It tells you something about the chaos engulfing the Trump administration that the U.S. airstrikes on Syria had to jostle for public attention with the voluminous news of the president’s scandals.
Friday began with President Trump labeling his former FBI director “an untruthful slime ball.” He was responding to James B. Comey’s new book, which calls Trump an “unethical” man “untethered to truth.” Such invective, both from and against a former FBI director, is unprecedented. But then it’s also groundbreaking for a former FBI director to say, as he did in an interview released Friday: “I honestly never thought these words would come out of my mouth, but I don’t know whether the current president of the United States was with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow in 2013. It’s possible, but I don’t know.”
The purported “pee tape” Comey was referencing is an unconfirmed portion of the “Steele dossier” on links between Trump and the Kremlin. The dossier — a summary of intelligence gathered by former British spy Christopher Steele for Trump opponents, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign — received some further validation Friday from a McClatchy report that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has evidence that Trump’s private lawyer, Michael Cohen, visited the Czech Republic in the summer of 2016, just as Steele had indicated. Cohen has strongly denied he made the trip.
Friday also brought news that Cohen is under criminal investigation by the Justice Department for a litany of offenses. That same day, the deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee resigned after the disclosure that he had paid $1.6 million in hush money to a former mistress, a Playboy playmate, whom he had impregnated. The broker of the hush money was none other than Cohen. Later Friday, the Justice Department’s inspector general released a scathing report about Comey’s former No. 2, #Andrew McCabe. Trump, who knows a thing or two about lying, crowed “He LIED! LIED! LIED!” and blamed the “made up” collusion probe on a “den of thieves and lowlifes” at the FBI — which reports to him.
It is hard to imagine how Trump can do his job — for example, approving military strikes on Syria — while drowning in this rising tide of scandal. There is an old tradition, more honored in theory than fact, that issues of national security are kept separate from domestic politics, but Trump is utterly incapable of making any such distinction. For him, everything is political — and all politics is personal.