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Exploiting tragedy, Trump connects Parkland shooting, Russia probe

Donald Trump tried to exploit the murders of children to question the value of an investigation into himself and his political operation.
Image: Students are evacuated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during a shooting incident in Parkland
Students are evacuated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during a shooting incident in Parkland, Florida, U.S. February 14, 2018 in a still image...

Occasionally, those who watch Donald Trump's presidency reach a familiar conclusion. "He's reached rock bottom," observers say. "Trump has abandoned basic human decency to such a brazen degree, he can't stoop lower." I'm personally inclined to point to his post-Charlottesville comments as a unique low point for the modern American presidency.

But just when it seems Trump couldn't possibly go any lower, over the weekend he hit the bottom of the barrel, drilled a hole, and found a way to reach new depths.

Over the weekend, for example, the president thought it'd be a good idea to connect the mass murders at a Parkland, Fla., high school to the federal investigation into the Trump-Russia scandal.

"Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable," Trump said in a Tweet shortly after 11 p.m."They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign -- there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!" the president said on Twitter.

To the extent that reality still has any meaning, it's worth pausing to note that the complaint is substantively absurd. The current Federal Bureau of Investigation employs approximately 35,000 people. The idea that the FBI lacks the personnel to conduct a counter-intelligence investigation and investigate possible mass murders is outrageously foolish, even for this president. The bureau doesn't have to choose one priority or the other.

For that matter, Trump's incessant insistence that there was "no collusion" is still very much at odds with all the evidence pointing to collusion.

But relevant factual details aside, what stands out as especially noteworthy about Trump's missive is its utter moral depravity.

I don't think there's any spinning this one: Trump tried to exploit the murders of children in the hopes of undermining an investigation into himself and his political operation. The implication of the tweet is Trump's apparent belief that the FBI might prevent school shootings if it dropped the Russia investigation that imperils his presidency.

Quite a few words and phrases come to mind in response to Trump tweets like these, but "responsible presidential leadership" aren't among them. Murdered kids are not to be used as petty political shields.

There is some irony to the circumstances. After every mass shooting, the right is quick to say the victims' deaths must not be "politicized" with talk of reforming the nation's gun laws. Will those same conservative voices condemn Trump using a mass shooting to publicly pressure the FBI to end its investigation into his Russia scandal?

* Postscript: In November 2016, before she became White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders declared, "When you're attacking FBI agents because you're under criminal investigation, you're losing." And yet, he we are, 16 months later, watching her boss attack FBI agents because he's under investigation.

By Sanders' reasoning, I guess that means Trump is "losing"?