Magazine | February 19, 2018, Issue

Memo to Surveillance Staff

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes briefs reporters at the Capitol, March 24, 2017. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)






NSA FILE 345.76


Begin Extract 1:

[Static. Hiss. Beeping noise.]


UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE #2: Whoa whoa. Let’s take a breath there, Vladimir. Try again. It’s Mr. President now, do we have to keep having this conversation?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE #1: For what this business? Breaking my eggs for what this for? You come and you want for the money for the golfing and we say okay you can have the money and then the Facebook tweets from the bats and –

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE #2: The bats? What bats? Vladimir as God is my witness I have zero idea what you’re saying. Zero. People are saying, oh you’re colluding with this and colluding with that and I should say, colluding? How colluding? I don’t understand a word that comes out of that man’s mouth. Is what I should say. Bats? Tweets from the bats?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE #1: Bats. The bats who tweet. What is the word? The word! Bahts? Bahhhhts?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE #2: Bots? Like, Twitter bots?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE #1: That is what I have already been saying since 30 minutes!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE #2: Just totally confusing. I’m confused. Just totally.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE #1: We need to talk for about the sanctions to be lifting now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE #2: Again, zero idea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE #1: Sanctions. From against Russia. Stopping them now, about to talk. For now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE #2: If it’s even possible, I now have less than zero idea what you’re saying.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE #1: It is for the sanctions –

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE #2: Let me jump in here, Vladimir, because I think you and I have a fabulous relationship and I think we agree on most of the deal points we’ve been discussing over the past — what? Four years? Five? Hard to keep track. But let me, if I may, get into the internals of our agreement and say that, yes, in the sense that you and I have had — what? Six conversations? Seven? Not including that awkward one in the Moscow hotel, with the thing about the stuff? Whatever. Let’s move on. You’re asking about –

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE #1: The sanctions, yes. Lifting them time, is now. Already, in fact. Already time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE #2: Gonna go out on a limb here and say that I think — think — you’re asking me if I’ll lift the sanctions on Russia. And I gotta say, just to be totally frank, I don’t think I’m gonna. I think that at the end of the day, I’m gonna have to say no. No to that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE #1: For what do I deserve this! Agreements and suchlike!


UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE #1: Yourself calm down! Yourself! Do not be a tempter, Donald! Do not be a tempter! I have said to you about the videos we have of you, and the monies and the trails of monies and videos and all of the things.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE #2: You mean the “kompromat”?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE #1: This word you know?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE #2: Oh man. Yes, Vladimir, yes. I know the word. Everyone who watches CNN knows the word!


UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE #2: Not them, no. But the others, sure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE #1: Then okay. Then I will say, and listen. Listen to me, Donald –

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE #2: Hey hey hey. Watch the tone, mister.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE #1: Mister President. Mister President. Be known that I will order release of the videos we have, and the documents and the monies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE #2: You know what? Do it. Go ahead. Do it. It would be a favor to me if you would. Then maybe it would end all of this — what does my son-in-law call it? Mishagas? Something like that. Anyway. Do it. Put it all up on YouTube and I’ll retweet it, I promise.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE #1: This is bluff. Me bluffing you. No. You bluffing me. Yes. You bluffing me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE #2: Not bluffing, guy. Everyone is saying Trump has been on Propecia –


UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE #2: It’s a perfectly safe hair-growth medication, okay? But people are saying that Trump suffers from one of its side effects, which is, well –

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE #1: No lead in pencil?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE #2: Basically, yes. So, fine, release those tapes. Then maybe people will see that Trump has it all, the hair, the pencil lead, the everything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE #1: Yes but is hard to see clearly because stomach is so huge and hanging down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE #2: Okay, now you’re being rude.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE #1: Lift sanctions, Donald. Is what I paid for.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE #2: Haven’t you learned anything, Vladimir? A Trump never stays bought.

End Extract 1

In This Issue



Books, Arts & Manners




Popularity Contest In “Hearing the People” (January 22), a generally spot-on assessment of how Republicans should react to populism, Henry Olsen writes: “The combined might of the five core groups of ...
Politics & Policy

The Week

‐ “And here to speak for the party of diversity, inclusion, women, people of color, and a bold embrace of the future is . . . some guy named ‘Kennedy.’” ‐ ...


THIS MILKY WAY This Milky Way, our galaxy, contains A massive hole of blackness at its core, Where any photon striking it remains In unreflected absence evermore, While we perch on a speck upon a ...

Most Popular

White House

Trump and the ‘Racist Tweets’

What does “racist” even mean anymore? Racism is the headline on President Trump’s Sunday tweets -- the media-Democrat complex assiduously describes them as “racist tweets” as if that were a fact rather than a trope. I don’t think they were racist; I think they were abjectly stupid. Like many ... Read More
White House

The Trump Steamroller

As we settle into high summer and the period of maximum difficulty in finding anything to fill in hours of television news, especially 24/7 news television, two well-established political trends are emerging in this pre-electoral period: The president’s opponents continue to dig themselves into foxholes that ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Ilhan Omar Is Completely Assimilated

Beto O’Rourke, the losing Texas Senate candidate who bootstrapped his way into becoming a losing presidential candidate, had a message for refugees who had come to America: Your new country is a hellhole. The former congressman told a roundtable of refugees and immigrants in Nashville, Tenn., last week: ... Read More

We All Wanted to Love the Women’s Soccer Team

For the first time in my life, I did not root for an American team. Whatever the sport, I have always rooted American. And if those who called in to my radio show were representative of my audience, many millions of Americans made the same sad choice. It takes a lot for people like me not to root for an ... Read More

The ‘Squad’ Gives a Gift to Donald Trump

On Sunday, Donald Trump gave the Democrats a gift -- comments that indicate he thinks native-born congresswomen he detests should “go back” to the countries of their ancestors. On Monday, the four congresswomen handed Trump a gift in return, managing to respond to the president’s insults in some of the most ... Read More