The Republicans are determined to protect Trump
The White House likes to push the stories going into the weekend, usually through Trump's tweets, but this weekend the only news is coming from the pages of Fire and Fury. For his part, Trump tried to put on his best presidential demeanor before being shuttled by helicopter to Camp David, where he said he would discuss his agenda with ranking Congressional Republicans. He left a list of demands for Democrats, if they want to save the DACA program. Not surprisingly, Democratic leaders see these demands as a non-starter.
Just the same, CNN devoted virtually its entire programming last night to the book's many allegations, trying to walk a thin line down the middle, in which journalists questioned the veracity of some of Wolff's claims, while giving credence to others. The talk show panels broke down the way you would expect, with condemnation from conservative pundits and modest praise from liberal pundits.
No one seems to know quite what to make of Michael Wolff. Maybe it is as Joan Didion writes, "my only advantage as a reporter is that I am so physically small, so temperamentally unobtrusive, and so neurotically inarticulate that people tend to forget that my presence runs counter to their best interests. And it always does. That is one last thing to remember: writers are always selling somebody out."
Basically, Wolff made himself a fly on the wall during the most chaotic period of the Trump administration. The reaction to his book is similar to the time Buzzfeed chose to present the infamous "Trump dossier" in its entirety, which many mainstream news outlets, including CNN, condemned. That dossier hasn't gone away, and now Senate Republicans want to file charges against Christopher Steele, purportedly for presenting false information. I suppose charges will come against Wolff as well, once Lindsey Antebellem and Chuck "Snake in the Grass" Grassley have had a chance to review his book. Yet, Wolff claims to be able to verify everything he wrote, including his conversations with Trump.
This attempt by Republicans to bury the lurid stories surrounding Trump and his White House is even more amusing than Trump's attempt to be "presidential." There was no allegation against Hillary Clinton, no matter how absurd, they didn't consider while launching investigation after investigation into her role in Benghazi and her infamous e-mail scandal. It's still not over, as the FBI reopened the investigation into the Clinton Foundation, the so-called "pay to play" scandal.
You really have to wonder what is it the Republicans are trying to hide, given their overwhelming need to protect Trump? Bannon described it as sitting on the beach with a category 5 hurricane on the horizon.
It doesn't matter that Trump has shit on virtually all Republican Congresspersons, including Lindsey Antebellum, yet they continue to pay deference to him. Even those that have challenged him in public, pretty much go along with his agenda in Congress. One can only hope that Mueller's probe goes right into the bowels of Congress, as it is hard to imagine at this point that Congressional Republicans weren't involved in the Russian hacking of the 2016 election. Everything they do appears designed to cover their collective ass.
Wolff states in his book that Trump never expected to win the election, nor did it seem Russia. What Putin wanted was to damage Hillary Clinton, making it more difficult for her to address key foreign issues like Syria. Republicans were ready to pounce on Hillary as soon as she came into office, but now here they are having do deal with the freewheeling Donald Trump.
Russian media could have never gained such widespread access into the American market had not many American outlets played along, namely Fox and Breitbart. But, the RNC also stood to gain, as so many of these Hillary "hit pieces" were targeted at key states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. At the head of the RNC was Reince Priebus, who hails from Wisconsin, as does Paul Ryan, the House Speaker. They have a well-hewn political machine in that state, which helped turn the state to Trump despite having gone overwhelmingly for Democratic Presidential candidates since 1988. Even Michael Dukakis won Wisconsin. Obama won by 200,000 votes in 2012. So how did this state change virtually overnight?
This is what Congress should be investigating. Instead, Republican leaders go out of their way to put the Russian hacking stories behind them, making you wonder how much Ryan and Priebus might have been involved in the hacking, given how close the race was in their home state.
Michigan and Pennsylvania are a bit more murky, but these states have also been reliably Democratic since 1992, voting for Bill Clinton both times. Obama had an even greater margin of victory in Michigan (400,000 votes) and in Pennsylvania (310,000 votes) than he did Wisconsin in 2012. So, again what changed in these states, especially since turnout was even higher in 2016 than it was in 2012, which should have favored Hillary.
I think there is a lot to Wolff's claim that the Trump campaign never expected to win. They just wanted to make it close enough so that they could point to a few states as their reason for losing, and hope to undermine Hillary's legitimacy afterward, much like how the Republicans used Obama's birth certificate to try to undermine his legitimacy.
But, a funny thing happened -- Trump won -- and now the GOP scrambles to hide the reasons why. I think just about everyone was surprised by this huge electoral upset, including the Kremlin, which had to rethink the way it was going to deal with Washington.
Wolff's book is just the beginning. He went after the tawdry domestic side of the White House. I expect more books in the coming year that try to answer the many questions that surround Trump's unexpected presidency, as Mueller seems to be taking his time to build his case against the Trump campaign.
Sadly, the damage has been done. Unless Mueller's probe reveals widespread complicity throughout the Republican Party, we will be saddled with Pence or Ryan or even Tillerson as President, depending on how many persons were involved. More likely we are stuck with Trump for the duration, as Mueller simply is unable to find a direct link to the top. After all, Reagan escaped the many probes surrounding the notorious Iran-Contra Affair, with Ollie North and others taking the fall.
The only saving grace is that it looks like the Republicans will lose "bigly" in the midterm elections, which will render Donald Trump virtually impotent in the White House. If anything is being discussed at Camp David, it is how do they reverse this perfect shit storm that is headed their way. They have until November to try to shift this storm onto the Democrats.