If I were one of the crew of the good ship “Trump White House” today, I might have started wondering where they store the life jackets and I may have even made a mental note to try to stay closer to one of the life boats when at all possible. It’s certainly is not yet time to start abandoning the ship, but the Captain has been acting erratically since he took command and the grapevine has it on good authority that the old tub has sprung a serious leak.
However, from where I sit as a distant observer, that might not be the best analogy. Sometimes in complex world of human interaction, when events start to build upon one another, sooner or later they reach critical mass and take on a life of their own. In such situations, the direction which future events take is no longer under the control of any individual, no matter how powerful. We say of such situations that “the tide has turned” because the phrase denotes that something has changed irrevocably and no one has full control of progression of future events.
That’s the feeling I got today about the whole Russia/election/collusion investigation, that the tide had turned. It is a feeling that events have piled on top of one another to the point that they had reached critical mass, had taken on taken a live of their own and set a course that no individual, not even the President or his allies in Congress can alter.
First it was the revelations made before the Senate Intelligence Committee about the magnitude of the Russian’s interference with our election process and the extent to which the Trump campaign played into that interference. Yes, I know that this is not news to those of us who have been following the situation closely. However, this was the first time that general public was exposed the knowledge in an authoritative manner that, wittingly or unwittingly, Trump and his campaign staff cooperated with Russian agents working under the direction of Vladimir Putin towards a common goal, that of defeating Hillary Clinton.
Clinton Watts, senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and a specialist in cyber warfare testified that the efforts of the Russian intelligence agencies to compromise our election process went far beyond hacking and releasing information damaging to the Clinton campaign. He told the committee about how many Russian controlled “media outlets” distributed fake news reports detrimental to Hillary Clinton to the American public and even explored hacking into voting machines. He also spoke about how Donald Trump had often repeated “fake news” stories of Russian origin on the campaign trail. Watts also described how conspiracy theories which Trump used in his campaign speeches were repeated by the media outlets controlled by Russian intelligence agencies. He said that Trump’s willingness to embrace the Russian disinformation campaign was one of the most important the reasons why Russia’s interference in the 2016 election was successful.
Even if investigators are never able to prove actual cooperation between the Trump campaign and the Russians in this regard, the implications are damning. The fact that Trump and his campaign staff were using the same fake news stores against Clinton as a foreign power that is bent on destroying our democracy will leave a permanent stain on Trump and his staff.
While Clinton Watts would not go so far as saying categorically that Trump and his campaign staff colluded with the Russians, it was clear he believed that Trump was not to be trusted. He indicated that he feared that his testimony before the committee would again prompt the Russians to seek vengeance on him personally in the form of cyber and disinformation attacks and that he didn’t trust the Trump administration to protect him. In his words, “My biggest concern right now is, I don’t know what the American stance is on Russia, and who’s going to take care of me. I mean, after years in the army and the FBI… today I’m going to walk out of here and ain’t nobody going to be covering my back. I’m going to be on my own, and that’s very disconcerting.”
When piled on top of other recent developments, the Watts’ testimony in itself was very damaging to Trump and his administration, but at that point the situation had not yet reached critical mass. That happened a few hours ago when the media picked up the story that Michael Flynn has been seeking immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony before the Senate and House Intelligence Committees and the FBI. Given that Flynn has already been interviewed by the FBI but, according to his lawyer, still “certainly has story to tell and wants to tell it”, if I were a Trump staffer I would prioritize looking for that life jacket locker.
From perspective of the American public this was the point of no return. While Flynn may have other reasons for seeking immunity, he himself previously said about Clinton staffers that people don’t seek immunity if they haven’t committed a crime. In the minds of thoughtful Americans who been on the fence, giving Trump the benefit of the doubt and refusing to connect the dots between what would otherwise be a set of highly unlikely coincidences, this should be the turning point. This is where doubts turn into suspicions, where the possibility of collusion becomes a probability in peoples’ minds. Now an ever growing majority of the American public will begin to demand to know what exactly was going on between the Trump campaign staff and the Russians.
There is no doubt that those who are ever loyal Trump supporters will find some way to rationalize all of this away, but they are in no means a majority of Americans. And this is by no means the end of the revelations; there very likely more shoes yet to fall. However, this is the point that some Republicans leaders who have held their noses and supported Trump will begin distance themselves from this debacle. To do otherwise might be political suicide. Trump’s favorability ratings are likely to take yet another hit, and if they do, Republican Congressmen from even red districts will be forced to reevaluate their unwavering support of the President. I also believe that from this point forward, it will be much more difficult for Trump to distract the media with absurd tweets as he has done so often in the past.
I could be wrong, but I firmly believe this is a turning point. I believe the tide has turned.