So much has happened with the Trump presidency since he gave his address to Congress back on March 28, but I think one event is most important to remember: Trump’s claim that President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower.
It is such a typical Trump move. As James Homann of the Washington Post puts it: — “Whenever he is under fire for something in a sustained way, he makes a shocking claim or provocative declaration about something else to change the subject. He is a master practitioner at the politics of distraction.” It has worked wonderfully for him, so he’s at it again.
Trump was angered by the bad press he was getting because Attorney General Jeff Sessions failed to tell the truth in a confirmation hearing, thus stealing the joy Trump was feeling from generally positive reviews for his acting like a “normal” president (yes, that was basically the high light) in that address to Congress. So early Friday morning he tweeted out that charge against Obama. Later he went off to play golf while the press corps went into a frenzy. Now that is power.
There are now several more subjects to attract press attention, but I hope they don’t let this baseless accusation by Trump get lost in the shuffle of the never ending, outrageous statements by the president, as has been the case throughout his campaign and the presidency. The word is Trump was in a good mood Sunday because the talk shows dissected the wire tapping charge and not Jeff Session’s actions.
This fits into a broader battle of narratives. The Democrats, and some Republicans like John McCain and Lindsay Graham, have focused on Russian involvement in the election including ties to some of Trump’s people. In response Fox News and the (even?) more reactionary media have been concocting a theory of a “deep state” of Obama people still in the administration looking to undermine the Trump presidency . The sudden dismissal of 46 Obama appointed federal prosecutors yesterday fits that line of thought.
On the night before his momentous tweet, Trump was on Sean Hannity’s show on Fox and Hannity was espousing this “deep state” theory of Obama’s tentacles. Perhaps Trump got his idea from that or from a piece or segment in the Alt-right Media or adviser Steve Bannon. In any case that’s all it took for him to go with it. The wire tap charge is a useful distraction while also well aligned with the right wing narrative.
The problem for Trump is that he has no evidence. While he has overcome that deficit often, the stakes are higher here and there is more information to refute him. As president, Trump has access to any information he wants, but he avoids asking for it because it doesn’t back up his lie. He won’t even call FBI Director Comey, and a couple other intelligence chiefs, who could tell him if there were any wire taps because they require a court order. He won’t call because they would tell him he was wrong.
You can tell this is all one big lie because his surrogates have trouble defending his claim of evidence and even a few in Congress imply that the emperor has no clothes.
To skirt further scrutiny the Trump bunch has tossed this hot potato to Congress to investigate, hoping it will just disappear. A few Republican senators, like John McCain, have failed to play along. McCain’s response: “If there is no basis for it, there’s no reason to hold an investigation.” And the Trump team hasn’t provided a basis.
Unfortunately, most Republican lawmakers lack McCain’s character. While few actually support Trump’s contention to any degree, they don’t bash it, either, as they want a united front to pass legislation, so they can live with Trump’s wild tweets, as if he was that tedious, drunken uncle that all abide at Thanksgiving.
This is the devil’s pact the Republicans in Congress have made with the president, hoping he can help them get legislation they want passed without totally shredding their own credibility and sense of integrity in the process. Ethically speaking, I imagine for some of them the hoped for ends justify the means. I think that some will be sorry.
They don’t seem to realize that Trump is now undermining the credibility of the presidency as he has worked at delegitimizing most other institutions that frame our democracy. So far, the present Republican controlled Congress has been spared, but I doubt that romance will last.
I will keep tracking this particular issue, hoping to heaven it stays alive…………………
P.S. – The issue I’ve discussed above can be looked at in much greater depth by reading this piece in the Washington Post (Daily 202) by James Hohmann with Breanne Deppisch. They break down the period around the tweet and fit this latest and greatest lie in a pattern of distractions that have served him so well. The writers raise hopes, though, concluding with ways in which this act might come back to bite Trump.
The article is long but you can skim parts and I think the overall picture it portrays is worth the journey.