The official spin from the White House, dutifully repeated by all of President Donald Trump’s Republican enablers, is that Kremlingate is a big nothingburger. Russian interference in the U.S. election? Possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin? Nothing to see here. Move on. Or as White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Fox News Tuesday night after the shocking dismissal of FBI Director James Comey: “I think the bigger point on that is, my gosh Tucker, when are they going to let that go? It’s been going on for nearly a year. Frankly, it’s kind of getting absurd. There’s nothing there. We’ve heard that time and time again. We heard that in the testimonies earlier this week. We’ve heard it for the last 11 months. There is no ‘there’ there.”
Unfortunately for the White House, this air of nonchalance is belied by a man who is in a far better position than a deputy press secretary to know what actually transpired during last year’s campaign. President Trump has consistently acted like a man with something to hide. Whenever the pressure from Kremlingate has grown too strong, he has lashed out in ways that are erratic and counterproductive.
Recall, for example, what happened after Attorney General Jeff Sessions admitted to lying to Congress about his meetings with the Russian ambassador and recused himself from the Kremlingate investigation. Trump must have figured that this would be a big blow because he would no longer have his hand-picked attorney general quashing the probe. That occurred on March 2. Two days later, Trump sent out his infamous tweets alleging: “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”
This completely unfounded allegation — followed soon thereafter by bizarre claims that Britain’s GCHQ spy agency had done the wiretapping and then that Obama’s national security advisor, Susan Rice, had illegally “unmasked” the names of Trump aides in surveillance transcripts — served its purpose: It distracted attention from the real issue, which are the links, if any, between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. But by now, more than two months later, these faux scandals were starting to disappear from view, and Trump was left with the realization that he could not simply wish the real scandal — Kremlingate — away.
In recent weeks we have learned, inter alia, that a federal grand jury was investigating Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security advisor, who had not disclosed payments he had received from Turkey and Russia and who lied about his conversations with the Russian ambassador; that the FBI had obtained a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant to monitor Trump campaign advisor Carter Page, which means he was suspected of being a Russian agent; and that Trump’s onetime campaign manager, Paul Manafort, received millions of dollars from a Russian oligarch close…