It appears as if the world is settling on “Trump-Russia” as the unofficial working title for the egregious hijacking of the 2016 election and all of the closely linked scandals, including alleged money-laundering, obstruction of justice and any other forms of collusion between President Trump, his staffers and the Kremlin. We’ve also heard “RussiaGate” and the boringly basic “Russia scandal.”
But perhaps the most salient and appropriate working title comes to us from John Oliver, the host of HBO’s Last Week Tonight. Oliver calls the scandal “Stupid Watergate” for obvious reasons. Stupid Watergate has all of the criminality and intrigue -- even many of the same tactical blunders as the 1972-74 Watergate scandal, only this time it’s being orchestrated and covered up by the dumbest litter of hacks ever to worm their way into the White House. Hence, Stupid Watergate. It’s impossible to know which title history will settle upon, though I’m voting for this one. Definitely.
The past 10 days alone were enough to illustrate the appropriateness of the nickname. It was 10 days in which the president accidentally confirmed that he’s, at the very minimum, under criminal investigation for obstruction of justice. In the same tweet, Trump appeared to attack Rod Rosenstein, his hand-picked and GOP-confirmed deputy attorney general and acting attorney general overseeing Stupid Watergate. Trump tweeted: “I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt.”
As an aside, Trump retweeted an article on Sunday -- something about how the media wants him to stop tweeting. Uh, no. Speaking for myself, I want him to tweet more. Much more. The crazier the better. Nothing but tweeting and golfing from now on, as far as I’m concerned. Anything that further ensnares him in Stupid Watergate, and anything that’ll keep him far, far away from actually governing is perfection.
Nevertheless, the most recent examples of self-defeating stupidity didn’t come from Trump this time. This time, his outside attorneys drove themselves and the president into a gigantic, crap-filled ditch.
First, there was attorney Mark Kasowitz. Trump’s longtime New York lawyer apparently told White House staffers that they shouldn’t bother getting lawyers to defend themselves against Stupid Watergate charges. Consequently, two ethics charges were filed against Kasowitz with both the D.C. and New York bar associations. Doy. On top of that, it's simply a horrible idea to tell people who might be implicated in potentially numerous grand jury probes, not to mention congressional inquiries, that they shouldn't hire lawyers -- putting everyone in horrendous legal jeopardy.
Next, Trump's other attorney, Jay Sekulow, appeared on Fox News Sunday and defended Trump against charges that he confirmed via the aforementioned tweet ("I am being investigated...!") that the investigation is a real thing and not, as he likes to say, "fake news." This, by the way, reminds me of the time Trump said about leaks regarding Mike Flynn, "The leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake because so much of the news is fake." Thanks for confirming, Mr. President.
The following is a verbatim transcript of an exchange that occurred during the interview. Reminder: this was Fox News Sunday. (Timecode 3:03)
JAY SEKULOW: And now he's being investigated by the Department of Justice -- the special counsel under -- the special counsel regulations still reports to the Department of Justice, not an independent counsel. So, he's being investigated for taking the action that the attorney general -- deputy attorney general recommended him to take by the agency who recommended the termination [of Comey]! So that's the constitutional threshold question here, and that's why, as I said, no investigation --
CHRIS WALLACE: What's the question? I mean, you stated -- you stated some facts. First of all , you've now said that he is being investigated after saying that you didn't --
WALLACE: You just said, sir, that he'd being--
SEKULOW: No he's not being investigated!
WALLACE: You just said that he's being investigated.
SEKULOW: No, Chris, I said that the invest-- let me be crystal clear so you're completely understanding. We have not received nor are we aware of any investigation of the president of the United States. Period.
WALLACE: Sir, you just two times that he's being investigated.
"Stupid Watergate" indeed.
It goes without saying that Wallace was exactly right. It's all there on video -- unless everyone's going insane except Trump and Sekulow. Otherwise, yes! Sekulow repeatedly confirmed in the interview that Trump knows he's being investigated. And this on top of Trump's tweet in which he himself confirmed it. I've always known Trump is a really bad liar -- that he sucks at the thing he's known best for. But clearly he surrounds himself with helpers who are equally if not worse than Trump when it comes to keeping their stories straight.
They say a gaffe is when you accidentally blurt the truth. Trump and Sekulow each fumbled their way into these conjoined messes because they're terrible liars and the truth is undeniable. I suppose that's another point to make here: why try to hide the fact that the president is being investigated in the first place? Wouldn't the resources of Trump's legal counsel be better spent defending the president against the charges than splitting hairs over the existence of the probe? It's like getting pulled over for reckless driving with your wife and kids in the car, then telling your family you were never pulled over -- while still stopped on the shoulder of the freeway. Duh -- your time is significantly better spent explaining the charges or defending yourself against those charges than disputing whether you were pulled over in the first place. Unless, of course, your family is made up of gnats with memories that last for eight seconds, then anything goes.
Not to overstate the obvious here, but if Trump had any clue about how government and the law worked, and if he had even ten percent more discipline than he actually has, he wouldn't be in half the mess he's in. Instead, he can't stop incriminating himself while foolishly believing his bullshit New York mobster-style jujitsu is iron clad. This is all utterly hilarious to observe. This is like the Little Rascals holding a mock trial or worse. This is like Homer Simpson representing himself. Trump and his closest advisers committed massive trespasses against American sovereignty and the rule of law -- a crime so massive that it helped him win a major election -- and now they're defending themselves in the most ridiculous ways possible. Self-incrimination barely begins to describe the trouble they're in, especially Trump himself.
But, please, by all means keep going, Mr. President. You're doing great!