Ignorance is usually not a good defense when you get caught. In Trump’s case, it is the default response when things go wrong.

You could write a book about what Trump doesn’t know. He doesn’t know that Greenland is not for sale. He doesn’t know that Finland is not part of Russia. He doesn’t know that Frederick Douglass is a historical figure, not someone living today. He doesn’t know that climate change is real and dangerous to the planet. There are so many things that he never learned in school or in his adult life.

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post figured out that the White House now uses “he didn’t know” as an all-purpose excuse. When the story about Russians paying a bounty for dead American and coalition forces in Afghanistan was published, the White House defense was that no one told Trump. Long ago, this was called “plausible deniability.” In the case of Trump, it is perfectly reasonable to assume that he didn’t know. What he thinks he knows is wrong (hydrochoroquine does not cure COVID-19, drinking disinfectants does not prevent getting the disease, windmills do not cause cancer, the pandemic is not over, etc.).

Milbank writes:

If things weren’t already bad enough for President Trump — economic collapse, botched pandemic response, mass unrest — U.S. intelligence believes Trump’s “friend” Vladimir Putin paid Taliban fighters bounties to kill U.S. troops.

But the White House is ready with a defense: The president has no earthly idea what’s going on.
Totally in the dark.

Not a clue!

“The CIA director, NSA, national security adviser, and the chief of staff can all confirm that neither the president nor the vice president were briefed on the alleged Russian bounty intelligence,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany declared at Monday afternoon’s briefing.

So, asked NBC’s Kristen Welker, Trump was kept “out of the loop by his own intelligence community?”

“It would not be elevated to the president until it was verified,” the press secretary explained.

Shouldn’t the president have been told about such a serious matter?

“There are dissenting opinions,” McEnany ventured.

Reporters pointed out that intelligence, by definition, is generally unverified, and that the bounty intelligence was solid enough that U.S. officials shared it with the British.

McEnany indicated Trump’s advisers didn’t find it “necessary” to brief him.

But “given these reports,” asked Jeff Mason of Reuters, “does the president have a specific message for Moscow?”

“No,” McEnany said, “because he has not been briefed.”

In fact, McEnany suggested, Trump still hadn’t been briefed on the Russian bounties by Monday afternoon, even though administration officials were, at that hour, briefing lawmakers.

Previous presidents have claimed not to have been briefed about things they shouldn’t have known about, as when then-Vice President George H.W. Bush claimed he was “out of the loop” on the Iran-contra affair during the 1980s. But this is quite unusual: The White House insisting the president was out of the loop on something he should have known about. It’s as though Trump’s ignorance is a point of pride.

The out-to-lunch excuse has been getting more use as things get worse for Trump. On Sunday, Trump shared a video in which a man chanting “white power” (Trump’s tweet thanked the “great people” in the video) and deleted it only after an outcry that included Republicans. McEnany claimed Trump “did not hear that particular phrase” when he watched the video.

By Trump’s own account, he was kept in the dark by China on the coronavirus. He was oblivious to the significance of Juneteenth or of Tulsa when he scheduled a campaign rally on that day in that city. And John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser says Trump was unaware of many things, including Britain’s status as a nuclear power.

Ignorance may be the only bliss for Trump as his presidency dissolves into failures. As other countries keep the coronavirus in check, states that followed Trump’s encouragement to reopen early — Florida, Arizona, Texas, Georgia, South Carolina — are seeing record levels of infections. His allies are calling for a campaign shakeup as polls show the unpopular president trailing Democrat Joe Biden by nearly 10 points.

His rally in Tulsa was a debacle. His dalliances with white supremacists (McEnany declined Monday to disavow the display of Confederate battle flags at Trump rallies) has galvanized the opposition. Bolton revealed that Trump sought reelection help from China. And now, Russians have apparently put bounties on the heads of U.S. troops.
McEnany opened her briefing with a statement decrying “anarchy in our streets,” “chaos,” “shootings,” “rioting,” “domestic terrorism” and “rampant destruction.” Standing against anarchy, she said, “is President Trump’s vision for the future.”
That’s quite a reelection pitch.
But, in one sense, McEnany has a point about anarchy: When it comes to the nation’s troubles, our head of state is MIA.
Trump’s own secretary of health and human services is saying the “window is closing” to get control of the situation — but Trump’s spokeswoman says that “we’re encouraged to see that fatalities are coming down” and that mask wearing should be a “personal choice.”

Okay, so Trump isn’t going to act to stop the virus’s resurgence. How about action to stop Russia from paying for the killing of U.S. troops?

“The president is briefed on verified intelligence,” McEnany said.

“If he hasn’t been briefed,” the Dallas Morning News’s Todd Gillman asked, “how is he certain that Russia didn’t put out these bounties?”

The press secretary replied by condemning the “absolutely irresponsible decision of the New York Times to falsely report that he was briefed on something that he in fact was not briefed on.”

How dare the Times report that Trump was informed! Get it right: This president’s ignorance is total — and you can quote the White House press secretary on that.