President Trump finds himself backed into a corner, wagging a fire poker at anyone or anything that dares cross him — the liberal media, his former lawyer-fixer, defenestrated White House aides, a dead senator. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation continues to gain strength with each passing week, and more and more members of Trump’s inner circle are reportedly cooperating with Mueller’s team and opening their respective vaults. (In the case of one of Trump’s New York Rich Guy Friends, David Pecker, there exists a literal vault of secrets — to which the special counsel’s team may or may not gain access.)
The president is staying up later, rising earlier, tweeting more.
He’s lashing out and projecting, scrounging for loyalty where it’s drying up — most notably, among his fellow citizens.
A new Washington Post/ABC poll finds that 60 percent of Americans disapprove of Trump’s performance in office — the worst of his tenure thus far. With just 67 days left until the 2018 midterm elections, 49 percent of those polled say Congress should move toward impeachment (46 percent disagree).
With regards to the Russia investigation, 63 percent support Mueller’s actions and, specifically, 67 percent feel that Mueller’s criminal case against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was justified. (A Virginia jury found Manafort guilty on eight counts earlier this month; Manafort is preparing for a second trial in D.C. in the coming weeks.)
But perhaps the most illuminating data point is that 64 percent of Americans believe Trump should not fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions — something he has been threatening to do for months. Many believe that Trump lost control of the Russia narrative, and the scope and ambition of the ensuing federal investigation, the moment Sessions recused himself last March and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein took the reins. Should Trump fire Sessions and replace him with an A.G. more sympathetic to the president’s increasingly desperate claims, that new person would (likely) feel emboldened to fire Rosenstein and/or Mueller and effectively scuttle the investigation.
Many factors led to this late-summer inflection point.
Manafort’s conviction on a host of money-related crimes by a jury of his suburban D.C. peers — including at least one admitted MAGA hat owner — added even more legitimacy to the Mueller investigation and quieted cries of its politicization. At nearly the same moment Manafort was found guilty in Virginia on August 21st, Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer-fixer, pleaded guilty to eight counts of his own in New York (including campaign finance violations) and is cooperating with investigators. Cohen’s crimes stem from his hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy playmate Karen McDougal on behalf of Trump in the weeks prior to the 2016 election. Corroborative evidence of Trump’s affairs with those women — among others — is said to be sitting in a safe owned by the National Enquirer head honcho, Pecker, who is also believed to be cooperating with investigators, alongside the Trump organization’s former CFO, Allen Weisselberg.
Nearly all of the above developments occurred between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
Last year, Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, began cooperating, as did former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos. (Manafort’s former protege, Rick Gates, also “flipped,” after his own October 2017 indictment and served as the star witness in the trial of his old boss.)
The current chatter is that longtime Trump ally Roger Stone could be the next to face a Mueller indictment for his role as a liaison between the amorphous Russian hacker Guccifer 2.0 and Wikileaks. Stone took to his extremely bizarre Instagram account on Tuesday to kneecap an allegedly forthcoming Ronan Farrow report exposing his connections. The president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Large Adult Son Donald Jr. are also said to be facing down possible indictments, though those details are far murkier.
Russia skeptics like Glenn Greenwald have started to come around, too. In a new profile in the New Yorker, Greenwald discusses the various indictments, admitting that, “You’d pretty much have to believe that Mueller and his team fabricated it all out of whole cloth, which I don’t believe is likely.” Meanwhile, alleged Russian agent Maria Butina is currently being held in jail without bail for what the government says was her systematic attempt to infiltrate the NRA and GOP circles for intelligence purposes.
And so the extremely logged-on president sits and waits for what could be another Friday afternoon surprise as Americans head into the holiday weekend desperately trying to log off, themselves. At least until Tuesday.