Saturday, September 1, 2018

What did Donald Trump do today?

He lashed out at the investigation of Russian election sabotage, but in a new context.

Forced to yield the spotlight to the funeral of his enemy John McCain--one in which speaker after speaker praised McCain as a sort of anti-Trump--he distracted himself with golf and Twitter. As usual, many of the sixteen tweets Trump busied himself with were attempts to cast doubt on the Mueller investigation.

There was nothing new in Trump's bluster, but it came on the same day as two new pieces of information came to light. The first was that George Papadopoulos, whose drunken bragging about Russian infiltration attempts started the government's first investigation, testified that Trump had personally approved of his efforts in March of 2016 to set up a meeting between Trump and Vladimir Putin.

Papadopoulos thus becomes the second person in Trump's inner circle to implicate Trump in criminal acts under oath.

Also today, the New York Times reported on the work that Bruce Ohr had been doing for the Justice Department at the same time that Trump was reaching out to Russia. From 2014 to 2016, Ohr was part of a team that attempted to make informants out of influential Russian criminals. One of his targets was Oleg Deripaska, the Putin-linked oligarch who controlled Trump's campaign manager, Paul Manafort.

Trump has repeatedly attacked Ohr in recent weeks. This appears to be part of a strategy on Trump's part to discredit or fire U.S. government officials who were involved in criminal or intelligence investigations against the Putin regime. Long before he entered politics, Trump had connections to Russians involved in laundering money for organized crime.

Why does this matter?

  • The president is not above the law.
  • A president innocent of specific crimes wouldn't attack exactly the parts of his own government responsible for investigating those specific crimes.