Furor, Schadenfreude and Frustration: The Cycle of Dealing With the Trump Implosion

  1. There's both not a lot more to be said about Donald Trump Jr.'s efforts to collude with Russia on interfering with the US election, and yet a whole bunch of unanswered questions. This is the normal of the Trump White House: Something outrageous happens, there's an explosion of furor and mockery, and then nothing happens. Well, not nothing, because it certainly makes life hard for everyone around Trump, and it certainly stalls his agenda, but one need only pick apart the current cycle of outrage to get a handle on how things are really playing out.
  2. As outlined by The New York Times, this is one has been a pretty clear illustration that the administration has been lying about its connections to Russia, and was at least aware of its attempt to aid Trump's election: "The June 3, 2016, email sent to Donald Trump Jr. could hardly have been more explicit: One of his father’s former Russian business partners had been contacted by a senior Russian government official and was offering to provide the Trump campaign with dirt on Hillary Clinton. The documents 'would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father,' read the email, written by a trusted intermediary, who added, 'This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.'"
  3. Indeed. In his email exchange, the younger Trump was even so kind as to incriminate other members of the Trump team: "Donald Trump Jr. agreed, adding that he would most likely bring along 'Paul Manafort (campaign boss)' and “my brother-in-law,' Jared Kushner, now one of the president’s closest White House advisers."
  4. Intelligent, rational people were able to read Trump Jr.'s emails and make rational, reasonable conclusions, such as Charlie Pierce, writing for Esquire: "The email chain makes clear that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government. Further, it also makes plain that not only Junior, but also Manafort and Kushner knew the campaign had done so because Junior was kind enough to forward the emails to them. He incriminated himself. He incriminated the other two. He made a lie out of practically everything that the Trump camp has said on the subject for over a year. He landed a clean shot below the waterline of his father's administration. Again, I thought of Nixon, standing behind a podium in the White House, while the tape from June 23, 1972 unspooled to an eager world, and then telling the assembled press corps, 'See? It's just like I said. I'm not involved.' It also was announced that Junior would appear with Sean Hannity on Tuesday night. I fully expected Junior to show up on the set dressed as an evil boyar from an Eisenstein film."
  5. Others, such as Evan Hurst over at Wonkette, dove into the material with an enormous amount of glee: "Remember how Li’l Biscuit’s later explanation was that he was promised by an 'acquaintance' that he would get some anti-Hillary dirt gossip? Monday night, the New York Times reported that the “acquaintance,” music publicist Rob Goldstone, who reps Russian pop star Emin and his Russian oligarch dad Aras Agalarov, specifically emailed Junior saying the anti-Hillary dirt was part of a Russian government effort to help Daddy Trump’s candidacy. This is the actual truth, but OMG there is so much more.
    Junior just fucking TWEETED OUT HIS ENTIRE EMAIL CHAIN WITH GOLDSTONE. He said he was doing it “in order to be totally transparent,” but WE think he did it because the New York Times called and said, 'Hey stinky, guess what we’re about to publish? LOLOLOLOL!'"
  6. And finally, late night comedy did its role in the cycle, which is to mock and satirize, such as Stephen Colbert, who made an apology to Donald Trump Jr.'s brother Eric, for thinking all this time that he was the dumb one.
  7. We rage and we mock, and time and again, we're dead certain we've caught Trump and cronies in something. And honestly, we usually have. The Trump administration doesn't even really try to disguise its lies. They instead employ the Shaggy defense: "Wasn't me."
  8. What's really annoying is that strategy kind of works for them, because the truth is, they don't have to convince everybody. They just have to convince a majority in particular geographic regions. And when the outrage and mockery subsides, and questions begin to seep in. Usually the big one is, "OK, that's bad, but is it a crime?"
  9. The New Yorker has helpfully laid out the legal issues faced by Trump Jr. and, more pressingly, Kushner, the latter of whom is now a government employee with a security clearance: "Certainly the attendees at that meeting, as well as other Trump campaign officials, will be asked by F.B.I. agents, and perhaps before a grand jury, about contacts with the Russians. Any sort of false statement in these contexts would be a federal crime. Federal law also bars the kind of hacking that was visited upon John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman, and the Democratic National Committee; if any Trump officials aided and abetted the hacking, that, too, would be a crime. In addition to those concerns, there are other legal issues at stake. In the broader subject of obstruction of justice, the President’s decision to fire James Comey, the former director of the F.B.I., will be central to Mueller’s inquiries. If Mueller decides to go further afield into Trump’s financial matters, there are possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, especially relating to the Trump hotel in Azerbaijan. "
  10. Elsewhere, The New Yorker lays out further particular charges Trump Jr. could be facing: "To be sure, it remains to be seen (and proved) whether Trump, Jr., broke any laws in agreeing to meet with Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer, after Goldstone dangled the prospect of 'very high level and sensitive information' that was 'part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.' But while 'collusion' is not a term that appears in the relevant criminal codes, there are at least two felony charges that the Feds could potentially hit Trump, Jr., with, some legal experts said on Tuesday: conspiracy to commit election fraud, and conspiracy to obtain information from a foreign adversary. 'It’s a shocking admission of a criminal conspiracy,” Jens David Ohlin, the associate dean of Cornell Law School, told The Washington Post. 'The conversation will now turn to whether President Trump was personally involved or not. But the question of the campaign’s involvement appears settled now. The answer is yes.'"
  11. Sure, OK. But is it settled? I'm not so sure. And if it is settled, the same article points to the trump administration's probably tactic in remedying the situation: Letting the president's son take the fall. This is not unheard of in the annals of political scandal – let us not forget Oliver North and any other political cronies who served time to shield their presidents – and a number of Trump associates seem to have axes over their heads at the moment, most notably alienated ones such as Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn and Roger Stone. Would Trump Jr. take such a big fall for his father? Would his father ask him to? I'm no longer betting against such unlikely scenarios. All politicians are willing to sacrifice pawns for their game. Trump seems willing to burn rooks and bishops, too.
  12. But ultimately, there's only so much that can be done to Trump at this moment. He's unlikely to be impeached by a Republican Congress, and for many liberals (myself included) the prospect of President Mike Pence is even more concerning. Trump is an egotist with no real agenda besides maintaining power by whatever means necessary. His bigotry is probably at least partly sincere – I mean, you can't fake some of this trash – but he utilizes it pragmatically, stoking fears and hatreds to keep his base mobilize. Meanwhile, Pence has a conservative agenda which is alarming for civil liberties on almost every level, and he's a true believer.
  13. Writes Vox: "The truth is that whether or not Trump is 'brought down' has at best an indirect relationship to the gravity of the charges against him. His fate depends much more heavily on how Republican leaders in Congress respond to the scandals in question than it does on those scandals’ details or severity. Trump is the American president. He can only be permanently removed from office if a majority of the House votes to impeach and a two-thirds majority of the Senate votes to convict. He can’t be charged in federal courts like a normal civilian. Trump could also be removed under the 25th Amendment by a majority of his Cabinet — but that would also entail the Republican Party abandoning him, and if he contests it, the judgment would need to be ratified by Congress. Unless Trump voluntarily chooses to resign, the only thing that will bring him down is Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreeing that he must be removed from office, and rallying their members to vote for impeachment and removal."
  14. So is it hopeless? No, of course not. The pressure from these allegations and their repercussions for people around the president actually accomplish rather a lot: they slow sweeping changes that would, among other things, destroy the lives of millions of Americans, they put vulnerable members of Congress in defensive stances where they're forced to not just sign off on anything willy-nilly, and they in all likelihood will eventually put a few of Trump's cronies in jail, maybe even his son or son-in-law (who at the very least deserves to lose his security clearance, he's committed perjury so many times.) These are slow, small things, but that's what resistance is always built on. People keep hoping for some magic spell to wish everything away, but the fact is, the world doesn't work like that. Resistance is hard, and every victory is miniscule. But it all adds up, and the louder the opposition is to policies and actions that harm millions and damage the very fabric of our democracy, the more unnerved people in Washington will be. They are not brave in Washington. They tend to put themselves ahead of any ideology, and if they're afraid for their futures, they will react accordingly. In that, they remain completely predictable.
  15. The important thing is to become too accustomed to the current state of affairs. Writes Henry Rollins, in LA Weekly, "The term 'dumpster fire' keeps coming up when people mention the Trump administration. It fits. It’s a sad mess that’s roaring away right in front of you. That being said, that incredible ability of humans to acclimate and find the horizon comes into play."
  16. It's a long slog to the mid-term elections, and a possible new set of circumstances in Washington. A lot of phone calls, marching, writing letters and essays and supporting candidates in local and state offices. A lot of organizing and, yes, laughing. Because laughing both infuriates the Devil and helps keep you sane. It's vitally important that you stay sane. It's important that you not exhaust yourself too early. Pace yourself, don't depend on magic. This is now politicla trench warfare, and you only win in inches. But inches eventually add up to miles, eventually add up to an entire country.
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