Keep Your Eye On The Ball: The Russia Scandal Was An Assault On Democracy
As the White House Spin Machine works overtime in concert with the Right Wing Noise Machine to try to divert attention from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s shock-and-awe indictments, it is time to remember yet again that the Russia scandal is not about partisan politics. It is about an assault on American democracy.
Even the most benign spin — that the indictments are not proof of collusion, merely bad judgement — ignores the obvious. That is, for decades Donald Trump and his associates eagerly cut deals with bottom feeders who emerged from the wreckage of the Soviet Union. They could have turned down overtures to conspire with Vladimir Putin in his repeated cyberattacks on the Hillary Clinton campaign. They could have done the patriotic thing and gone to the FBI, but of course did not, because they always had taken the low road and the potential reward in this instance was not millions or billions of dollars, but the biggest payoff of all — a Trump presidency.
I continue to believe that Trump still doesn’t really understand what has hit him. For him, the collusion at the heart of Mueller’s investigation was just another crooked business deal that happened to be exposed. And while Trump can’t blithely declare bankruptcy and walk away from his creditors, as he so often has done, he can play to the MAGA crowd by portraying himself as a victim, Mueller as a partisan stooge and Clinton as the real villain.
This exculpatory hogwash would be amusing were the underlying actions not so insidious and, yes, treasonous.
My ever-growing timeline of the scandal reveals no fewer than 15 meetings and other contacts from late 2015 through Election Day, the presidential transition and beyond involving Trump, family members and campaign associates with Russians hot wired into Putin’s plot that add up to a willingness to collude — and sometimes an eagerness to do so, witness Donald Trump Jr.’s infamous “If it’s what you say I love it” response to one of the offers of Kremlin dirt on Clinton.
CONSPICUOUS IN HIS ABSENCE from the barrage of filings from Mueller that included Paul Manafort and Rick Gates and revealed that George Papadopoulos had copped a plea was Michael Flynn.
Trump went out of his way to protect and defend his short-lived national security director and architect of his America First policy. Trump repeatedly asked then-FBI Director James Comey to go easy on Flynn after Flynn’s multiple transgressions — repeatedly failing to disclose payments for back-channel work for Russian-linked entities and other foreign interests and repeatedly failing to register as a representative of some of those groups — were disclosed.
Flynn, in his capacity as a campaign adviser, also traveled to Moscow, met with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. and was identified by Russians as a way to influence Trump in U.S. intelligence intercepts. Then this week it was revealed that Flynn followed Russian troll factory Twitter accounts and pushed their messages in the month before the election.
Trump’s uncharacteristic compassion for Flynn unquestionably stems from his concern that he knows an awful lot about campaign collusion and would be a threat if he talked to Mueller and his team.
Or perhaps he already has.
SAM CLOVIS AND ROBERT MERCER are the latest people to learn the hard way that if you fall into Trump’s orbit, you will be burned by the experience.
Clovis, a professor of business management, Iowa conservative talk-radio host and Tea Partier whom Trump had nominated to be the Department of Agriculture’s chief scientist despite being utterly unqualified for the post, withdrew his name from consideration 48 hours after Mueller’s indictment barrage after campaign foreign policy adviser Papadopoulos revealed that as Trump’s national co-chairman, Clovis encouraged him to pursue relationships with Russians who had dirt on Clinton.
Clovis already has had one chat with Mueller’s grand jury and an encore performance seems likely. Woe be it to him if he lied the first time around, because a federal pen would be a whole lot less fun than even Sioux City.
Mercer is a less sympathetic figure than Clovis, if that’s possible.
The billionaire backer of conservative causes and patron of Stephen Bannon is being forced to step down as co-chief executive of Renaissance Technologies, a giant hedge fund, because of a growing backlash among the fund’s customers over Mercer’s embrace of polarizing political figures, including nationalists and white separatists.
Among the clients throwing in the towel is the retirement fund for Baltimore’s police and firefighters, which has asked that all of the $33 million it invested in Renaissance be refunded.
Then there’s this: Mercer is a major financial backer of Cambridge Analytica, a voter data mining firm that has worked closely with the Trump campaign. Perhaps too closely, as in coordinating its work with Russian election interference efforts, something that Mueller is no doubt looking into and may have hastened Mercer’s decision to spend more time with his family.
IMPEACHMENT HAS BEEN THE HOLY GRAIL of liberals since the full extent of the Trump campaign’s collusion with Russia became evident.
Mueller’s initial salvo of indictments with the probability of many more to come has yet again quickened the pulses of writers for liberal rags like Vanity Fair, where reporter Gabriel Sherman quotes former Trump campaign aide Sam Numberg as saying “Trump is at 33 percent in Gallup. You can’t go any lower. He’s f*cked.”
In The Independent UK, reporter Lucy Pasha-Robinson says Trump is turning on son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kusher for giving him lousy advice on hiring Flynn and firing Comey “as the prospect of impeachment becomes a real possibility.”
And so on and so forth.
Democratic Party leaders and especially Democratic candidates running in competitive districts in the 2018 election are trying to tamp down impeachment talk as premature even though an online petition to impeach Trump already has more than a million signatures.
They know that wishful thinking isn’t going to move the Republican-controlled House, where an impeachment vote would be taken, or the Senate, where a trial would be held, no matter how tight the noose around Trump’s neck becomes, and can only hope the Democratic Party can retake the House (a log shot) and Senate (an even longer shot).