Aram BAKSHIAN JR.
The most convincing indication of the flimsy results of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged connivance between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and the Russian government can be found in the morning-after, front-page headline of the Washington Post:
3 Trump campaign officials charged
Even in the version touted by the New York Times, what Manafort is charged with is laundering “millions of dollars through overseas shell companies—using the money to buy luxury cars, real estate, antique rugs and expensive clothes.” Such behavior, if true, would indicate that Manafort has, indeed, maintained questionable habits. But none of it—no matter how many bucks he laundered to dodge taxes or how many designer suits and oriental rugs he splurged on with his ill-gotten gains—can even remotely be argued at be an attempt to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election on behalf of Russia. Ditto with his sidekick, Gates.
All we do know about the Papadopoulos minor is that he seems to have struggled to hitch his wagon to the Trump candidacy and was a one-line signatory on hastily cobbled together list of foreign-policy “experts” endorsing the Donald’s run for the nomination. His feverish efforts to broker meetings between dubious Russian sources and campaign leadership were repeatedly dismissed. What Papadopoulos was charged with—and subsequently pleaded guilty to—was lying to investigators about his repeated, self-promoting attempts to become a serious player in the campaign, mainly by claiming to have access to Russian “sources” eager to spill the beans on Hillary Clinton. The sources themselves have since been unmasked as bogus and there is no evidence that they ever had any input—much less acted in collusion with—anyone in authority in the official Trump campaign.
So, at this point, what do we have? Two Washington wheeler-dealers who did, indeed, play official—though relatively brief—roles in the Trump campaign who now face charges that have nothing to do with their campaign roles or any campaign-related activities. Add to that one fringe wannabee who desperately tried to become a major player in the campaign, dangled spurious claims of access to high-level Russian sources as an entry ploy, and was repeatedly fobbed off by the campaign. Caught up in his own lies, Papadopoulos ultimately pleaded guilty—and not because his efforts had any impact on the campaign, but because he was caught lying to the FBI about his activity.
The best response to these developments would have been a calm, cool and measured rejoinder from the White House Press office, which was, indeed, forthcoming. Hours later, however, while much of the world slept, tiny fingers were all a-twitter in the White House family quarters. In characteristically bombastic terms (“The Fake News is working overtime”), the Tweeter-in-Chief weighed in personally, as is his wont.
While I don’t particularly admire his atrabilious style, it often seems to work. Perhaps the best thing Donald Trump has going for him is the fact that the sometimes shrill, sloppy mini-comments he lobs into the debate tend to render his political and media attackers at least as shrill and sloppy. In fact, they often appear a lot more untargeted and hysterical than Trump himself.