Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton walks off the stage as Republican nominee Donald Trump remains at his podium after their third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate in Las Vegas, Nev., Oct. 19, 2016. 
Photo by Rick Wilking/Reuters

Trump wants a Russia investigation … directed at Clinton

As the Russia scandal involving Donald Trump and his team advances – we learned last week that the FBI is conducting an ongoing counter-espionage investigation into the Trump campaign – the president has a creative response to the allegations. Let’s call it the “Hey, look at Hillary Clinton” tack.

The Rachel Maddow Show, 3/27/17, 9:00 PM ET

Trump son-in-law sought for Russia questions

Rachel Maddow reports on the background of the former Russian spy-turned-bank-official who met with Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and notes the remarkable number of significant tasks Trump has assigned to Kusher.
Last week, apparently unable to think of a compelling defense, Trump declared via Twitter, “What about all of the contact with the Clinton campaign and the Russians?” In reality, of course, there’s no evidence of meaningful contact between Vladimir Putin’s government and the unsuccessful Democratic campaign, but Trump seemed to think it was important.

Last night, after going nearly the entire day without tweeting, Trump returned to the subject. The Washington Post reported:
President Trump sought Monday to pressure the House committee investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election, arguing that the panel should be probing Bill and Hillary Clinton’s alleged ties to the country instead of those of his own campaign advisers.

In a pair of evening tweets, Trump wrote that the “Trump Russia story is a hoax” and listed a string of alleged financial and other connections the Clintons have had over the years with Russia. He asked why the House Intelligence Committee is not investigating the former president and former secretary of state.
The Rachel Maddow Show, 3/27/17, 9:20 PM ET

Embattled Nunes paralyzes House Intelligence Committee

Congressman Jim Himes, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, talks with Rachel Maddow about how Committee Chairman Devin Nunes has not kept the committee updated on intelligence he talked with the media and White House about, and has postponed…
“Why isn’t the House Intelligence Committee looking into the Bill & Hillary deal that allowed big Uranium to go to Russia,” the president declared, adding, “Russian speech money to Bill, the Hillary Russian ‘reset,’ praise of Russia by Hillary, or Podesta Russian Company.”

For good measure, Trump also urged his followers to watch Fox News this morning, in advance of a segment on Russia and Clinton’s former campaign chairman.

On the surface, little tantrums like these point to a shrinking president, lashing out with pitiful, almost child-like, responses to a serious international controversy. It’s easy to grow inured to the stream of nonsense, but having the sitting president of the United States call for a congressional investigation into his defeated opponent, for no credible reason, is alarming.

It’s also worth noting that Trump doesn’t appear to have any idea what he’s talking about: there was no “Bill & Hillary deal that allowed big Uranium to go to Russia.”

But just below the surface, Trump’s latest online tirade is actually self-defeating: the president is effectively making the case that Russian ties are worthy of federal investigation. “Praise of Russia,” Trump wrote overnight, should be seen as inherently controversial and worthy of scrutiny, apparently unaware of his own rhetorical record.

In practical terms, we’re probably looking at a man who was bored and frustrated on a Monday night, but the substance of Trump’s new missives is nevertheless striking. The beleaguered president seems to believe he can change the subject away from his Russia scandal by insisting that it’s Clinton who really has a Russia scandal.

It’s a dumb move, not only because the allegations are foolish, but also because the more focus there is on Russian ties, the worse it is for Trump and his team.

Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Russia and Scandals

Trump wants a Russia investigation ... directed at Clinton