T he Washington Post reported last week that “President Trump’s allies are waging an increasingly aggressive campaign to undercut the Russia investigation by exposing the role of a top-secret FBI source. The effort reached new heights Thursday as Trump alleged that an informant had improperly spied on his 2016 campaign and predicted that the ensuing scandal would be ‘bigger than Watergate!’”
That was a convoluted, and hyper-cautious, way of explaining the obvious: President Trump is actively engaged in a campaign to undercut special counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry into misdeeds associated with the Trump campaign and, presumably, the Trump presidency.
Trump was right in one respect; the level of presidential wrongdoing we are now witnessing is, in fact, “bigger than Watergate.” And it is remarkable the extent to which this wrongdoing is playing out in real time, often on Twitter. Trump has taken to social media to demand a Department of Justice inquiry into allegations regarding the Federal Bureau of Investigation’a gathering information about Russian involvement with his campaign. The allegation that the FBI had an informant with expertise on the Russia issue is, Trump claims, the “biggest political scandal” of all time.
The president is wrong. The scandal here is not that the FBI scrutinized a campaign that engaged in activities that clearly demand investigation by law-enforcement agencies. The scandal lies in those activities in the first place. As Congressman Adam Schiff, the California Democrat who is the ranking member of his party on the House Intelligence Committee, says, “it would have been negligent for the FBI not to take steps to protect the country in the midst of information it was receiving.”
But there is not just one scandal. The second scandal, which has been unfolding for more than a year, involves an attempt by the president of the United States to undercut an ongoing examination of foreign influence on US elections, including the possibility that this president assembled an administration to meet the demands of those foreign influencers.
There is a lot that we do not know at this point. But there is an expectation that the ongoing investigation by Mueller and his team will provide answers to some of the most important questions.
There is mounting evidence—much of it provided by Trump on Twitter and in public statements—to suggest that the president is conspiring with congressional allies to use the corrupted power of the executive and legislative branches of the federal government to, as the Post so delicately suggests, “undercut” the investigative work in which Mueller and others are engaged.