The Donald Trump administration lurched forward the past week with all the smoothness of a square-wheeled sedan driven on the 105 by an anger addict whose foot is permanently glued to the accelerator pedal—sort of like the driver of the Winnebago in The Blues Brothers, but without the cowboy hat.
Still, the results were the same and Trump’s Winnebago crashed through the Senate and landed in the reflecting pool Friday morning while the Senate was doing its kindergarten-in-the-sandbox dance about taxes and the president was getting ready for his yearly Christmas party with the press.
The Mueller investigation struck again. (Cue the dramatic thunder followed by lightning, please.) This time, former National Security Adviser General Mike Flynn showed up to a D.C. court to plead guilty to one charge of lying to the FBI and to also let the world know he was cooperating with the Robert Mueller investigation.
Mueller has already charged and flipped George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign adviser. The 30-year-old Trump advisor pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia and was reportedly last seen darting furtively around The District wearing a wire for Mueller.
Trump quickly dissed the turncoat. “Few people knew the young, low level volunteer named George, who was already proven to be a liar,” the president tweeted following the news of Popadopoulos pleading guilty. Trump also encouraged us to “Check the DEMS!” in another tweet.
Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign’s former chairman and one of his business partners, Rick Gates, have also been charged. The two of them got hit with a 12-count indictment including conspiracy against the United States and money laundering. Reportedly, Manafort had been a key figure in Mueller’s investigation. He recently arranged an $11 million bail agreement with prosecutors that could clear him for release from house arrest—and potentially help free him from the country if he chooses to flee, some opponents claim. (Cue the spooky Scooby-Doo music, please.)
There are three big targets squarely in Mueller’s crosshairs: Jared Kushner, Mike Pence and the president himself.
But the Flynn indictment and plea deal is not only a shot across Trump’s bow, but also cause for him to soon be screaming, “Someone sunk my battleship.”
Flynn’s decision, apparently reached less than 24 hours before he appeared in court, was based on doing right by his family and his country, he said. After he appeared in court, Flynn went to visit his son, who is also under scrutiny. The idea of a father protecting a son certainly explains Flynn’s decision, but if Flynn’s son does escape the worst of the Mueller investigation, it means Flynn must’ve offered up something meaty to Mueller.
When the news broke Friday morning, the White House canceled an early morning pool spray and, since there were no other public events, the president skipped answering any nasty little questions about Flynn that could cause his healthy heart to skip a beat.
Flynn is the closest to the president to take a fall, but with justice department officials, FBI members and cooperating witnesses running through the White House like the cockroaches the National Park Service can’t eradicate in the historic structure, it is little wonder there is speculation there are three big targets squarely in Mueller’s crosshairs: Jared Kushner; Mike Pence, who ran the president’s transition team; and the president himself.
The hounds are not yipping at Trump’s heals yet and plenty of loyalists believe they never will reach his doorstep. He’s got a couple of hounds of his own—Mitch McConnell and Jeff Sessions—to assist him, not to mention Trump has been dodging the long arm of the law for years. With his innate ability to throw anyone and everyone under the oncoming bus, no one in the president’s inner circle can rest easy. But don’t tell Eric or Junior that just yet.
There are those who think Trump’s health will get him first and point to recent tweets regarding Muslims as evidence of a mental breakdown. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, in the president’s last press briefing of last week, said the president didn’t know who he was retweeting when he retweeted extremist-created anti-Muslim videos. And while the videos may have been faked, it spoke to a real problem. Sanders had to double down when she said the president’s pro-terrorist retweets helped elevate the discussion on an important issue.
Others have begun to question not only the president’s mental stability, but Sanders as she spins herself dizzy during her press briefings. Still others think the president’s heart may fail him and Steve Portnoy of CBS News asked Sanders Thursday if the president would do as other presidents have in the past and release his annual physical. You can’t get his taxes. You can’t him in but one open news conference in a year, so the chances of him releasing any information on an annual physical is about as likely as getting Jeff Sessions to remember his meetings with Russians.
There are those who swear the president will be impeached, but in a Congress that can’t pass decent healthcare or write a decent tax bill, what do you think the chances are of that happening?
There are those stalwart Democrats who worship at the altar of former President Barack Obama and pray for his return in a religious fervor most often reserved for Trappist Monks. They firmly believe that after the midterm elections, the Democrats will sweep the land and rid it of a pestilence by riding large white steeds and sporting huge shit-eating grins.
The truth is that Democrats will be lucky to hold on to what they have. They have no bench strength, no true leadership and their only message seems to be “Holy Shit, Trump Sucks!”
Still, with a Republican Party routinely devouring itself in a rollicking frenzy of stupendous lunacy, the Democrats might have a shot—if they get an idea. The Republicans, who still can’t decide whether or not they should back a man banned from trolling shopping malls for teenage girls, is a party trying hard to hang on to a majority in both houses of Congress and reap the benefits of a president few of them like and fewer want to see.
Trump’s Twitter finger fell noticeably silent until Saturday, when he tweeted with counsel from his personal lawyer, John Dowd.
Those who have covered or have otherwise known Donald Trump for years say he goes through people quick, and the best hope anyone has is that at the end of four years Trump drops the mic and declares himself a winner, the government a bunch of losers, and leaves the stage to the thrills and delight of crowds across the globe.
Mueller has other ideas and it appears Trump is hunkered down in a bunker inside a bunker. The best chance reporters have had at holding him accountable was at the annual press Christmas party. Michael Grynbaum, in The New York Times, described the party as awkward and dissonant from the offset.
The president made a few remarks, left and declined to answer questions about Flynn. In other words, it was just a typical day in the life of covering this White House.
But Flynn’s arrest is different. If there is any doubt about it, Trump’s Twitter finger fell noticeably silent for hours until Saturday, when he tweeted, “I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!"—supposedly with counsel from his personal lawyer, John Dowd. Few, however, believe Trump’s claim that Dowd wrote the tweet, which implies the president knew Flynn had lied to the FBI before his resignation, especially since the "lawyer” typed pled instead of pleaded.
A day earlier, White House special counsel Ty Cobb commented, “Today, Michael Flynn, a former National Security Advisor at the White House for 25 days during the Trump Administration, and a former Obama administration official, entered a guilty plea to a single count of making a false statement to the FBI.
“The false statements involved mirror the false statements to White House officials which resulted in his resignation in February of this year. Nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn. The conclusion of this phase of the Special Counsel’s work demonstrates again that the Special Counsel is moving with all deliberate speed and clears the way for a prompt and reasonable conclusion.” The notice had none of the bombast and none of the vitriol of Trump’s usual diatribes.
In the days since Friday’s announcement, Trump has returned to tweeting about taxes and of course, Crooked Hillary, his enduring foil whose crookedness few still care about. He has also returned to calling the Russia investigation “the greatest Witch Hunt in U.S. political history.” It seems to suggest one thing: Mueller has scared the Master of Twitter Disaster—and at least enough to have silenced him on the matter for more than a day before running to his personal lawyer for advice. That alone should be cause for celebration.
And the Mueller investigation continues.