Morning Briefing: This Week Is Going to Be an Insane Roller-Coaster of a Shitshow
There’s some truly terrifying shit in the works right now. I am not being hyperbolic. The President is playing a game of chicken, but he’s driving an 18-wheeler and he’s heading straight into a Prius carrying the entire American population, and he doesn’t give a shit.
Let me just catch you up on the weekend’s drama: As we wrote about last week, Trump asserted — based on no evidence — that President Obama embedded a spy within his campaign. This was entirely based on some bullshit statement a Fox News personality said, based on no evidence. Rudy Giuliani doubled down on that statement before backtracking and saying, “Well, we don’t actually know if that is true.”
Two days ago, the NYTimes tried to clarify exactly what happened: The FBI used an informant — an academic who had previously worked with other GOP administrations — in an effort to find out whether Carter Page and George Papadopoulos were colluding with the Russians. There was nothing illegal about this, or politically motivated, and the FBI only opened up an investigation against the Trump campaign after learning that Papadopoulos was told that Russia had thousands of Clinton’s emails.
Basically, this is the Obama wiretap all over again. It’s not about whether the FBI did anything illegal; it’s about undermining the investigation into collusion, and of course, the conservative media is buying right into it, while Trump proclaims it’s the all-time biggest political scandal ever, even bigger than Watergate (though it is unclear if Trump actually understands Watergate).
I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes - and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 20, 2018
Basically, Trump is asking that the DOJ conduct an investigation into the matter, although that’s not really what’s going on. He’s trying to out the informant, which is like 20 times worse than the Valerie Plame situation. The FBI director, Christopher Wray, in fact, has said that he would resign before revealing the name of an informant. Meanwhile, Trump believed maybe he could force Rod Rosenstein into resigning before opening up an investigation into the DOJ.
But Rosenstein, in an effort to diffuse the situation and mollify Trump, referred the case to the Inspector General. “If anyone did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes, we need to know about it and take appropriate action,” Rosenstein said.
So, basically, Trump has forced a political investigation into whether there was a political investigation into his campaign (there was not). Matthew Miller sums this up, appropriately:
When you add it all up, today Trump demanded a counter-investigation into the legitimate, lawfully-predicated DOJ probe of his campaign, based on no evidence of wrongdoing, solely to undermine the special counsel - and he got it. The system is failing.— Matthew Miller (@matthewamiller) May 21, 2018
And if you’re wondering what Kellyanne’s husband is retweeting, here you go:
Benjamin Wittes also weighs in: “This is a nakedly corrupt attempt on the part of the president to discredit and derail an investigation of himself at the expense of a human intelligence source to whose protection the FBI and DOJ are committed.”
This is all about eroding America’s faith in the intelligence community, as the FBI continues to build what looks increasingly like collusion. I mean, look at what is happening: Roger Stone, as he told Meet the Press, is bracing for an indictment:
BREAKING: Republican lobbyist just told me that Trump and his White House are “bracing” for indictments of Americans prob for conspiring against US & fraud. Likely to include Roger Stone, Sam Clovis, and more charges against Paul Manafort. Maybe Kushner and Don Jr. #TrumpColluded— Scott Dworkin (@funder) May 20, 2018
Michael Cohen, meanwhile, is almost certainly facing prison, while there is evidence not only that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians, but with Saudi Arabia, too, and that Trump’s actions in Qatar relate to the relationship Trump developed with Saudi Arabia during the campaign.
“Three months before the 2016 election, a small group gathered at Trump Tower to meet with Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son. One was an Israeli specialist in social media manipulation. Another was an emissary for two wealthy Arab princes [of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates]. The third was a Republican donor [Erik Prince] with a controversial past in the Middle East as a private security contractor. The meeting was convened primarily to offer help to the Trump team, and it forged relationships between the men and Trump insiders that would develop over the coming months — past the election and well into President Trump’s first year in office, according to several people with knowledge of their encounters.”
Trump’s surprising decision last summer to align himself with the Saudis over Qatar, a US ally, looks a little different in light of today’s NYT bombshell about SA & UAE offering help to his campaign.https://t.co/D0sr5ALtSP— Eli Stokols (@EliStokols) May 19, 2018
Meanwhile, Guiliani is telling everyone that Mueller told him that the special counsel intends to complete their investigation into Trump collusion by September 1st, although there is no reason to believe Giuliani.
A source familiar with the probe called the Sept. 1 deadline (asserted by Giuliani) “entirely made-up" and "another apparent effort to pressure the special counsel to hasten the end of his work." https://t.co/uy9kkgfoGV— Jonathan Landay (@JonathanLanday) May 20, 2018
With all of this going on, the Republicans are staying completely silent, too terrified of what will happen in November to take a position. In fact, there’s chaos in the House, where the GOP may be making an effort to overthrow Paul Ryan as speaker before his retirement. There’s also a shitshow going on in Israel and Iran, Trump is getting his ass kicked in the trade war with China, and Trump is now considering pulling out of the summit with North Korea in order to avoid political embarrassment.
“Trump may be preparing for the wrong game: a two-player round of checkers when Kim is steeling for a multiplayer two-board chess match,” writes Michael Green, a professor at Georgetown University and a leading expert on Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Meanwhile, a year and a half into his Presidency, Trump still can’t stop his obsession with Obama.
The Wall Street Journal asks, “WHERE IN THE WORLD WAS BARACK OBAMA?” A very good question!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 21, 2018
It’s going to be a roller-coaster of a week, and Trump may believe that the Friday before Memorial Day will be the best time to make a big move.