Being a comedian, and not a trained political thinker-type-guy, maybe I’m way off base here, but I keep getting a distinctly Watergate-ian vibe from the Trump/Russia story line. Am I the only one? Whenever I read pieces like the ones that were published on The Hill and McClatchy this week, I can’t help but feel like if Congress does their job, and truly digs into the Russian sponsored cyber attacks during last year’s election, that they’ll uncover a conspiracy that will cost the Republicans a president again.
In case you missed it, the latest is that six agencies including the FBI, CIA, and the National Security Agency have been collaborating on a large scale investigation into whether or not the Kremlin and the Trump campaign had any collusion during the election. This joint probe started last summer. The investigation is focused on who paid for the hacking, why, and how.
As reported in The Hill’s piece:
A key mission of the six-agency team, it said, is examining who financed the email hacks of major Democratic Party sources last year. (source)
The Hill further reported that the investigation has turned up two unnamed contacts that have alleged a source for the payments — a fund for Russian-Americans who draw a pension.
Two anonymous sources said one allegation involves whether a system for routinely paying thousands of Russian-American pensioners may have funded some of the email hackings.
The sources added the pension system either directly paid email hackers in the U.S. or supplied money to intermediaries who then funded them. (source)
People always forget that the Watergate break-in during the 1972 election wasn’t what cost Nixon his reputation and presidency. It was all the bullshit that he was doing that came to light as the investigation into the burglary unfolded. Nixon’s transgressions were far more numerous than ordering the Democratic National Committee’s office attacked (and could that sound any more familiar to us now?). Those sins were lain bare as the Watergate investigation played out in the papers and in congressional hearings.
During one hearing in the summer of 1973, a Republican Senator by the name of Howard Henry Baker, Jr. famously asked the question, “What did the president know and when did he know it?” The implication of the question was that it was imperative for everyone to ascertain just how much Nixon knew and how much he was covering up. It was a question of timing, and a question of just how much direct involvement he had.
“What did the president know and when did he know it?” – Sen. Howard Henry Baker Jr. (R); Watergate Hearings 1973
There is a chance that Trump really was and is an unwitting pawn for people like General Mike Flynn. There’s no secret that Flynn has deep ties to Russia, as that was one reason he was removed from the Trump campaign for a time, and The Washington Post has a report that the day President Barack Obama levied sanctions on Russia for their involvement in the election hacking, Flynn had multiple contacts with the Russian ambassador.
Maybe it’s Trump’s people that are in bed with Comrade Putin, but only a truly independent investigation can figure that out.
Between Flynn and Rex Tillerson literally winning a Russian “friendship” award, there’s enough of a circumstantial connection between Team Trump and the Kremlin to get suspicious. It’s not that far fetched really that someone in the inner circle might have been coordinating the release of information gleaned from hacking. Trump “jokingly” asked for Russia to hack the DNC at a press conference during the campaign.
If payment for services rendered by the Russian hackers is in any way traceable back to Trump, he’s toast. The question will be how deep the ties are, and how high up the Trump administration’s ladder the conspiracy went. Again, I’m just a clown and we’re in the way-way beginnings of this mess, but all I know is the CIA, FBI, and NSA aren’t investigating me for my ties to Russian hackers. If six intelligence agencies are concerned enough to probe this thing in such a concerted, collaborative way, at the very least the American people are entitled to know just what the fuck happened when, and who did what.
One key difference between 1972 and 2016 is that Nixon’s despotic behavior wasn’t really necessary. He coasted to a win. But Trump was fighting a tough battle, evidenced by him getting creamed in the popular vote tallies and having one of the least convincing Electoral College margins of victory ever. And so in my mind, it seems ridiculously plausible that he’d look for help, and maybe he was desperate enough to get help from a country that had ties to many people he was working with already. To be fair I don’t know if all or any part of that is factual in the slightest, and I’m not going to pretend my musings are fact.
Will Trump have his Watergate moment over the Russian hacking? It’s still way too early to tell.
The intelligence agencies are in the very infancy of this investigation and it’s possible that they may not find any real connection between Putin and Trump. In the interest of not being accused of spreading “fake news” — pretty hilarious considering I’m a satirist — just take this report and my commentary on it at face value and don’t read anything more into it than the basic facts.
What did Trump know, and when did he know it?
The further the investigation goes, the more relevant that question is going to get. You would hope that the same congress that couldn’t stop investigating Benghazi would be just as tenacious about getting to the bottom of a potentially treasonous conspiracy, but, well, you’d also probably hope Americans would be too smart to elect a trust fund racist and conman to the presidency in the first place. So what’s that old axiom about how completely and utterly fucking worthless hopes are in politics?
Maybe I’ll just make one up.
Follow James on Twitter @JamboSchlarmbo.