Commentary

Trump ‘conspiracy of dunces’ comes into sharper focus

This morning’s lead editorial in the Charlotte Observer, “Donald Trump, Jr. provides a smoking gun,” is exactly right when it describes the latest developments in the absurd Trump saga this way:

“The president’s son released emails Tuesday (seemingly in an effort to undercut a pending release by The New York Times) that show he met with a Russian lawyer who he believed would provide damaging information about Hillary Clinton ‘as part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.’ Those emails show explicitly that the Trump campaign at the highest levels – Trump Jr., top White House adviser Jared Kushner, former campaign manager Paul Manafort – knowingly tried to collude with the Russian government. That’s why July 11, 2017, will not soon be forgotten.

Before Tuesday, supporters of President Trump could make a plausible case that even if Russia interfered in our elections, as top intelligence officials have said happened, the Trump camp didn’t know and shouldn’t be blamed.

Screaming by the president and his supporters about ‘liberal media’ and ‘fake news’ every time news they didn’t like surfaced has never been credible. Such a defense is even more specious now. Maybe that’s why some of the president’s supporters have taken the unseemly step of trying to downplay actual evidence of potential collusion with a foreign power.

Multiple denials by Trump campaign officials about questionable contacts with Russia have turned out to be false, including those by Vice President Mike Pence and current Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The president has frequently called investigations about Russia a witch hunt. But after these revelations, it’s imperative we find out how deep and how effective were the efforts by Trump’s associates to help Russia undermine our democracy.”

Meanwhile, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat (a reluctant Trump defender for some time) describes the state of things this way in “A Conspiracy of Dunces”:

“So while this is not direct evidence that the president of the United States was complicit in a virtual burglary perpetrated against the other party during an election season, it’s strong evidence that we should drop the presumption that such collusion is an extreme or implausible scenario….

In the end, impeachment is political, not legal, and the House G.O.P. probably won’t impeach for anything short of a transcript of a call between Trump and Putin in which the words “yes, I want you to hack their servers big-league, Vladimir” appear in black-and-white. And even then ….

But right now, the 2018 congressional elections promise to be a de facto referendum on impeachment. There are enough sparks in the smoke; there will probably be fire for some of Trump’s intimates before another year is out.

And as for the president himself — well, to conclude where I began, anyone presuming his innocence at this point should have all the confidence of Chris Christie awaiting his cabinet appointment, or Sean Spicer reading over the day’s talking points. Keep an eye on that Trump-monogrammed rug under your feet; it may not be there for long.”

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