Over the weekend, Donald Trump responded to Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony by suggesting his critics are moving from one line of inquiry to another.
“Oh’ I see!” the president wrote, utilizing his idiosyncratic approach to grammar and punctuation. “Now that the 2 year Russian Collusion case has fallen apart, there was no Collusion except bye Crooked Hillary and the Democrats, they say, ‘gee, I have an idea, let’s look at Trump’s finances and every deal he has ever done.’”
Yesterday, purportedly quoting former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, Trump expounded on the subject.
“ ‘Now that the Dems are going to try & switch from Collusion to some other reason, it makes them continue to look like sore losers who didn’t accept the WILL OF THE PEOPLE in the last election - they will do anything to get rid of the President.’ @AriFleischer It will never work!”
Right off the bat, there’s an obvious problem with the reference to “the last election,” which was in 2018, and which saw Republicans suffer their most lopsided popular-vote losses in congressional elections since the Watergate era.
If the “will of the people,” as measured by election results, is paramount, the White House has a problem: it was voters who gave Democrats control of the House, which triggered the oversight that has the president so concerned. (Incidentally, the same is true if we turn our attention to the will of the electorate in 2016 – when Trump came in second in the popular vote by nearly 3 million people.)
But the debate really shouldn’t be about election results, so much as legal principles and questions of right and wrong. As Trump sees it, his opponents are trying to “switch” from the Russia scandal to other scandals.
That’s not even close to being right.
The investigation into the Russia scandal continues apace, but with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, and related scrutiny from lawmakers. In fact, the president may find it interesting to note that Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told NBC News’ Chuck Todd over the weekend that he’s seen “plenty of evidence of collaboration or communications between [the] Trump Organization and Russians.”
Around the same time, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said he believes there is “direct evidence” connecting Trump’s operation and Russia.
These are not the comments of policymakers who are giving up on the Russia scandal.
But as important as this is, there’s a relevant detail Trump doesn’t seem to appreciate: sometimes, people can be accused of more than one thing.
To examine whether this president obstructed justice, or orchestrated illegal hush-money payments, or committed bank fraud, or ran a scam charitable foundation, is not to conclude that the investigation into the Russia scandal has run its course.
Rather, the scrutiny serves as a reminder that this president has been accused of lots of different kinds of wrongdoing.
There’s been no “switch.” Rather, the aperture has been widened to accommodate the scope of Donald Trump’s many scandals.