Those who think that Russia-gate is a witch-hunt or a hoax that will run out of gas need to think again. As we are about to see with the live coverage of former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony, this is an opportunity for the media to have enormous fun, generate ratings, and make money bashing another Republican president.
I went back in time for a juicy quote from The Washington Post’s Ben Bradlee, a Democratic Party insider who commented during his paper’s coverage of the Reagan administration’s Iran-Contra affair that “This is the most fun we’ve had since Watergate.” Bradlee saw the controversy as a way to bring down another Republican president. It worked with Watergate, which brought down Richard Nixon. It didn’t work in Reagan’s case.
But can they bring down Trump? The odds look good.
In an article headlined, “What Mueller’s NFL probe means for Trump,” the publication Politico suggests that Trump may save his presidency because the Russia-gate special counsel Robert Mueller will narrowly focus the probe, as he did with the NFL inquiry, and come to a “predetermined” conclusion. The article notes that Mueller let NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell off the hook in an investigation of what the league knew about a domestic violence case involving a player.
But the NFL probe is not how Mueller should be judged. As we have argued in two separate articles, Mueller’s mishandling of the anthrax letters case is more appropriate. Mueller dragged this case out for years and in the end got the wrong guy. Nobody in the media wants to talk about this because they know coverage of Mueller’s botched investigation will infuriate the former FBI director and serve to dry up sources in the special counsel’s office.
The fact that Mueller is, in effect, investigating the conduct of another FBI director, James Comey, is another significant factor. Mueller and Comey are best friends. They will protect each other. Comey did not reopen the anthrax investigation in order to get to the bottom of Mueller’s incompetence, and Mueller will not hold Comey responsible for targeting Trump by using the phony “Trump Dossier” filled with Russian disinformation. Hence, they both have reasons to go after Trump. They are a tag team against the President.
In the face of this assault, Trump has made another key mistake. He has reportedly vetoed the idea of a “War Room” with veteran operatives to take on the mushrooming investigation. Former Trump deputy campaign manager David Bossie was said to be in the running to join the West Wing in a senior position to counter the “most fun since Watergate” mentality gripping the media in Russia-gate.
In our column, “Why David Bossie Scares the Clintons,” written during the 2016 campaign, we noted that the veteran conservative operative had “the inside story about Clinton corruption” and was perfectly positioned to help Trump win the presidency. That’s why the liberal media hated and feared him. He could have helped the Trump administration weather the Russia-gate storm and turn the tables on Mueller. But that is apparently not to be.
One way to counter the Mueller probe is to discredit Mueller, using the facts about his terrible treatment of a series of American scientists in the anthrax case. In the end, the FBI paid off one scientist, to the tune of millions of dollars in damages, and drove another to his death. Meanwhile, the al-Qaeda operatives who carried out the attacks got away. That Mueller could survive this debacle with a sterling reputation is evidence of the corruption in the Washington, D.C. swamp.
Trump is reportedly angry that his Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself in Russia-gate, and that Department of Justice official Rod Rosenstein picked Mueller to continue and expand the probe. That set current events in motion, along with Comey’s live testimony to be carried by cable and broadcast networks. It will only get worse. After all, journalists like to have fun bashing Republican presidents. The sharks smell blood in the water and want to go in for the kill. Forcing Trump from office would, in their minds, restore their prominence in the media landscape.
The legal case is not the issue. It doesn’t matter whether Comey accuses Trump of obstruction of justice, a criminal offense. What matters is the perception of wrongdoing, fed by the Watergate-style coverage, and whether Trump has the personnel, resources and supporters on Capitol Hill to fight back. At this point, it looks like the President is essentially alone, armed only with his Twitter account. His White House press office has become a running joke that only feeds the frenzied reporters.
The left is so excited that Marjorie Cohn, professor emerita at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, is calling for Trump’s impeachment because he pulled the U.S. out of President Obama’s unratified Paris climate change agreement. This nonsensical demand demonstrates the mania that is driving the opponents of Trump in academia, as well as in the media. They sense that they have Trump on the ropes. Nothing is too outrageous to throw at him.
Against this onslaught, Republicans on Capitol Hill are playing along with the drama, in order to get facetime on the television programs. The incentive for most of them will be to dump Trump.
If he is forced out of office, with the encouragement of cowardly Republican politicians, he would be able to continue to Tweet freely about the witch hunt and the hoax that ruined his presidency. By then, however, most people wouldn’t be paying much attention. Then the question would turn to what President Mike Pence knew and when did he know it.