If there’s one thing Donald Trump knows how to do, it’s handle scandal. Throughout his campaign and into his presidency, Trump has been at the center of what for anybody else would be an insurmountable laundry list of undesirable accusations.
From sexual assault and rape allegations to business malpractice, failure to pay contractors for work performed and a fake university that was actually a funnel for money from those thinking Trump University could actually teach them something, Trump has continued to endure. There’s a reason they call him Teflon Don.
All of those allegations have evidence. Witnesses, documents, etc. On a more relevant note, they all have more evidence than The Don’s latest claims, claims levied against former President Barack Obama and claims backed only by fake news website Breitbart, the former publication of Trump’s closest advisor Steve Bannon.
This week, after addressing Congress for the first time in a speech full of gilded lies, Trump accused Obama of tapping his phone. He provided no evidence or context. He only threw out the accusation along with a similarly frivolous claim about his former TV show The Apprentice.”
“Is it legal for a sitting President to be "wire-tapping" a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!...I'd bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!” Trump tweeted before following up, “How low has President Obama gone to tapp (sic) my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”
There’s a lot to unpack there.
Trump references former President Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal, which is ironic because Trump is showing a Nixon-esque paranoia. The other question that comes to mind is: If Obama tapped Trump’s phones and got information on him, how did he win without Obama or another source leaking the information?
Most importantly, however, is that Trump has no evidence for the claim. The mainstream media made sure to qualify their headlines with that fact, but that is another problem. The president makes an unsubstantiated claim and the media has to report on it. Another troublesome part of the story is the source for Trump’s paranoia: Breitbart. The neo-nationalist publication with anti-immigrant, anti-women, anti-Semitic leanings is essentially the RT for America’s White House.
It’s appropriate that these claims would come from Breitbart as more and more Trump cabinet members and advisors get caught in a web of lies about Russia. This week, new Attorney General Jeff Sessions was forced to recuse himself from an investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia due to Sessions getting caught lying to Congress about his contact with Russian officials (basically he said he didn’t have any when he did).
As the Russian investigation picks up steam within the government and traction amongst the public, it makes sense for Trump to go back to what he knows how to do best: parry a scandal by distracting from it with another incendiary claim.
Who’s to say Bannon didn’t order the Breitbart story to get reported?
Where it gets dangerous is in
A White House spokesperson responded to the firestorm surrounding the unfounded claims by saying that it was not just Breitbart reporting on it, but the New York Times and BBC as well. Again the only reason why those organizations reported on it is because Trump said it.
“If they’re going to investigate Russia ties, let’s include this as part of it,” White House principal deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee
And there it is. Just like that the President of the United States, when facing an investigation that could lead to his impeachment, vomited a baseless claim that the White House is now equating to a serious issue with thousands of hours of investigation and real research already logged.
As Sanders was repeatedly questioned, she qualified the statement. If it did happen, she said, it would be the largest abuse of power in history. The Breitbart report cited anonymous sources, and when that was pointed out to Sanders, she said the story was “positive” for the White House. Positive? A false report of the current president (an unqualified president with the lowest approval ratings in history by the way) against his predecessor, a man against whom Trump led the birther lies for the past few years?
It’s hard to believe that this is not even 100 days into Trump’s presidency, but already democracy is being hacked.
Democracy in America has become a game in which the players have been playing so long that the rules are no longer the rules. The loopholes, back channels and workarounds that let people continue to abuse power are the rules that matter.
In his handling of this latest scandal involving
Russia, Trump seems to have learned
the rules well.
The accusations against Obama, which an Obama spokesperson has
denied, are just
bait to get America
off his scent.
For right now, it seems to
be working. •