Charles M. Blow: Trump reeks of fear
And yet, I don't have a full picture of what is causing it.
The only people who know what has been discovered in the Russian election meddling probe are special counsel Robert Mueller and his team, and they aren't talking.
But Trump no doubt knows far more about it than the rest of us, and what he knows — or what he fears — appears to be a consuming preoccupation. He tweets about the investigation constantly.
Part of this is an overt play to bend public opinion, to besmirch whatever conclusions the investigation might reach and to ward off any attempt at a possible impeachment.
As The New York Times reported last week about the president and his legal team:
"They have come to believe that, if the Democrats win control of the House in November, the chamber will vote on whether to begin the impeachment process no matter the outcome of Mueller's investigation. So they want to sway Americans — and by extension, lawmakers."
The Times quoted Rudy Giuliani, one of the president's lawyers, as saying, "Nobody is going to consider impeachment if public opinion has concluded this is an unfair investigation, and that's why public opinion is so important."
Politico reported on this strategy in May, writing: "President Donald Trump and his lawyers have made a strategic calculation that their fight against special counsel Robert Mueller is more political than it is legal. They're banking that the lead Russia investigator will follow long-standing Justice Department practice that a sitting president can't be indicted, and that the only real threat to Trump's survival is impeachment."
"So long as that theory holds, Trump's plan is to forcefully challenge Mueller in the arena he knows best — not the courtroom but the media, with a public campaign aimed at the special counsel's credibility, especially among Republican voters and GOP members of Congress."
In May, CNN's Dana Bash interviewed Giuliani, and she posited that the "Spygate" saga was "an intentional strategy to undermine the investigation, knowing that they, the investigators, the special counsel, it's their policy not to talk. But you are very free to and are very aggressive about doing so."
Giuliani responded in part:
"Of course, we have to do it in defending the president. We are defending — to a large extent, remember, Dana, we are defending here, it is for public opinion, because eventually the decision here is going to be impeach, not impeach. Members of Congress, Democrat and Republican, are going to be informed a lot by their constituents. So, our jury is the American — as it should be — is the American people."
If innocent, why worry?
Yes, there is some impeachment fervor on the left, some that party leaders have tried to tamp down, fervor even in advance of Mueller's findings. But there also appears to be very real impeachment fear in the Trump inner circle.
One has to ask: Why exactly is impeachment front of mind for these people? If they were as innocent as they publicly proclaim, they would know that impeachment would be out of the question as a matter of fact and law. But that is apparently not the case.
Do they believe that Democrats would take the politically disastrous step of moving to impeach Trump even if Mueller fully exonerated him?
I don't believe so. I believe that Trump is conducting himself as only a guilty man would, one who has a very real and well-founded fear that he is in imminent jeopardy.
He is girding for the fight.
In May, Trump added Emmet T. Flood, a lawyer who represented Bill Clinton during his impeachment, to his legal team.
And in May 2017, CNN reported: "White House lawyers have begun researching impeachment procedures in an effort to prepare for what officials still believe is a distant possibility that President Donald Trump could have to fend off attempts to remove him from office, two people briefed on the discussions tell CNN."
Impeachment is always on Trump's mind, and so he relentlessly pursues his strategy of creating a climate of incredulity to ward it off.
Just on Saturday, he tweeted: "Public opinion has turned strongly against the Rigged Witch Hunt and the `Special' Counsel because the public understands that there was no Collusion with Russia (so ridiculous), that the two FBI lovers were a fraud against our Nation & that the only Collusion was with the Dems!"
But that strategy of discrediting the investigation seems to be working almost exclusively among Trump's base. As CNN reported in May about "a slight negative shift overall" in public approval of Mueller's handling of the investigation:
"Just about all of that change has come from Republicans, who now give Mueller a 17 percent approval rating, down from 29 percent in March. Among Democrats and independents, approval ratings for Mueller have not changed significantly."
Trump has done and said many heinous things as president and before, but it is highly unlikely that any would be solid ground for a successful impeachment. However, damning findings from Mueller would create that solid ground.
Yet Trump contends that there's no there there. If not, why is he acting like there is?
Charles Blow writes for The New York Times.
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