Esquire US political writer Charles P. Pierce on why Trump's shady connection with the Kremlin are proving too obvious to ignore:
The lines of conflict are now clear and precisely defined. The combatants are both experienced and well-heeled enough to engage in prolonged hostilities, with no quarter given and none taken. The Washington Post and The New York Times are clearly in an old-fashioned newspaper war with each other over the story of Russian influence in American politics, and specifically Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election and in the now-listing hulk of an administration that the election produced. And we are all the better for the battle that's raging.
On Tuesday night, it was the Times' turn to fire a broadside.
But the intercepts alarmed American intelligence and law enforcement agencies, in part because of the amount of contact that was occurring while Mr. Trump was speaking glowingly about the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin. At one point last summer, Mr. Trump said at a campaign event that he hoped Russian intelligence services had stolen Hillary Clinton's emails and would make them public. The officials said the intercepted communications were not limited to Trump campaign officials, and included other associates of Mr. Trump. On the Russian side, the contacts also included members of the Russian government outside of the intelligence services, the officials said. All of the current and former officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the continuing investigation is classified.
And here's a giant surprise. Try not to hit the floor too hard.
The officials said that one of the advisers picked up on the calls was Paul Manafort, who was Mr. Trump's campaign chairman for several months last year and had worked as a political consultant in Russia and Ukraine.
(Before we go any further, let's pause for a moment and consider, one more time, the curious role of James Comey in the past election. The FBI knew all of this and kept everything in-house. They found some e-mails on Anthony Weiner's laptop a week before the election and Comey told the world. History is not going to look kindly on this gentleman, and his testimony before whatever commission or committee gets handed this grenade is going to be highly entertaining.)
I despise the guess-the-sources roundelay because it turns everything into a parlor game, but it's clear now that the president and his people made "disruption" into a kind of faith without having the foggiest notion of what the consequence is. The things this administration wants to do—privatize everything, strengthen the existing oligarchy, shove more of the wealth upward—are being done quite smoothly on every front with the exception of healthcare, where there is a tremendous dearth of clues among everyone dealing with the issue. The "disruption" has been reserved for the institutions that have inconvenienced the president. This apparently was the case with the intelligence community, and now that community is having its vengeance in a very serious way. It's extraordinarily plain that the White House is now in the middle of an outright brawl without the faintest notion of how to fight it, except dirty, and that's not working, either.
I no longer have any doubt at all that there were borscht-stained thumbs on the scales throughout 2016. (I never had much doubt, but what little I had has completely vaporized.) I have very little doubt any more that the Trump campaign served two primary functions: one, to monetize Being A Candidate and then Being The President on behalf of the Family Trump; and two, to act as a vessel for Russian interests in the west. The Republican Party and, god knows, the good of the Republic, were secondary and tertiary concerns at best. The Republican Party has demonstrated that it doesn't give a damn what this president does to the country as long as it gets its tax cuts on; in December, Slate had an interesting report on how Mitch McConnell monkey-wrenched a study of Russian influence of the election. The question is how much the people in the country can take.
And that's the rub. One of the things the Trump people have done very well is immunize their supporters against any bad news. This, of course, merely built on the work done over 30 years by the conservative movement and the burgeoning conservative media complex. (Do you have any idea how many people out there still really believe the 2008 economic crash was caused by how the Community Reinvestment Act "forced" big banks to give loans to Those People?) Shadowy figures from Spookland whispering to reporters is unlikely to put a serious dent in the reasons they decided to vote for the snake-oil peddler with the gilded commode who told them that he was the last real hope they have.
This story fairly screams for an extended televised series of hearings on the Sam Ervin model. Investigative journalism can penetrate only so deeply. Televised punditry based on that reporting can penetrate only so deeply, and the audiences for those shows are so polarized at this point that they have fairly well abandoned the idea of changing any minds or moving any numbers. But turn this into a mini-series and, in concert with all of that other activity, that's when the country has the best chance to move on its rulers.
It can't go on like this.
We can't have a White House this compromised and this oblivious to the water rising over its head. We can't have an intelligence community permanently at war with the civilian government. We can't have a Congress so set on its economic and social agenda that it abandons its oversight function. (Do you know what your House of Representatives was doing today? Among other things, it dealt with the issue of hunting bears in Alaska from the air. Sarah Palin was ahead of her time in so many ways.) And we can't have an American public so numb and disengaged that this carnival of the bizarre and grotesque—and worse—sounds like the way self-government is supposed to work.
The question is how much the people in the country can take.
One of the more underrated American political novels—and perhaps the most underrated American political satire—is Richard Condon's Winter Kills, a thinly fictionalized version of the circumstances surrounding the JFK assassination. It was made into a very strange but compelling film by William Richert in 1979 and it starred the great John Huston as the evil Joe Kennedy, Sr. figure who, at the end, is confronted by his stepson, who has proven that the old man was responsible for the murder of the president, his own son.
"I'm all that's standing between you and darkest night, son," Huston says. "The other side of me, there's Chaos."
What we have now is a guy who created the specter of Chaos in the campaign, and who is now halfway to making it a reality in the country, and who still is pitching himself as the only person who can keep us safe from the Chaos that exists in his mind, and from the actual Chaos of his own making. This ought not to be tenable in the leader of a democratic republic. This is not the way it's supposed to work at all.