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?
(note: Gallup didn't begin polling until about 70 years after Lincoln's assassination)
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).
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.