Maybe we should be glad the Trump White House is so intent on stopping the investigation into election mangling by Russia. First, because we’ve definitely reached that point where the cover-up is beginning to generate more heat than the crime—which is a considerable achievement when you consider the crime. However, the larger reason to be grateful for their obsessions is because if the Trump regime had put the same level of effort into their program of jack-booted kleptocracy that they’ve invested trying to knock down investigations, we’d be much further down Disaster Road.
In a way, Trump–Russia has served as a punching bag for America, absorbing the blows that we would have otherwise have taken in programs destroyed and national parks sold off. But seeing the blows land one at a time, it’s sometimes hard to recall the variety or extent of Trump’s war on the investigation.
The pattern is increasingly clear: As investigations into the Trump campaign's ties to and possible collusion with Russia have intensified, so too have efforts by the president and his staff to quash those probes or put pressure on US officials to publicly deny the validity of the swirling allegations.
No matter how many times Team Trump tries to pretend in public there’s nothing to this investigation, in private they are all too aware that there is very much something behind it—something that’s a serious threat to Trump and those around him. So they fight hard and dirty to end the investigation before it can roll to its inexorable conclusions.
And when you put it all together, the list of steps that Trump has taken in an attempt—a sometimes successful attempt—to derail the investigation is amazing.
From Devin Nunes to Daniel Coats, here’s Mother Jones’ summary of ways Trump has attempt to interfere with the Russian investigation.
Asking officials to push back on the press:
This seems to have been a favorite tactic—and one that was carried out both directly by Trump and by White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. Priebus didn’t just call Republican Congressmen and intelligence officials, he even called James Comey and other FBI officials in an attempt to get them to call the press and “volunteer” the information that there was nothing to the Trump–Russia story. That pitch was even partially successful in spreading disinformation.
Acting at the behest of the White House, the officials made calls to news organizations last week in attempts to challenge stories about alleged contacts between members of President Trump’s campaign team and Russian intelligence operatives, U.S. officials said.
Asking officials to push back on the FBI:
Though it’s arguable which is worse, this aspect of the Trump story is certainly more clearly akin to obstruction of justice. The reason that Richard Nixon left office, the very last straw in Watergate, was the discovery that Nixon and H. R. Haldeman discussed using the CIA to pressure the FBI into halting their investigation. But Trump, Priebus, and others on his staff didn’t stop with trying to get just one agency to throw themselves in front of the investigation. They dragged in the DNI and the NSA.
Trump made separate appeals to the director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, and to Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, urging them to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election.
Crippling the House Investigation
After Comey’s first public testimony before the House Intelligence Committee confirmed that an extensive investigation was underway, the Trump regime pulled in Devin Nunes, who had been part of the Trump transition team. Nunes, by calling a couple of hysterical press conferences and making a round-robin loop from the White House to the White House to “brief” Trump on ideas cooked up by his own staff, successfully derailed the House investigation for weeks. Nunes was eventually forced to recuse himself, but not before he succeeded in planting a big monkey wrench into the congressional investigation and definitely showed that there would be no effort on the part of Republicans to actually reach the truth.
The ultimate source of Nunes’ hair-on-fire information was a Michael Flynn protégé kept in place by Trump for the single mission of kicking off this distraction.
National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster had informed Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the National Security Council’s senior director for intelligence programs, that he’d be moving to another position on Friday, Politico reported. McMaster reportedly made the decision after receiving complaints from several career officials about the 30-year-old intelligence operative. [...]
After they informed Trump of the situation Sunday, he overruled McMaster and told Cohen-Watnick he could stay put.
Attempting to suborn Comey, trying to restrain Comey, then firing Comey
And of course, Donald Trump also went after the investigation head on. He first asked the FBI director to pledge his personal loyalty. He then asked the FBI director to drop his investigation into Michael Flynn. And he asked Flynn to be a part of the effort at quieting the press.
The day after the Flynn conversation, Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, asked Mr. Comey to help push back on reports in the news media that Mr. Trump’s associates had been in contact with Russian intelligence officials during the campaign.
Only when it became clear that Comey wasn’t going to give him everything he wanted, Trump created yet another false narrative in order to drop Comey,
That’s a huge amount of work put into the effort to stop an investigation that, says Trump, is a witch hunt. Even if Trump never gets hauled away, pouting to the end, that investigation has taken up scads of time that could have gone toward filling pot holes with poor people and emptying hospitals of sick kids.
But the odds that the investigation really will end with charges against Trump seem better every day.