the truth. … I think that he is very, very strong in the fact that he didn’t do it. … President Putin very strongly, vehemently says he had nothing to do with that.”
That was President Trump on Saturday, defending Russian President Vladimir Putin against the unanimous view of the FBI and U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia meddled in the U.S. elections.
Though Trump later claimed he was only relaying Putin’s thoughts, he made it pretty clear that he sides with the Russian leader against “political hacks” from U.S. intelligence agencies behind “this Democratic-inspired thing.”
The obvious conclusion: Trump knows full well that Russia meddled, but he’s worried the special counsel’s investigation, which has already ensnared Trump campaign aides, will implicate him. But there’s another explanation: Maybe the president of the United States is just incredibly credulous.
We already know Trump has a tendency to repeat the last thing he heard, and he has a well-documented history of believing all kinds of cockamamy theories. What if it’s not just that he’s being “played” by Putin, as former intelligence officials say, but that he’s a willing organ?
The following dossier on Donald Trump’s early years was given to me Monday by a man on a park bench in Lafayette Square. The man said he absolutely did not make up these events and exchanges. I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it. He did not do what you’re thinking he did. I think he’s very insulted by it, if you want to know the truth.
“Source A reports that, as a young boy at Madame Dowdy’s Primary School for the Very Rich, Donald did not accept the unanimous view of the other children that Santa Claus did not exist — even though many children had caught parents and servants putting gifts under the tree. Donald spoke with his chief governess and reported back to the children: ‘She is very, very strong in the fact that she didn’t put gifts under the tree. I believe that when she says that, she meant it.’
“Source B reports that, as a teenager at New York’s Academy for the Affluent and Bonespur Military Prep, Donald was unlucky with the ladies. They would frequently decline when he asked them on a date, or a second date. Donald told friends he accepted what the girls told him: ‘She said it’s her, not me. She said she just doesn’t have time for a relationship right now. I really believe that when she tells me that, she means it.’
“Multiple sources report that in freshman year of college, Trump got a C on his final history paper when he argued that ‘the Greeks told the Trojans they absolutely did not have warriors in the horse. I really believe that when they said it was just a peace offering, they meant it.’
“Source C has learned that Trump, even as he pursued his career in real estate, continued to insert himself when he felt that a public figure was not being granted proper credulity. He wrote to the Watergate select committee: ‘The president very strongly, vehemently says he had nothing to do with the break-in. I think he is very, very strong in the fact that he didn’t do it.’
“Later, after the O.J. Simpson trial, Trump argued: ‘I really believe that when he says he wants to find the real killer, he means it. I think he’s very insulted by people saying he did it, if you want to know the truth.’
“Trump, Source C continues, even offered to defend Bill Clinton during impeachment proceedings: “He said he did not inhale. He said he did not have sexual relations. I really believe that when he says that, he means it.’
“Trump was so shocked to learn in 1998 that Clinton did not really believe those things that he was momentarily lost, and he began to rethink his innate credulity. But, as luck would have it, his timing was perfect: A former KGB officer who was about to become president of Russia would restore Trump’s faith in humanity.”
Dana Milbank is a Washington Post columnist. @Milbank