Trump’s handlers would lead you to believe that his weekend golf outings provide an opportunity for Trump to relax and momentarily escape the stresses of the presidency. Well, here’s a sampling of his tweets from the weekend. Does this look like a man basking in tranquility?
Wow, highest Poll Numbers in the history of the Republican Party. That includes Honest Abe Lincoln and Ronald Reagan. There must be something wrong, please recheck that poll!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 29, 2018
(note: Gallup didn't begin polling until about 70 years after Lincoln's assassination)
Had a very good and interesting meeting at the White House with A.G. Sulzberger, Publisher of the New York Times. Spent much time talking about the vast amounts of Fake News being put out by the media & how that Fake News has morphed into phrase, “Enemy of the People.” Sad!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 29, 2018
...accurately. 90% of media coverage of my Administration is negative, despite the tremendously positive results we are achieving, it's no surprise that confidence in the media is at an all time low! I will not allow our great country to be sold out by anti-Trump haters in the…— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 29, 2018
...and the Amazon Washington Post do nothing but write bad stories even on very positive achievements – and they will never change!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 29, 2018
There is No Collusion! The Robert Mueller Rigged Witch Hunt, headed now by 17 (increased from 13, including an Obama White House lawyer) Angry Democrats, was started by a fraudulent Dossier, paid for by Crooked Hillary and the DNC. Therefore, the Witch Hunt is an illegal Scam!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 29, 2018
Is Robert Mueller ever going to release his conflicts of interest with respect to President Trump, including the fact that we had a very nasty & contentious business relationship, I turned him down to head the FBI (one day before appointment as S.C.) & Comey is his close friend..— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 29, 2018
....Also, why is Mueller only appointing Angry Dems, some of whom have worked for Crooked Hillary, others, including himself, have worked for Obama….And why isn't Mueller looking at all of the criminal activity & real Russian Collusion on the Democrats side-Podesta, Dossier?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 29, 2018
Rudy Giuliani took it up a notch this morning, going full-galaxy brain—not even bothering to defend his client's innocence—and instead asserting that collusion is not a crime (collusion is not, but conspiracy is).
GIULIANI argues *collusion is not a crime*: "I don't even know if that's a crime — colluding with Russians. Hacking is the crime. The president didn't hack! He didn't pay for the hacking." pic.twitter.com/QMenE1qzxx— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) July 30, 2018
If you follow the logic from the beginning of this saga, it went from “nothing happened and this is all a witch hunt” to “collusion is not a crime, and it's actually good.” In fact, this talking point is beginning to make its way into MAGA media, and frankly, I'd be shocked if it wasn't already an article of faith amongst Republicans that colluding with foreign powers is a good thing if it means beating a Democrat. Throughout my entire life (31 years), the Republican Party has asserted nonstop that there is no greater threat to liberty than American liberalism, so conspiring with an adversarial regime who inflames white supremacy across the Western world is actually a pretty logical position for a party centered around white men's grievances.
In fact, a desire to be more like Putin's kleptocratic regime than liberals' vision for America was likely baked into the GOP before the Russia scandal really erupted. President Obama's last approval rating amongst Republicans in January 2017 was 14%. In February 2017, Gallup found that 22% of Republicans had a favorable view of Russia's despotic ruler. Given the cult that is the GOP—especially under Trump (if you have an issue with my use of the word “cult,” take it up with Republican Senator Bob Corker)—asserting that they needed to “collude” with Russia to beat Hillary Clinton should be a fairly popular and compelling argument with the GOP base.
This is only going to get worse, folks. Rudy Giuliani's unhinged appearances on TV reinforce the nervous narrative coming from @realDonaldTrump (who will inevitably be used as an expert witness against real Donald Trump). The goalposts have been moved by a magnitude of several football fields by now, and there's no end in sight. If Trump truly was 100% innocent, he wouldn't be trying to discredit a Republican former FBI Director (who was appointed by a Republican) as the orchestrator of a “Democratic witch hunt!” People who have nothing to hide have every incentive in the world to cooperate with our heavy-handed justice system.
Trump's former fixer, Michael Cohen, is the perfect example of this reality. According to Axios's Jonathan Swan, Cohen “knows where like maybe 20 bodies are buried, but there's probably, however many more.” As soon as the FBI raided Cohen's entire life this past April, he changed his tune from “I will take a bullet for Trump” to “my loyalty is to America.” This undoubtedly spooked Trump, but an even bigger concern for him is the fact that the Chief Financial Officer of the Trump Organization (which is currently being sued by New York state for fraud) was subpoenaed to testify in Michael Cohen's probe.
So to summarize where we stand: Robert Mueller and the Southern District of New York are hot on the financial paper trail of Trump and the slush fund that is the Trump Organization. Former campaign manager Paul Manafort's trial begins this week. Manafort's deputy, Richard Gates, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, is now cooperating, and will be brought as a government witness against Manafort. Michael Flynn, Trump's former National Security Adviser, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador, Sergei Kysliak. Don Jr.'s “I love crime with the Crown Prosecutor of Russia” e-mails resonate more and more each day.
Now, Rudy Giuliani, the only lawyer dumb enough to represent an undisciplined screech who doesn’t pay his workers, is asserting that “collusion is not a crime” and that Trump “didn’t pay for the hacking” (the latter of which feels like an admission that should be stored away for future reference—remember Peter W. Smith, the GOP operative who said he was working for Michael Flynn when he reached out to Kremlin hackers looking for Hillary’s e-mails?) When you stack up the Mount Everest-sized pile of circumstantial evidence around this Russia mess, it makes all the sense in the world why Trump would be freaking out over an investigation into how his universe really works. Trump has been a crook his entire professional life, and it almost certainly did not stop when he ran for president.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.