There hasn’t been a week in this six month presidency where there wasn’t at least one headline has come out that seems like a total, unprecedented bombshell. Most of them are about Trump, of course, and it seems a large majority of them are about the Trump-Russia scandal. Last week, in somewhat of a change of pace, there was less of that in the news. There was not less scandal coming out of Donald Trump’s still-infant Administration; but, there was less Russia scandal.
This came after the mainstream media scrambled in a show of what is best called collaborative one-upmanship to expose the now-infamous meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer. What was said? Who was this lawyer? Who else was there? Who ELSE was there? There were even more people there!?!
Once that calmed down a bit, we lost the White House Communications Director Sean Spicer who is beloved by Trump supporters and endeared to The Resistance because of a certain Saturday Night skit show drag impersonation of him.
To replace him, Donald Trump brought in some guy called “The Mooch,” a previous liberal who very quickly gave Trump a run for his money in terms of hot-mic-foot-in-mouth performances. He railed against Reince Priebus, the president’s long beleaguered Chief of Staff who was then ousted in what was most likely a move of mutual animosity coming to its head. “The Mooch,” Anthony Scaramucci, accused Priebus of being one of the main leaks out of the White House while also making various colorful statements about possible Trump-puppeteer and similarly likely White House leaker (he is quite well connected to an alt-right lip service company as I understand it) Steve Bannon.
Then, as quickly as he thrashed into the White House, “The Mooch” was scooched out. As The New York Daily News put it: “Adios, Moochacho;” or, if you prefer The New York Post: “Va-Mooch!” My personal favorite has been a photoshop from The Second City of the “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” movie poster featuring Mr. Scaramucci leaning against Kate Hudson. This even garnered Hudson’s attention, who reposted it and stated: “Box office results are in! The #1 comedy in America!”
If you don’t get it, “The Mooch” only mooched off of Trump’s publicity for approximately 10 days before getting the booch… (Boot? Okay, that one doesn’t work. I’m done.)
That decision came after Trump named General Mike Kelly, previously his Secretary of Homeland Security, to replace Priebus as Chief of Staff. Many outlets who have been most critical of Trump, and even those who blindly support him (Fox News) seem optimistic about Kelly’s appointment especially after his firing of the chaotic Scaramucci. The New York Times argued that Scaramucci’s firing was Kelly “asserting his authority.” Fox News wrote that the “Scaramucci hire was one of Trump’s worst decisions,’–though, of course, that’s highly debatable– and that “appointing Kelly may be one of his best.”
Kelly has already reportedly reached out to Democrats, with leading Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer and leading House Democrat Nancy Pelosi both confirming that he had reached out to them in order to “repair bridges” and begin his working supporting Trump’s agenda; this was even before he had officially begun work as Chief of Staff. Bipartisan support for Kelly may be likely based on his nomination hearing for Secretary of Homeland Security, where he received a fair amount of democratic support.
Previous reports about Trump’s White House have speculated that having strong, by-the-books generals like Kelly around him would be a steadying influence on the erratic president; we have even heard such about Melania, Ivanka and Jared Kushner. The evidence, however, is minimal-to-invisible that Trump does anything more than what he wants to do, when he wants to do it. Reince Priebus’ apparent “original sin” in Trump’s eyes was when he encouraged candidate Trump to drop out of the presidential race upon the release of the “Grab her by the p***y” tape.
As Jon Favreau of the fundit podcast Pod Save America said: “It’s been six months, he’s not going to change.”
That is evidenced by the other non-Russian news that overwhelmed last week’s cycles: Healthcare. Even after the Senate’s efforts to repeal, replace, lightly repeal, partially replace, repeal this paragraph and replace it with that sentence, Trump continued to Tweet that Republicans needed to get the job done, the minority Democrats were obstructionists, and that he was going to let dying Obamacare die die die.
That news cycle proved that it doesn’t take Russia meddling in our presidential election and waging an ongoing disinformation cyber war for Trump to prove that he is not a successful, efficient or even competent president.
But, it seems, that pesky Russia beast will never die.
The Washington Post is reporting that it was Donald Trump Sr. himself who “dictated” the original statement that his eldest son and namesake put out about the infamous-Russia-meeting-you-may-have-understandably-forgotten-about.
It has since been revealed that the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, was working in the interest of the Kremlin and other Russian oligarchs as a known combatant against the Magnitsky Act, which imposed sanctions on Russia’s most powerful in response to their inhumane torture and potential murder of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who had been working to expose government corruption. In response to the Magnitsky Act, Russian President Vladimir Putin stopped Americans from being able to adopt Russian children, intrinsically connecting sanctions with adoption.
Trump Jr.’s original statement about the meeting, the one that The Washington Post now reports was dictated by the president himself, stated that that meeting was only about adoption.
According to White House aides, they had determined a plan of action for Trump Jr. ahead of the original New York Times stories about the meeting; their plan, assembled at the G20 summit in Germany, included being forthright about the meeting so that they wouldn’t have to walk back the younger Don’s remarks later. Then, apparently, on the way back from G20, President Trump threw that out the window, giving Don Jr. his original statement about the meeting word for word.
According to the Post’s Paul Waldman, responding to his colleagues’ scoop: “This latest story is clearly one of the most significant developments in this scandal to date, for two reasons. First, it describes an organized effort to mislead the public — not to spin, or minimize the story, or distract from it, or throw out wild accusations about someone else, but to intentionally fool everyone into believing something false. Second, it implicates the president himself. Indeed, the most extraordinary part of the picture this story paints is that while other people involved were recommending some measure of transparency on the assumption that the truth would come out eventually, they were overruled by the president, who personally dictated the misleading statement.”
There has been little doubt amongst bipartisan government representatives, the majority of media outlets, and the overwhelming majority of Intelligence agencies in the United States as well as the Intelligence Agencies of other world powers that Russia’s government was at the helm of the attack on, and interference in, the 2016 Presidential Election. There is little doubt, too, that their efforts were aimed at election Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton.
The current investigations by Congress, the FBI and now Special Counsel Robert Mueller have been into whether or not Trump and his team had knowledge about this meddling and conspired and colluded with the Russians to win the election.
The Trump Jr. meeting was a bombshell because it showed direct allies to then candidate Trump, including Jared Kushner and then campaign manager Paul Manafort, meeting with a representative of Russian interest to get “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. In the email chain both Don Jr. and The New York Times released, the information about the meeting included the fact that it was a part of the Russian government’s support of Donald Trump and their desire to see him elected president.
Now, in a mind-bending, convoluted story that we may never know the entire truth about, where it seems that the crime and the coverup are neck and neck in the race to see which one is worst, it seems that Donald Trump did, indeed, participate directly in at least one way. When Nixon was ousted, it was because of lies to Congress and the public in his effort to cover up what was also an attempted infiltration of the Democratic National Committee–though, the Russians allegedly weren’t involved then and neither, presumably, was the Internet.
As Waldman notes in his article, the White House will inevitably focus on the leaks involved in this story and not the content of the story itself. Additionally, the statement was misleading, but not an actual fabrication. I don’t know the legality of leaving out information in an FBI/Congressional and possibly criminal investigation when you do so for the same reason you would just make something up; but, it doesn’t seem good.
Amidst the incessant Russia revelations it seems mind-boggling that anyone involved in the Trump campaign or White House would not disclose such a meeting early on in order to be truly transparent and forthcoming–if they were truly innocent of wrongdoing. Perhaps, as is always possible with this family, they truly feel like they’re entitled to their privacy even as elected (or no elected) public officials serving the United States government. Perhaps they genuinely feel, as trustfund babies who believe “No” means fight harder, that they have the right to do and say whatever they want and it’s nobody else’s business.
To steal Waldman’s ending because he put it almost exactly the way I would have: “The Russia scandal has [officially] reached all the way to the president himself. Something tells me there’s more to come.”