Even now, Republicans are ignoring the storm clouds

Not so long ago, Republican leaders prided themselves on protecting middle-American minds from the liberal intellectual rot being spread by politicians and college professors they viewed as being hostile to law enforcement, contemptuous of constitutional traditions, indifferent to personal morality and accommodating to Russian tyrants. They claimed to be the intellectual heirs of Edmund Burke, Russell Kirk and William F. Buckley Jr. Now those same politicians debase themselves daily in service to Trump.

.. “I faced great pressure because of Russia,” America’s president told the Russians. “That’s taken off. I am not under investigation.”
.. As a storm gathers over Washington and the world, Donald Trump’s Republican Party remains complicit in his frenzied efforts to undermine the American institutions and established values that conservatives once claimed to share.
And while the clouds overhead are cause for all to be concerned, it will be the husk of a once-proud Republican Party that will be swept away first by the deluge that is sure to come.

Trust Nothing, Defend Nothing

The Democrats are clearly in full partisan mode, framing every inconvenient, benign, or even potentially exculpatory detail as a smoking gun. The whole “hacked the election” formulation, used both by the Democrats and by allegedly objective reporters, is a misleading bit of hyperbole. Is “meddled with” or “interfered in” too big a concession to reality?

.. Meanwhile, there’s no shortage of hyperbole among those most eager to defend Trump on the Russia story.

.. More seriously, the rush to say there’s nothing to the collusion story is a mirror of the rush to insist the story is everything.

.. There were no meetings with Russians. Well there was that meeting about adoption with that Russian lawyer (attended by the campaign manager). Well, it was a meeting about opposition research that turned into a meeting about adoption, but I had no idea the Russian government was involved. Then the NYT reports last night about an email saying the meeting was pitched as part of a Russian-government operation. Then this morning the Russian lawyer says it was the Trump team that was desperate for Clinton dirt.

.. But that’s my larger point. Who the hell knows? What I just don’t understand is how conservatives can mock, scoff at, and ridicule the idea there might be some legs to this story when Donald Trump does everything he can to make it look like there might be a there there. He fired the FBI director. He told the Russian ambassador he did it to thwart the Russia investigation. He told Lester Holt the same thing. Donald Trump is clearly obsessed with the Russia story and with forging a bromance with Vladimir Putin. Both his son and his son-in-law have ties to Russia and keep having to revise their denials, making anyone who believed them in the first place look foolish.

The Threat in President Trump’s Interview with Lester Holt

President Trump is a selfish liar, and a vain one. Those traits, together, can cause chaos, as they did on Thursday, when, in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt, Trump undermined his own alibi for firing the F.B.I. director, James Comey

  • Vice-President Mike Pence and other dependents repeated this story all day Wednesday, with Pence portraying the President as solemnly resolved to follow the best advice he had, and
  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the deputy press secretary, throwing in some smears of Comey, who she said had committed “atrocities” while at the F.B.I. and was disliked by its rank and file.

.. But, when Holt asked him about heeding Sessions and Rosenstein, Trump seemed to bristle. Could Holt think that he, Trump, needed to hear what anyone had to say—that he had his mind changed by subordinates?

.. “when I decided to just do it”—that is, to fire Comey: “I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story; it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.” His aides, needless to say, had spent the day saying that Comey’s firing had nothing to do with Russia.

.. Instead, it leaves open the possibility that some sort of public confession in which Comey would “admit his errors” might be an alternative, in terms of restoring “trust.”

.. Instead, in both the letter that Trump sent to Comey and in his interview with Holt, Trump claimed that he got something else from Comey: an assurance that he was not under investigation. Trump doesn’t bother to conceal that he regarded such an assurance as something of a condition of employment.

.. Trump would rather raise the possibility that he’d had an improper, if not actually illegal, conversation with Comey than leave anyone with the impression that he couldn’t instruct the people who worked for him to do anything he desired.

.. Trump seems to treat the idea of being investigated the same way that he regards the idea of losing money. He is not personally being investigated; he never personally declared bankruptcy—only some of his various businesses did.

.. McCabe added that he personally regarded serving with Comey as the honor of his life. Sanders countered that many F.B.I. officers of her acquaintance had told her the opposite, which she treated as definitive despite adding, with a note of pleased and oblivious self-contradiction, “And I don’t even know that many people in the F.B.I.!”

.. She answered questions about the propriety of the Trump-Comey dinner by seeming to cite lawyers she’d seen comment on television.

.. In a way, she is the perfect Trump spokesperson. Her incoherent answers revolved around the greatness of Trump and the perfidy of his enemies.