Because they’ve hitched their wagon to a deranged, ignorant, pussy-grabbing “star,” the Republicans and sundry government employees have been compelled to undertake quasi-serious investigations into false and frankly ridiculous claims and allegations. This began literally on Day One, when Trump pressured the US Parks Service to produce nonexistent photographic evidence to support his lies about the inauguration crowd size.
To stave off the narcissistic injury of his massive popular vote loss, Trump claimed that millions of illegal ballots were cast, sending Republican minions scurrying to bolster that absurd claim. Now a panel headed by a racist vote suppressor has been convened, at taxpayer expense, to support that lie and hatch additional racist voter suppression schemes as a bonus.
The “wire tapp” lie about President Obama similarly goaded Republicans into investigating an absurdity. Trump was just repeating fatuous nonsense from Breitbart and Fox News, but he is no longer some random ranty douchebag flinging spurious allegations like verbal turds from his perch on a golden toilet; the morons who yoked their fate to his were obligated to treat the accusation seriously.
But if Brian Beutler is correct in a New Republic piece published today, the tweet below has the most potential to bring the whole house of cards crashing down on Trump’s head:
James Comey better hope that there are no "tapes" of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017
Beutler notes that while versions of the truth provided by Trump and his White House flacks tend to vary wildly, they’ve been notably consistent in keeping mum about the tapes alluded to in the tweet. He speculates that’s because those within the administration capable of higher cognitive functioning know they’ve boxed themselves in but good:
For a White House as undisciplined as this one, the tape stonewalling scans less as a political position than a legal one. White House counsel Don McGahn, or someone else who understands the potential gravity of the situation, may well have told everyone to keep their mouths shut. If the White House were to acknowledge that there are no tapes, Trump would be caught in a very troubling fabrication to intimidate a witness, but if the White House confirms that tapes exist, Trump would face the legal obligation to preserve them and perhaps even surrender them to Congress.
We know to a near certainty that the White House will come under immense pressure to come clean. If Comey testifies publicly before the Senate, it is likely he will confirm under oath that Trump sought his personal loyalty, thus resolving the mystery of the White House tapes one way or another. Trump might dispute Comey’s claims, but if he doesn’t release any tapes to prove his case, it would suggest either that the tapes don’t exist or that they vindicate Comey. The question at the heart of the tape scandal would tighten from “Do the tapes exist?” to “Did the president lie about the existence of the tapes, or about their content?” That’s a question people working in the White House will feel much more pressure to address than the one they face today.
It strikes me as overwhelmingly likely that the truth lies in one of these two scenarios. But even if Trump has recordings of his conversations with Comey, and they vindicate Trump—as he coyly suggests in his tweet—it is small solace because he will have recorded himself using his power to fire Comey as leverage to discourage an FBI investigation. That is, he will have gathered evidence against himself, documenting his attempt to obstruct justice.
Check and mate? Not while the Party Before Country Party hopes it can wring tax cuts, court appointments and voter suppression measures (as a bulwark against its overwhelming unpopularity) out of Trump.
But you know the establishment GOP is longing to wrestle the Tang Tyrant down, wind duct tape around his big fat mouth and break his tiny tweeting thumbs. It’s difficult to see how they make this White House “tapes” bullshit go away, given the dilemma Beutler outlines above.
There are really no good ways to spin it. And even if the GOP manages to avoid an independent investigation for now, if the party is increasingly seen as carrying water for an addled liar leading an incompetent fail parade, that may cost them enough seats to lose control of congress. And then all bets are off.