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The Washington political scene is looking less like The Apprentice and more and more like the old Marlon Perkins Wild Kingdom show, with giant crocodiles slithering down the muddy banks to encircle Donald Trump paddling fecklessly in his leaky dugout while a chorus of angry birds shrieks in the surrounding treetops. Yes, it really looks that bad all of a sudden for Ole Number 45, the Golden Golem.
RussiaGate is flaring to a toxic shock level event. Everything that spun out of Monday’s House Intelligence Committee hearing made all parties look bad. The spooks are everywhere and nowhere. The spooks are leaking to the press. The president is tweeting instead of governing. The two parties are literally at war in congress, and the news media is playing it all like a Stockhausen cantata for kazoo and trashcan lid.
One can’t help marveling at the way the “Russian interference” motif has shifted the spotlight off the substance of what Wikileaks revealed about Clinton Foundation and DNC misdeeds onto Trump campaign officials “colluding” with Russians, supposedly to support their interference in the election. It’s true that the election is way over and the public is no longer concerned with Hillary or her foundation (which is closing shop anyway). But the switcheroo is impressive, and quite confusing, considering recently retired NSA James Clapper just two weeks ago said on NBC’s Meet the Press that there was “no evidence” of collusion Between Trump and Russia. Okay… uh, say what?
On Monday, FBI Director James Comey revealed that his agency had been investigating the Trump Campaign since at least last August. Is that so…? Investigating how? Some sort of electronic surveillance? Well, what else would they do nowadays? Send a gumshoe to a hotel room where he could press his ear on a drinking glass against the wall to eavesdrop on Paul Manafort? I don’t think so. Of course they were sifting through emails, phone calls, and every other sort of electronic communication.
Trump’s big blunder was to tweet that he’d been “wiretapped.” Like the FBI patched into a bunch of cables with alligator clips in the basement of Trump Tower … or planted a “bug” in the earpiece of his bedside phone. How quaint. We also don’t have ice boxes anymore, though plenty of struggling weight-watchers across the land speak guiltily of “raiding the icebox.” But if it’s true, as Mr. Comey said, that the FBI had been investigating Trump’s campaign, the people around him, and Trump himself, since August, how could they not have captured some of Trump’s conversations?
Anyway, the action on Monday shifted to the question of how General Michael Flynn was “unmasked” after the CIA recorded a phone conversation between him and the Russian ambassador. (The CIA is expressly forbidden from spying on US citizens, and anything overheard incidentally when bugging foreigners is supposed to remain suppressed or “masked.”) Somebody at the CIA just handed the info straight to The New York Times, The WashPo, and CNN. That story broke in back in January. How come the CIA has not rooted out the culprit and handed him/her/zhe over to the Department of Justice?
For the record, apart from the General Flynn matter, I have no idea what connections Trump & Co. may have had with Russia before, during, or after the election. But nobody has yet demonstrated that the allegations about Hillary, her email, her foundation, the DNCs treatment of Senator Sanders, or the John Podesta letters were anything but truthful, either, and that was why Hillary lost the election.
It is also worth considering that candidates for high office in all advanced nations have relationships with people in other countries. It’s not against the law per se to speak to people in Portugal, Singapore, Germany, Argentina, and a hundred other places, including, yes, Russia — which, by the way, is no longer a communist imperium bent on world domination, though Senator Chuck Schumer would like you to think so.
Then, on Wednesday, House Intelligence Committee chair Devin Nunes (R-Cal) told the news media that an “unnamed source” in the Intel community informed him that Trump had indeed been surveilled during the transition period following the election. Was he just blowing smoke up America’s ass? I guess we’ll have to stand by on that one.
So, the long and the short of it is that the RussiaGate story is spinning out of control, and Trump’s adversaries - who go well beyond Congress into the Deep State - might be getting enough leverage to dump Trump. Either they will maneuver him and his people into some kind of perjury rap, or they will tie up the government in such a web of investigative procedural rigmarole that all the country lawyers who ever snapped their galluses will never be able to unravel it.
While the nation remains entertained by all this, the Potemkin financial system will wobble, crash, and burn and the humiliation of Donald Trump will be complete. Abandoned by the Republican Party, isolated and crazed in the White House, tweeting out mad appeals to heaven, he’ll either voluntarily pass the baton to Mike Pence or he will be declared unfit to serve and removed under the 25th amendment.
The after-effects of that will be something to behold: a “lose-lose” for both old-line political parties. The Trumpists will never forgive the Republican Party, and the Democrats will have gained nothing. Don’t let the door bang you on the butt on your way out.