To Russia, With Love

Donald Trump Knows Just How Bad the Russia Investigation Can Get

It’s all a mess, but one that was predictable with the election of a needy and juvenile man who won’t read more than a page of bullet points.

Photo Illustration by Lyne Lucien/The Daily Beast

What does “consciousness of guilt” look like? How do you know it when you see it? President Donald Trump and his band of kakistocrats seem to be putting on a clinic.

Item: Donald Trump fires James Comey, the FBI director leading the investigation into his campaign’s possible collusion with Russia to influence the results of the 2016 election.

Then: Trump’s team denies that stifling the Russiagate investigation was the reason for the firing—and even finding a patsy in the very malleable deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein—only to have the cover story contradicted by Trump himself, as he blurted out the truth in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt.

Next: the day after the Comey firing elicits an apparently unexpected backlash—well, unexpected inside the undecorated, echoey mansion inside Donald Trump’s head—the president boldly welcomes two key officials from the very country that interfered in our election, Russia, into the Oval Office for selfies and yucks.

The meeting is observed only by Russian state media, since members of the American press were kicked out. During that grip and grin, Trump brags to his guests that he cashiered the “nut job” Comey because his Russiagate investigation was getting in the way of friendlier U.S.-Russia ties. 

But wait, there’s more. Turns out Moscow Don can’t stop loving on his fired National Security Adviser, Gen. Michael Flynn, who reportedly confessed to the incoming administration that he was under FBI investigation for his shady dealings with Turkey and Russia, but got hired anyway.

(We are asked to believe Mike Pence, the head of the transition team, heard this confession and the warnings about Flynn from the then-acting attorney general with his index fingers stuck firmly in his little lamb ears.)

Mr. “Lock Her Up” even tells friends that post-firing, during the period of his greatest legal jeopardy, Trump has continued to reach out to him – telling him to “stay strong” and even musing that he hopes to re-hire Flynn one day when, in the Wonderful World of Oz that exists deep down inside of Donald, this whole Russia thing blows over.

Now we learn that even before special counsel Robert Mueller decorates his office, the investigation into the dealings between Trump and the Russians has ensnared a “senior White House official close to the president” as a person of interest. It’s not hard to guess who that person might be, and one assumes Jamie Gorelick, whose law firm WilmerHale represents Jared and Ivanka Kushner as well as Paul Manafort has been rather busy.

Incidentally, the firm has a pretty famous partner in its Washington office, namely Mueller, who announced his resignation upon his appointment as special counsel. That may not be good enough for the Russiagate tainted Justice Department, which announced this week that it is launching an extensive ethics background check of Mueller, just in case. 

It’s all very intriguing, suggesting a presidency that is crumbling before our eyes under the weight of its inherent corruption. And the sheer, leaked disgust of his own team makes it clear that even Trump loyalists understand that there is only one man to blame.

During the campaign, Trump surrounded himself with creatures from the shady foreign cash bog: the Flynn, Paul Manafort, Carter Page, Rudy Giuliani swamp; along with the Bannonite meme-Nazi fringe. Is it any wonder that his administration is a circus of third-rate political operators, amateurs and deplorables?

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It was Trump who brought the three-ring circus to Washington, complete with his eldest son and Twitter enforcer Biff Tannen, his see-no-evil, pay-no-decent-wages daughter and her son-of-a-felon husband, whose family isn’t above hawking foreign corporate visas and who’s not so good with his Foreign Agent Registration Act paperwork. Jared apparently does excel at getting the Saudi sweet arms deals with American companies. But his other portfolio item: solving Middle East peace may have to wait until the Israelis get over Trump spilling their intel to the Russians.

It’s all a mess, but one that was predictable with the election of a needy and juvenile man who won’t read more than a page of bullet points with his name sprinkled liberally throughout to keep him interested, and who brags without thinking in order to make people like him—even if the people are spies for a hostile power—and who’s friendlier with the thuggish autocrats of Turkey, Egypt, and the Philippines than with Canada.

What’s also clear is that Trump, while not the canniest or most articulate fellow, fully understands that the investigation into his campaign and his friends presents a clear and present danger. He is hugging Flynn close because Flynn could hurt him. He repeatedly tried to recruit Comey into The Family to keep Comey from bringing him down. He’s keeping the whole band of misfits on the ship to keep them from scratching out holes in the hull. 

Who knows if Trump fully understood what his team was doing to help get him his precious election “win.” After November he probably thought making friends with Putin, through the back channels Flynn was setting up, would enable him to set the whole world at peace, making him the Greatest President of All Time (take THAT, Obama!)—and also a real billionaire, with Trump hotels, Trump condos and Trump licensing deals strewn the world over, all managed by The Family.

Clearly, Russia thought having Flynn on the inside would be a goldmine of influence for them. (Even without him, they managed to get within bugging distance of the Resolute Desk.)

The problem is that Trump thinks the danger of Russiagate is merely to his plan and to his pride; his desperate need to believe he won the election because of his sheer awesomeness and not through a confluence of unfortunate events. What he fails to comprehend is that the real danger is to his presidency itself, and to the country he doesn’t have the slightest idea how to lead.