Trump Is Obsessed With the Russia Investigation

Think about this for a minute:

Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, told House investigators Thursday that President Trump seemed obsessed with the Russia probe and repeatedly asked him to say publicly there was no evidence of collusion, a U.S. official familiar with the conversation told NBC News…

…Admiral Mike Rogers, director of the NSA, has also told associates that Trump asked him to say publicly there was no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian election interference effort…

…A former senior intelligence official familiar with their accounts said both Coats and Rogers [in their refusal to comply with Trump’s requests] were trying to balance their service to the country and to the president with their desire not to be seen as in an way interfering in an ongoing FBI investigation.

Coats and Rogers were covering their own asses when they declined to fulfill the president’s wishes and clear him of any possible collusion with the Russians, but in doing so they also prevented Trump from committing one more count of “interfering in an ongoing FBI investigation.”

The mere fact that Trump asked them to do it is a possible obstruction of justice, but if they had actually done it there would be little doubt.

Director Coats said that Trump “seems obsessed” with the Russian probe. The Washington Post says this morning that Trump is “struggling to remain calm” about it.

President Trump has a new morning ritual. Around 6:30 a.m. on many days — before all the network news shows have come on the air — he gets on the phone with a member of his outside legal team to chew over all things Russia.

The calls — detailed by three senior White House officials — are part strategy consultation and part presidential venting session, during which Trump’s lawyers and public-relations gurus take turns reviewing the latest headlines with him. They also devise their plan for battling his avowed 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.

His advisers have encouraged the calls — which the early-to-rise Trump takes from his private quarters in the White House residence — in hopes that he can compartmentalize the widening Russia investigation. By the time the president arrives for work in the Oval Office, the thinking goes, he will no longer be consumed by the Russia probe that he complains hangs over his presidency like a darkening cloud.

It rarely works, however. Asked whether the tactic was effective, one top White House adviser paused for several seconds and then just laughed.

Whatever else the Russian issue has done, it’s certainly gotten into Trump’s head and under his thin skin. And I think Roger Stone is right. The FBI is going to move against the president and he’s going to have to try to weather it both legally and politically.

“This is a train that’s coming,” said Roger Stone, a former Trump adviser and longtime confidant, referring to the investigation led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. “These guys are going to move on him despite the fact that they don’t have a case. The question on the table is what is he going to do about it, and that is a legal and political question.”

Roger Stone says that there won’t be a case, but the FBI doesn’t come for the president if they don’t have a case. And the FBI is so spitting mad at Trump that he has no prayer of getting any mercy. His entire fraudulent history is an open book now. If the collusion case is made, it will be game over. But there will be other crimes spelled out in the kind of painful detail that would make Spiro Agnew blush.

You want to know how angry the FBI is with Trump? Take a look at what Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe testified to yesterday before a House Appropriations subcommittee:

Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.) asked [acting head of the FBI, Andrew] McCabe whether he’d been asked for a loyalty oath by Trump, as Comey has said he was, and how he would reply.

“I have taken an oath already to the United States of America to protect and defend the Constitution. That is the only oath I will take, so that’s really not an issue for me,” McCabe said. He added that it wouldn’t be appropriate “in this forum” to discuss his conversations with the president.

As in past testimony, McCabe did dispute claims by Trump and other officials that morale at the FBI suffered under Comey.

“Director Comey enjoyed a great relationship with the men and women of the FBI. So, his removal took many many people by surprise. It was a shock. It’s something that we’ve all had to come to terms with,” McCabe said.

“We understand it is the president’s privilege to remove the FBI director or any appointee, whenever he chooses to do so. … It’s been my challenge to keep people focused on the mission during this time of transition.”

Here’s my translation of that. The FBI is furious that Comey was fired and absolutely incensed that his reputation was dragged through the mud. They’re so pissed off about the suggestion that the Bureau was being run poorly and had been suffering from poor morale that they can’t see straight. In fact, the agents at the FBI are so intensely out for blood that McCabe’s main challenge as Acting Director has simply been to get them to focus on their actual jobs.

Trump should understand that his countless frauds, mob connections, perjury before casino commissions, abuses of charities, and money laundering are all fair game now. Mueller will have to stick to drawing lines that lead back in some way to the charter he has to investigate the Russia matter, but that probably rules out very little in Trump’s past since his business practices are under investigation. And Trump’s business practice has been to defraud people, renege on contracts and abuse the court system to bully his way through the legal hazards. He has never dotted i’s or crossed t’s. He’s a sitting duck.

He’s only lucky that his sexual assaults are probably walled off from anything that Mueller can consider. And, yet, as Trump stews on all of this, he still doesn’t get how vulnerable he is.

Trump’s grievances and moods often bleed into one another. Frustration with the investigation stews inside him until it bubbles up in the form of rants to aides about unfair cable television commentary or as slights aimed at Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his deputy, Rod J. Rosenstein.

And, of course, it emerges in fiery tweets about the “WITCH HUNT” — or, as he wrote Thursday morning, shortly before an event promoting leadership in technology, “a big Dem HOAX!”

He’s lashing out at irrelevant factors, like the kind of cable news coverage he’s getting or the performance of his hand-picked leaders at the Department of Justice. His problem is that his whole career has been a fraud and he just made a mortal enemy of the one organization in the country that can expose him for what he really is.

And I don’t want to suggest that any of it will be unfair, because it will actually be long overdue. Trump should never have been able to get away with the way he goes about his business. The Feds have been looking the other way for far too long.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.