In Tucker Carlson's noble quest to protect Donald Trump and the racist right from marauding liberals taking over America with their gender politics, the Fox News host is doubling down on the parallel universe he inhabits. In a truly extraordinary claim, Carlson stated that thus far, the Mueller investigation has yielded zero evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign team of 2016 and the Russian government. He tweeted this yesterday:
And the day before:
It is hard to know where to begin with this outrageous lie. Firstly, it is an ongoing investigation lead by one of the most experienced prosecutors in US history, so the chances of Mueller releasing everything he has on Trump and his team for public consumption is zero. Secondly, the evidence for collusion is already available and has been for some time. We know an awful lot about the Trump team's collusion with Russia, because, well, it happened -- a fact only hardened ideologues with political agendas still deny.
New York Magazine's Jonathan Chait has done an excellent job of summarizing the evidence we have thus far, detailing what we know about Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos, Peter W. Smith, Roger Stone, and Donald Trump Jr. Writes Chait about Manafort:
What do we know about Manafort? We know he ran the campaign of a pro-Russian candidate on behalf of Russia previously; that he had taken on massive debt to a foreign patron, Oleg Deripaska; that Deripaska was working on behalf of the Russian government’s foreign policy; that Manafort accepted his position as Trump’s campaign manager for free; and that he hoped his work for Trump would help him “get whole” with Deripaska.
Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos met with a Russian agent who told him he had dirt on Hillary Clinton, later boasted that Russia had obtained damaging Clinton emails, and lied to the FBI about his contacts with Russia. That would also qualify as evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Peter W. Smith, a veteran Republican political operative, attempted to obtain stolen Clinton emails and told the people he contacted in pursuit of these emails he was working on behalf of the Trump campaign. When one of the cybersecurity experts he contacted warned Smith that his work might involve collusion with Russia, it did not dissuade him at all. That also seems like evidence.
Trump confidant Roger Stone reportedly knew about stolen Clinton emails, emailed with the person who had the stolen material, publicly flaunted his advance knowledge of these emails, and also spoke regularly with Donald Trump during the period when he had this knowledge. It is a virtual certainty Stone colluded with Russia on the email hack, and highly probable he made Trump an accessory after the fact.
On Donald Trump Jr's meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian agent promising dirt on Clinton:
Even if you don’t consider the Trump Tower meeting to be absolute proof of collusion, it is certainly evidence of collusion. It was, after all, a meeting held for the express purpose of furthering cooperation — or, as it were, collusion — between the Trump campaign and Russia. And there is no reason to believe that the publicly available evidence of this meeting — which Trump and his family have lied about, repeatedly — contains the entire extent of the information about it.
We also know that Trump went out of his way to praise Vladimir Putin throughout the election campaign, and that he fired then FBI director James Comey because he was investigating him over potential collusion with Russia. Trump publicly admitted this in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt, saying the initial White House story that he fired Comey because of a recommendation by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was false, and that he was going to do it anyway (bold emphasis ours):
He [Rosenstein] made a recommendation, he’s highly respected, very good guy, very smart guy. The Democrats like him, the Republicans like him. He made a recommendation. But regardless of [the] recommendation, I was going to fire Comey. Knowing there was no good time to do it!
And in fact when I decided to just do it I said to myself, I said, “You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.”
Thus far, Mueller has issued over 100 criminal charges against 19 people and three companies. Of the 19 people charged, 5 have already pled guilty to crimes ranging from lying to federal investigators about contact with the Russians, identity fraud, tax and bank fraud, and making false statements.
Yet Tucker Carlson believes there is no evidence for collusion and the whole investigation is an elitist witch hunt orchestrated by Democrats/Deep State players "frantic to keep its hold on power".
Carlson's truly insane interpretation of what is happening is actually quite easy to understand when you take a sober look at what the Alt-Right hero is attempting to do. Carlson, as I have argued, is one of the most dangerous people in America -- an intellectual Trump apologists who spreads ethno-nationalistic propaganda on his nightly show under the guise of "speaking truth to power". Carlson believes rich, white men like himself are being persecuted by effete liberals and minorities, and the Judeo-Christian values he cherishes are under attack from Muslims, transgendered people, and identity politics advocates. This hilariously idiotic worldview is presented with the utmost sincerity (Carlson's trademark look of disbelief when confronted with a view he pretends he doesn't understand is now a well worn internet meme), and his viewers are lapping it up. Carlson appeals overtly to disaffected white men who believe their country and values are under attack, and makes millions and millions of dollars doing so.
For all Carlson's public disdain towards the "elites", the private school educated presenter who made a name for himself wearing preppy bowties and arguing for the dismantling of the welfare state, is remarkably comfortable around them. Just like Donald Trump, his pretend empathy for "regular folk" is not supported by his lifestyle, and just like Trump, Carlson has figured out how to play them.
The Mueller probe serves as a useful catalyst for Tucker's schtick, and he has milked it relentlessly. He presents wild, anti-elitist conspiracy theories about deep state actors and mysterious cabals of power hungry liberals with a straight face, lending credence to the madness of the current president and the media organs doing his bidding. His viewers are now so used to this alternate reality that they can no longer be reached.
Carlson's damage to democracy and the rule of law in America cannot yet be measured, but it is significant, and growing, and he remains more dangerous than ever.