There’s only one way out of the Russia probe for Donald Trump before he’s forced to quit

The President will come to rely on his and Murdoch’s time-honoured capacity for steering credulous minds into a parallel world of altered perceptions, where truth is falsehood and falsehood truth

Matthew Norman
Tuesday 31 October 2017 16:41
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Trump-Russia investigation: who has been charged in the Mueller probe

A day before the Russian Collusion Crisis took its most dramatic turn (so far), Donald Trump typed his most gratifying tweet (so far). What he typed, to be precise, was the most pleasing two-word phrase in Twitter history.

It offered such compelling reason for hope that it deserves recording with pedantic accuracy. At 7.17am (Eastern Standard Time) on Sunday, 29 October 2017, the 45th President obliquely referred to the charges against three election campaign team members made public the following day.

The phrase concluded a quartet of tweets of crescendoingly deranged hysteria in which the tangerine blowhard tried to deflect attention to long since debunked allegations about Hillary Clinton (those emails, flogging uranium to Russia).

In block capitals, he addressed it to no one, other perhaps than God. “DO SOMETHING!”

In a way (an odd way, admittedly), one admires the honesty. He didn’t mean to be honest, as if that needs saying. But his subconscious cut through the crap, and guided those tiny fingers to reveal how cornered, scared and despairing he feels. This was an almost animalistic scream of terrified rage. It read (with a ritual shout-out to the power of wishful thinking) like the scream of a dying animal.

The formal explanation for his agony came a day later with the first concrete results of Robert Mueller’s investigation into his campaign’s dodgy dealings with the Russians.

By conventional standards, foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos’s plea of guilty (lying to the Feds), and charges of money laundering denied by one-time campaign chief Paul Manafort and his business partner Rick Gates, are sensational.

In this context, they are probably Mueller-lite. The flipping of Papadopoulos and prosecution of Manafort look like a violent shake of the tree to find who higher up the chain topples down begging to cooperate to save themselves.

If these are the first baby steps on a long and winding road to perdition, what is at stake is something far larger than Trump’s survival as President. It has been brewing for years. What we may be about to witness is the decisive war for ownership of the truth.

The exact details of how Trump’s campaign colluded with agents of a hostile foreign power to influence a presidential election will be disputed, opaque and confusing to the layperson.

Hoping to create a Russian riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, Trump will throw up smokescreens. He will try to brazen it out, and keep his approval ratings from a fatal collapse, by bamboozling the American public.

This is how he won the White House. Harder than ever to compute though this is that one year ago millions of non-partisan Americans decided he and Hillary were as bad as each other, and reluctantly voted for the one who wouldn’t bore them to death.

The question now is whether enough Americans will do the same with the Russian collusion scandal, and wearily wish a plague on both their houses. The answer may turn less on the quality of evidence Mueller presents than its perception.

Trump’s room for manoeuvre is limited. Smearing Mueller hasn’t helped. He cannot coerce him. Having shied away from sacking him before, he cannot sack him now without provoking a constitutional crisis which, even at his 5am-at-Mar-a-Lago craziest, he couldn’t imagine being able to contain.

He could shut up in the hope that Mueller, having nothing more lethal up his sleeve, was using yesterday’s charges as a bluff. But they almost certainly weren’t, and Trump isn’t well suited to holding his tongue.

He could run the idiot defence that goes: “If I was colluding with Moscow, how could I have been stupid enough to invite the Russians to hack Hillary on live television?” But within hours of sacking Mueller’s predecessor Jim Comey for official reasons unconnected with his investigation, he went on telly and blurted that it was the Russia thing all along. Running the idiot defence is a big problem when your Secretary of State calls you a “f****** moron”.

The only effective weapons left in Trump’s arsenal are the gift for using bluster and aggression to fool too many of the people too much of the time, and the fruits of his collusion with Rupert Murdoch’s media empire.

Fox News continues to propagate the myth that Hillary should have more to fear from Mueller’s investigation, while a leader in The Wall Street Journal calls on Mueller to resign. I have studied Murdoch’s black ops intently for 30 years, but this whoring out of a great and dignified newspaper seriously shocks me.

What it plainly portends is an earthly version of a popular sci-fi trope. You may remember it from a Doctor Who story involving that Murdoch doppelganger, Davros – or from Benedict Cumberbatch’s Marvel Universe debut as Doctor Strange.

In each, the monster’s ambition was “to destroy reality itself”. In this version the bad guys’ motive isn’t the nihilistic craving to destroy everything, but the self-interested imperative to save Donald Trump.

To that end, he now relies on his and Murdoch’s time-honoured capacity for steering credulous minds into a parallel world of altered perceptions, where truth is falsehood and falsehood truth.

If that fails, if as Mueller peels away the onion Trump’s approval ratings plummet from their historic lows of this week, one coming Sunday morning the President could tweet an even more exquisite two word phrase. “I QUIT!”

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