Monday was supposed to be Hillary Clinton’s horrible Halloween, the day when FBI Director James Comey’s letter last Friday revealing the potential existence of more Clinton emails on Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin’s shared laptop, was supposed to take hold—the day when the polls were going to start registering the post-Comey freefall that would make Donald Trump president.
But something funny happened. They didn’t. Some polls out Monday had the race a bit closer, but one, taken half before the Comey announcement and half after, had her up the same 7 percentage points she was before Comey intervened. And all had Clinton still ahead.
Instead, what happened Monday was that Trump was hit with three big stories:
1. CNBC reported—based on one source, it must be said—that earlier in October, Comey had argued privately that it was too close to the election for the U.S. government to name Russia as the hacker of Democratic emails. That disclosure was made by the government, just without the FBI’s name on it. Obviously, it was a disclosure that caused some discomfort for the Trump campaign, tied as the candidate is to Russia. The obvious question, if this story is accurate: Why was Oct. 7 too close to the election for the FBI to help create a news story that might have been bad for Trump, while Oct.28 was not too close to the election for the FBI to single-handedly create a news story that was bad for Clinton? Inquiring minds want to know.
2. NBC News reported the FBI has launched a preliminary investigation into former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s ties to Russia. Manafort, of course, is not the candidate and is no longer affiliated with the campaign. So this isn’t necessarily an A-1 bombshell. But the existence of NBC News’s “law-enforcement and intelligence sources” who wanted to put this out screams to us that there’s a civil war brewing in federal law-enforcement circles and that for every pro-Trump leak, we can expect some countervailing pushback.
3. And finally, breaking just after 9 p.m. Monday night, the big one: The New York Times detailing how Trump used a questionable tax-dodge technique to “avoid reporting hundreds of millions of dollars” in what was supposed to be taxable income. This is a complicated one, but, according to the Times, as far as the IRS is concerned, a dollar of canceled debt is the same as a dollar of taxable income; tax must be paid on the canceled debt. But Trump used a maneuver that allowed him to avoid paying federal tax on the canceled debt—he avoided paying as much as $50 million a year for 18 years, the paper said. And it was a maneuver that his own attorneys said was dodgy. The article quotes numerous tax experts as saying that what Trump did here was outrageous.
Oh, and the article makes it a point of mentioning this. You know how Trump said in the debates that if Clinton was so upset about the tax laws he exploited, “Why didn’t she ever try to change those laws so I couldn’t use them?” You’ll be shocked to hear that Trump wasn’t telling the truth about that. In 2004, Congress did close the loophole Trump exploited. Among the senators voting to do so was Hillary Clinton.
So this is what Trump wakes up to Tuesday. An allegation that Comey was covering for him. An allegation that the FBI is poking around his former campaign manager’s Russia relationships. And most damning of all, a specific allegation of exactly how he cheated the government he purports to want to run of hundreds of millions of dollars, through a technique that he seems to have used more brazenly than anyone.
Brazen is his middle name. Well, he has a lot of middle names, but brazen is surely one of them. Projection is another. What can we say about a man who benefits from the intervention of the Kremlin—the Kremlin, in a United States election!—and of a demagogue who hides out in an embassy in order to avoid facing sexual-assault charges in his home country; and now benefits from the apparent willingness of the FBI director to shield him from having to endure embarrassing electoral news? And he, this man, goes around saying that the election is rigged against him?
Speaking of projection, one of Trump’s main ads in October, and a talking point that Kellyanne Conway and others repeat on cable ad nauseum, is that Hillary is only in it for “the power, the money, and herself.” Really? Clinton has her flaws, and she and her husband have amassed a bigger fortune than is defensible, as I’ve argued. But I don’t think she worked to get health-care coverage for millions of children for power or money or herself. There’s only one candidate in this race who’s guided solely by those three lodestars.
That’s the candidate who started October revealing himself as a sexual predator and ended it exposed as a financial predator. He’s persuaded his intense partisans that everything is the media’s fault. Everyone else knows that while she made one really horrible mistake in 25 years (the server), his entire adult life has been spent cheating everyone who had the misfortune to cross his path.
For her, doing bad was a mistake. For him, it was just life.