And we can get confused too. Trump counted on confusion to get elected and perhaps counts on it now to keep the hounds at bay. But we can avoid getting dizzy if we sort out prior threads in this drama of "The Crumbling of Donald Trump And His Friends"
Act 1: "In Like Flynn and Out Too":
Keep your eyes on Michael Flynn. He's a key element throughout. Less than a month after taking the job of head of national security in January, Michael Flynn was fired by Trump, as you will recall. Ostensibly it was because Flynn had lied to Vice President Pence about phone calls with Russia's ambassador. This firing followed by several weeks a hasty visit to the White House by Sally Yates, then acting head of the Justice Department. She told the White House what the intelligence community knew about Flynn, including the phone calls with the Russians. Trump then inexplicably waited three weeks before firing Flynn.
Maybe Trump got another and bigger push in those three weeks from the intelligence services. After all, they weren't going to sit still for a Russian puppet being in the most security-sensitive job in the government. Throughout all that is going on now and shall follow, perhaps for the next two years, keep an eye on this basic factor: the intelligence services truly believe they are the guardians of America and will do anything — and I mean anything — to protect the country from what they consider a threat, including threats posed by an administration.
Meantime the wheels were already grinding slowly toward Congressional investigations, one by the House and one by the Senate, supposedly focusing on Russia's connections to Trump and his associates, the issue supposedly being: Had any of the Trump group cooperated with the Russians' successful intrusion into the 2016 election?
Act 2: Trump's Fatal Unforced Error:
To divert attention from the Russia issue, which was actually rather quiescent at this point, on March 4 Trump made the biggest mistake of his life. That Saturday morning he tweeted:
-----------"Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my 'wires tapped' in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!"--------
This is blatantly false on the face of it! It's been against the law since Nixon's abuses in spying on citizens and groups. But no one in the media has seemed able to explain that simple fact. Surveillance directed at an American citizen can be done only under a warrant from a court issued on the basis of probable cause, i.e. reason to believe that law-breaking is afoot. Absent such court order, any intelligence agent doing surveillance at the behest of a president or other superior is subject to criminal prosecution.
Nevertheless, Flynn had been caught talking to a Russian ambassador during the transition period, and their conversation was apparently about President Obama's newly-announced sanctions against Russia. He was caught either by being a target of a court-sanctioned warrant or had been picked up "incidentally" in a routine surveillance of a foreign ambassador. Either was a legal surveillance. But Trump's claim that he had been targeted personally by Obama meant that Trump, in his splendid ignorance of the laws governing surveillance, was effectively indicating a court had found probable cause to believe Trump was up to no good.
Act 3: "It All Blows Up"
Trump's bogus claim was likely intended as a smoke screen to divert attention from pursuit of the Russian issue, but instead it threw wood on the fire. To stir things up further, Trump repeatedly demanded Congress investigate his claim. In response the GOP-controlled House Intelligence Committee cranked things up and held a hearing on March 20, chaired by Rep. Devin Nunes, an active worker in Trump's election campaign. Supposedly it was a hearing on the whole issue of Russia's connection to Trump & Co. but it quickly became apparent that Nunes and other committee GOP wanted to focus solely on Trump's complaint.
Suddenly this initial — and possibly last — hearing by the House committee blew up in Nunes' face. Whereas he and his fellow GOP members kept trying to focus the hearing on the purported illegality of an Obama wire-tap of Trump, the head of the FBI, James Comey, said unequivocally there was no record of what Trump claimed.
Then came an even bigger bombshell from Comey: Trump and his campaign team had been under investigation since July, 2016. F.B.I. Is Investigating Trump's Russia Ties, Comey Confirms ...
Act 4: "Disappearing Into The Night"
Obviously worried sick, with the face of a man to be hung in the morning (we'll get back to Nunes face at a subsequent time), Nunes began a childish game of hide and seek over the next couple of days, even jumping out of an Uber car "to disappear into the night" as his car companion said, then turning up in some building on the White House grounds where he allegedly received "secret documents" from a "secret source not from the White House." He then allegedly delivered this secret information to Trump in the White House.
Next Nunes held a press conference and said the secret documents proved Trump had been wire-tapped. Except he soon changed his story to say it proved the Trump folks had been picked up "incidentally" in a wire-tap of someone else "not a Russian". He also changed his story about having documents, saying he didn't actually have documents. By now his face looked worse, like the hanging had been moved up by five hours.
This was the silliest scenario ever proposed in human memory. My three-year-olds could come up with more credible stuff than this. Obviously most of it was a lie.
(Because it's a disjointed fabrication with parts changing steadily, I'm not bothering you with a menu of cites to the Nunes cloak and dagger swagger and their different parts and conflicting versions. Instead watch the newstands for the comic book version.)
Act 5: The Lie Unravels. And So Does the House Committee.
Within a week The New York Times found out that Nunes' sources were in fact White House personnel. 2 White House Officials Helped Nunes View Secret Reports. They had been Flynn proteges, and when Flynn's successor had tried to dump one of them, Trump said no.
Why did Trump protect this Flynn protege. We don't know. Not yet. We also don't know why the James Bond boys at the White House gave Nunes documents ostensibly to deliver to Trump right there in the White House. Smacks of the document equivalent of "money-laundering". We also don't know how the White House expects the people of America to believe all this nonsense.
Washington D.C. and the rest of the world looked at Nunes, shook their collective heads, and dimissed him and his commmittee as no longer relevant. To put it kindly.
The action now moved to the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Act 6: The Grown Ups Are Here
Sen. Richard Burr, a GOP from North Carolina, and his second in command, Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia, now announced their committee was ready to roll. They emphasized that they are getting along great and that partisanship is no problem in their committee.
It actually wasn't a problem on the House committee either. The probem was that Nunes was Trump's errand boy. That's not a partisan problem of GOP v. Democrats. That's a problem of Nunes having no understanding of his job and losing all his credibility.
The Senators held their first Intelligence Committee hearing this week. And it was a doozie
Act 7:Another Bombshell: How Trump Helped the Russians Twist the 2016 Elections
In the Senate committe's first hearing we found out we have been blind fools. We have been looking through the wrong end of the telescope, waiting for techie or other expert explanation of how the Russians may have been assisted by Trump and Co. in messing with the 2016 election. We completely overlooked the obvious.
It was simple, as explained by intel expert Clint Watts at the Senate committee hearing: Trump on the stump or on Twitter is and has been a mouthpiece for Russian propaganda and misinformation. All through the campaign he broadcast Russian lies and "talking points" to crowds of thousands and to a huge TV audience. He was the Russian conduit, their megaphone. Showman that he is, he was a spectacular amplifier. In this role he helped the Russians enormously in sowing discord, instability and disruption in American politics. And the Russians helped him by providing the material.
Now we know "the how," but what about "the why" on Trump's side? Did he do it knowingly? Or did he just stumble across this "misinformation" the same way he stumbled into the fake news of rioting in Sweden. Was his aid to the Russians the product of his own gullible stupidity, his willingness to believe the shocking, the idiotic, the unproven.
Or did he know exactly what he was doing? Was he rewarded by the Russians for thus helping them?That's what the FBI investigation hopefully will reveal. It isn't against the law to be an idiot, but knowingly broadcasting the propaganda of a hostile government could be a serious offense. Taking remuneration to do so could be treason.
Also still unanswered: what else, if anything, did Trump and his campaign do cooperatively with the Russians to affect the election?
The media generally missed what a big bombshell this was, chiefly because they were still dazed and mesmerized by the Inspector Clouseau antics of Congressman Nunes. Nevertheless Thursday was a big step forward in understanding in part how Trump was a Russian minion.
Act 8: Yet Another Bombshell!
Holey Moley! The day hadn't ended before the next shoe hit the floor. On Thursday evening here comes Mr. Flynn again and with a flinty gleam in his eye, making noises like someone who wants to sell out a superior in exchange for immunity from prosecution. It has to be a superior, someone "higher up the food chain", as they say in Mafia circles, or else the prosecutor won't be interested in cutting a deal.
And who were his higher-ups in his recent White House days? There was only one person superior to him in the White House.
We can pick it up tomorrow, but for now that's enough.