As Evidence of Campaign Collusion with Russian Hackers Mounts, Trump is Falling Apart

by Hunter –

This weekend’s blockbuster news came courtesy of the Wall Street Journal: A well-known Republican operative who asserted he was working for Trump campaign adviser Michael Flynn was actively seeking hacker help in obtaining private emails from Hillary Clinton’s server, and intelligence agencies had intercepted discussions from Russian hackers at how to provide such help and transmit it back to Michael Flynn and his operatives.

This was immediately followed by a United Kingdom cybersecurity expert coming forward to confirm that he, personally, had been recruited by the operative, Peter Smith to help “validate” copies of “emails from Secretary Clinton’s private server” that an unnamed source was offering to provide Smith.

This was not another data dump of documents from the DNC being disseminated through WikiLeaks; this was an effort to obtain information from Clinton’s own email server, and came immediately on the heels of candidate Donald Trump publicly calling on Russian hackers to “find” those emails during what would be the last press conference of his entire campaign. Smith appeared to have a deep knowledge of internal campaign deliberations, Smith appeared to have a “reckless lack of interest” in whether or not he was working with the Russian’s own hacking efforts, and the documents Smith provided to the expert outlining who would be managing the “research” included not just Flynn, but top campaign officials Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway.

This, then, would be the precise sort of “collusion” with foreign intelligence efforts that probes of the Trump campaign’s association with Russian election hacks have been exploring. It links the campaign to hacking efforts through the one White House figure other than himself Donald Trump has gone to any effort to protect: Trump and associates had apparently contacted multiple top government officials in an effort to stop or delay the FBI investigation into Flynn before Trump made the sudden decision to fire the FBI director outright.

The Wall Street Journal discovery comes in the midst of a week of chaos at the White House, all of it self-inflicted. And all of it can be pinned on Trump’s own behavior; he is a man coming apart at the seams.

The administration has clamped down on press briefings, offering secretary Sean Spicer only under the condition that the television cameras be turned off for the duration and shunting ever-more of the duties onto deputy Sarah Huckabee Sanders. The moves are almost certainly designed to help inoculate Spicer and his team from his employer’s oft-reported post-briefing fits of rage.

A battle between the White House and, of all people, the hosts of MSNBC’s conservative Morning Joe program went from ridiculous to slime-covered with presidential tweets about facelifts and the news that presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner personally attempted to blackmail the hosts into an apology for unflattering comments about Trump by threatening them with a tabloid outing of their personal relationship.

But Trump’s attention has remained focused on stories of “collusion”, specifically, and his mood has deteriorated such an extent that it has unnerved even his own advisers.

Some in the White House fret over what they view as the president’s fits of rage, and Trump’s longtime friends say his mood has been more sour than at any point since they have known him. They privately worry about his health, noting that he appears to have gained weight in recent months and that the darkness around his eyes reveals his stress.

This, from a Washington Post story that revealed that Trump is conducting frequent early-morning calls devoted specifically to the Russia investigation and strategizing against Trump’s perceived enemies: “the special counsel leading the Russia investigation; the ‘fake news’ media chronicling it; and, in some instances, the president’s own Justice Department overseeing the probe.”

(One of the fruits of those strategy sessions may or may not be last week’s sudden, curious push by well-connected Republican media figures like Brit Hume and Sean Hannity to insist that even if collusion on the part of the Trump campaign were hypothetically to be found, it would not be a “crime.” Hannity, in particular, is close to the Trump team and has often acted as mouthpiece for defenses that few other pundits could muster a willingness to support.)

Evidence of Trump’s ever-worsening mood is readily apparent. Throughout the campaign and administration he has regularly responded to news reports of the Russia hacking investigation with outbursts of furious Twitter wrath. It is a pattern; it has not lessened with time or as a result of any of the forces marshaled to suppress it. Sometimes it attacks the specific outlet or program making the damaging remarks, other times his fury is directed at all journalism, everywhere.

But the current Trump rampage against the press has lasted a week, and seems beyond anything that has come before. Presented with his Twitter proclamations, you would not be alone in supposing that the sitting president is losing whatever is left of his mind.

It should be noted that this new fury began immediately after a Trump admission that no White House tapes existed of his conversations with fired FBI director James Comey, conversations in which, Comey told a Senate committee, Trump allegedly pushed the FBI head to curtail the agency’s probe into Michael Flynn. It continued after a now-retracted CNN story alleging a Trump ally was being investigated by Congress for financial ties to Russia. By the end of the week and the new apparent confirmation of campaign collusion it had turned into the incandescent mess you see above; while we can be assured that Trump indeed is aware of the new Flynn stories, however, he has remained curiously silent about it, lashing out in seemingly every other direction.

But in the president’s own written words, his fury is indeed over the Russia investigation specifically. It is an extended attempt to discredit the press in totality, and to paint the entire investigation as a hoax being peddled by a worldwide cabal of the very topmost press outlets, all together and in cahoots, merely for the sake of undermining him and his greatness. It is not only unhinged behavior from a sitting president, it isn’t even normal behavior for someone attempting to convince the nation or investigators that stories of “collusion” are, at the end, nothing to be worried about.

We can only imagine how things may devolve from here.

 

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos