The basic formula for every breaking Trump/Russia story is essentially as follows:
- The New York Times or Washington Post releases an article that at first blush appears extremely damning.
- Anti-Trump pundits and Democrats react reflexively to the news, express shrieking outrage, and proclaim that this finally proves untoward collusion between Trump and Russia — a smoking gun, at last.
- Aggrieved former Clinton apparatchiks *connect the dots* in a manner eerily reminiscent of right-wing Glenn Beck-esque prognostication circa 2009.
4. Self-proclaimed legal experts rashly opine as to whether the new revelation entails some kind of criminally actionable offense. (Recall the now-laughable certitude that felled National Security Advisor Mike Flynnviolated the 200+ year old Logan Act.) This latest version is the certitude that Jeff Sessions committed perjury, when that at the very least is highly questionable.
(Probably best to at least read the relevant statute first.)
5. The notion of Russian “collusion” being key to toppling Trump becomes further implanted in the minds of the most energized Democratic activists, as evidenced this time around by a troupe of protesters who showed up to the Department of Justice headquarters brandishing trademarked “Resist” placards, chanting “Lock Him Up,” and (as usual) hyperventilating about Putin. As I’ve written before, Trump/Putin theories are increasingly the top concern that plugged-in “Resistance” types bring up at the highly-charged town hall meetings that have received so much attention of late.
6. Pointing out these glaring flaws in the latest anti-Russia frenzy is immediately construed by cynics as “defending Trump” or “defending Sessions” when it most assuredly is not. At least in my own case, it’s a defense of not getting enraptured by irrational hysterics to further short-term political aims.
7. People who’d spent the past 12 hours frothing at the mouth gradually come to realize that their initial furor was probably overblown, and that a more sober look at the actual facts at hand reveal that the anti-Trump chorus probably got ahead of itself…again.
8. Democrats who sought to capitalize on the uproar end up looking extremely foolish.
9. It becomes “normalized” (that new favorite buzzword!) to cast any meetings or contacts with Russian officials as inherently sinister. Rather than just a basic function of a Senator’s ordinary duties, meeting with “The Russians” is increasingly viewed as evidence of nefarious intent, and perhaps participation in a grand global conspiracy.
10. Political ineptitude and clumsiness (as was very probably the case with Flynn) gets interpreted as something more calculated than it really is. Sessions could’ve avoided this ridiculous controversy by saying something to the effect of: “I did not meet with any Russian officials in my informal capacity as Trump campaign surrogate, but I did speak with Russian officials over the course of my ordinary Senatorial duties.” The problem is, such an admission would’ve probably blown up into a big political snafu; Democrats would’ve seized on it as evidence of Russian collusion. So Sessions tried to lawyer himself out of trouble with an ambiguous comment during sworn testimony. This allowed him to sneak through the confirmation process, but created an even bigger political storm later.
11. A Trump official’s least egregious quality ends up being portrayed as his most egregious quality. There were any number of reasons to be highly worried about the presence of Mike Flynn in the Trump administration, from his bellicose posture toward Iran, to his outlandish views on the alleged threat posed by Islam. Conversing with the Russian ambassador about reducing tensions would very clearly not have been on the “reasons to be worried about Flynn” list. Likewise, Jeff Sessions is a troubling figure for a whole host of reasons, ranging from his hawkishly retrograde attitude about Drug Prohibition to his dicey history on racial matters. That he spoke to the Russian Ambassador in September 2016 would not be on the “reasons to be worried about Sessions” list.
12. The overall political climate gets further degraded and warped without any commensurate upside.