The worst part of all this

It’s really pretty bad to have major officials from the president’s campaign being indicted.  It’s really bad that it sure looks like the Trump campaign was actively seeking helping from the Russian government to win the election.  Of course, there’s no proof yet, but there’s an awful lot of suggestive evidence.  Ezra Klein lays out 7 facts (with plenty of details at the link):

1) Russia stole Democratic emails…

2) At least one Trump adviser knew of the theft in advance, and lied about it…

3) Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager, was a paid operative of a Russia-linked political party in Ukraine…

4) In June 2016, Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort met with a Russian operative who promised them dirt on Clinton…

5) In July 2016, Trump publicly asked the Russian government to find and release other emails Clinton deleted…

6) Russians released emails to help Trump, planted fake news and social media bots to help Trump, and tried to hack election systems in 21 states…

7) After being elected president, Donald Trump fired the director of the FBI to end his investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election.

So, no “fire” but so much damn smoke it’s getting a little hard to breathe.  But that’s not what has be rather upset and concerned.  It is the massive abdication of any responsibility to the Constitution and this nation on the part of leading Republicans; choosing instead to take the narrow, short-term interest of supporting their evidently unfit, and almost surely, corrupt, president.

Seth Masket:

The response to the Mueller announcement from the right—from the White House to its allies in the media—has been an array of misinformation, distraction, and outright lying…

[examples aplenty]

To add to this, the Wall Street Journal ran an op-ed by David Rivkin and Lee Caseyurging Trump to pardon everyone involved in the Russia collusion investigation (along with various fictitious scandals) in an effort to end the criminalization of politics. All this came before the indictments were even handed down.

Then on Monday morning, after the indictments of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates (both of whom have pleaded not guilty), and news of a plea deal with George Papadopoulos, the White House responded by saying that the former campaign manager had nothing to do with the Trump administration. Meanwhile, Fox Newsoffered detailed coverage of cheeseburger emojis and Halloween candy.

What’s going on here goes well beyond spin. This is an attempt to construct an alternate universe for supporters of the president and viewers of Fox News. It is a universe where, surrounded by would-be enemies, Trump is exempt from the law, and Clinton is the source of all electoral evils. [emphases mine] All of the above examples illustrate how this sham universe responds to an ongoing criminal investigation of the president of the United States and his associates by a special counsel appointed by the Department of Justice. This is about as serious as government work gets, being performed by a lifelong Republican and former Federal Bureau of Investigation director with sterling credentials, and it’s being undermined, ignored, and distorted by the White House…

This is where the crisis lies. People are used to pundits and politicians creating their own narratives. But these folks are peddling complete fiction—that nearly half the country insists on believing, at the expense of empirical facts dug up by investigators and journalists. We are at a point where objectivity is meaningless, where institutions are no longer trusted, and where truth is whatever comes out of the mouths of those in power.

It should be noted that the Constitution is actually functioning reasonably well. The ability of the government to investigate itself, as manifested in the special counsel, is an important check on government lawlessness and abuse of power. But if Trump and his allies have so tarnished that check, if it is simply to be disbelieved because it is investigating the president, then a constitutional crisis, whether we’re experiencing one or not, is beside the point.

And Ezra again:

magine, for a moment, that the president in question was not Donald Trump but Hillary Clinton — that it was her campaign chair who had been indicted, that it was her foreign policy adviser who had revealed that he knew of Russia’s stolen email cache in advance. Does anyone believe Ryan and McConnell would be so reticent then?

Ryan and McConnell would have you believe they are mounting a courageous defense of Congress’s priorities in the face of Trump and the media’s distractions — indeed, Ryan framed his comments around precisely that excuse, promising that nothing would “derail what we’re doing in Congress.”

But these near-daily acts of cowardice and silence are an abdication of Congress’s role, not an affirmation of it. The Founding Fathers carried a mistrust of the popular will; they understood full well that the American people might, at some point, elect a demagogue or a knave to the White House, and so they built countervailing institutions capable of binding an errant executive. Congress wasn’t meant to ignore a rogue, lawless, or indisciplined White House — it was meant to overwhelm it, to contain it…

But that check is failing today. Ambition is enabling ambition — Ryan and McConnell’s ambition to pass tax cuts and hold the Republican base is enabling Trump’s ambition to act without proper oversight or sanction. And while Congress has plenty of authority, its leaders are too personally skittish to use it, or even signal that they might use it in the future.

And, finally, a Vox interview with former right-wing talk-radio guy, turned sane person, Charlie Sykes, on how the right-wing echo chamber helps all this happen:

Sean Illing

Is it about getting people to believe things that aren’t true, or is it about overwhelming the conversation with bullshit in order to distract from what’s actually happening?

Charlie Sykes

That’s a really good question. The essence of propaganda is not necessarily to convince you of a certain set of facts. It is to overwhelm your critical sensibilities. It’s to make you doubt the existence of a knowable truth. The conservative media is a giant fog machine designed to confuse and disorient people.

Which, from Trump’s point of view, is a win…

Sean Illing

In the safe space that is conservative media, it kind of didn’t happen, right?

Charlie Sykes

Many Trump voters get virtually all of their information from inside the bubble. I mean, there was a time when you would get the conservative point of view, but it was a counterpoint to what you heard elsewhere. Now the conservative media has become a safe space for people who want to be told that they don’t have to believe anything that’s uncomfortable or negative. A safe space where they’re convinced that Hillary Clinton is the real criminal, that the Clinton scandals are what we really ought to be following.

What’s remarkable, and what I’ve never seen before, is the way that Trump sends out the dog-whistle signals to the media, which picks up themes with almost Pavlovian enthusiasm. He’ll tweet out, “The real scandal is Hillary,” and suddenly you’ll see it explode across conservative media, starting with Fox News, but other outlets as well.

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