President Trump spent a lot of time on immigration during the STOU address and his divisive language has been chalked up to recharging his base. After all, that’s the way he began his campaign last year, demonizing illegal immigrants. This speech, however, was just the latest of many appeals to his ardent, right-wing supporters.
Most of Trump’s appointments to high-level government positions have been conservative, anti-abortion and anti-immigration individuals. He strongly supported repealing Obamacare and he recently threw red meat to anti-abortion participants in the March For Life. Trump attacked the mostly black NFL players who kneeled in protest during the National Anthem and he attempted to bar Muslim immigrants from entering the United States. Whatever his base wanted, Trump delivered it.
The question on many minds, however, is why does Trump keep doing this? Shouldn’t he be trying to unite the nation? Doesn’t he care about moderate Republicans and Democrats? Is this the right strategy for a reelection run in 2020?
Well, Trump has a much more pressing challenge to face — the Russia investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The well documented facts known to the public indicate that Mueller has a case to charge Trump with obstruction of justice. He may also have sufficient evidence to prove that Trump or his campaign colluded with Russians. Remember — Mueller has a lot more information than we have. I think those who claim this is a witch hunt based on fake news are deluding themselves.
I believe Trump’s objective with the “always-Trump” group is to keep them fired up and make sure congressional Republicans toe the line. Hardcore Trump supporters would be enough to defeat any Republican candidate that goes against him. Trump’s base is his insurance policy if he decides to fire Mueller or Assistant Attorney General Rob Rosenstein. And they’ll discourage House Republicans from considering impeachment charges if it comes to that. Trump uses his base to keep Republican politicians “on his team.”
Senator Jeff Flake (R-Az.) was an outlier. He criticized Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign and challenged the president early in 2017, so Trump turned against him. Knowing that a well-financed candidate would oppose him in the primaries and seeing his low polling numbers, Flake dropped his reelection bid. This lesson was not lost on other Republicans who learned to fear Trump’s ire and the wrath of his base.
Early in 2017 many congressional Republicans were relatively neutral. The Senate and House Intelligence Committees opened bipartisan investigations of Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election. Last May Republican Robert Mueller had bipartisan support when he was appointed as special counsel.
But last October Mueller charged former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates with conspiracy against the United States and money laundering. Later Mueller announced that Trump’s former foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos and former national security advisor Michael Flynn had plead guilty to lying to the FBI. Republican bipartisan attitudes began to change. Many of these politicians are lawyers and some are former prosecutors. They were well aware that the cases against Trump were serious threats to his presidency and they reacted.
Republicans became more critical of the FBI, the Justice Department and the Russia investigation. But none were more aggressive than House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), a close Trump ally.
On Friday Trump authorized the release of a classified, partisan memo drafted by Nunes. It chastises the FBI for the way it obtained a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) surveillance warrant in October 2016 targeting Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, an American citizen. The memo alleges that the warrant application was primarily based on an unsubstantiated “dossier” prepared by Christopher Steele, a British agent who was being paid by the Democratic National Committee. It further alleges that the DNC involvement was omitted from the application and that Steele was biased against Trump.
But with all the GOP hype, I don’t think this memo contains anything shocking or the bombshell many Republicans wanted. It is essentially an attempt to implicate Steele, the FBI and various Justice Department officials, including Rosenstein, in wrongdoing. In a rare statement the FBI said it has “grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.” Democrats on the Intel committee drafted a counter memo, which has yet to be approved for release.
In my opinion, this memo is not justification for firing anyone, let alone Mueller or his boss Rob Rosenstein. It certainly doesn’t reveal an “American disgrace” that our fleckless President bemoans nor does it in any way vindicate him. It’s just another attempt by Trump to undermine the independence of federal law enforcement agencies. If anyone is doing anything shocking here, it is Trump.
Regardless, right-wing media cheered the memo’s release and demanded that the Mueller investigation be terminated. So even though Nunes failed to deliver what he promised, he further stoked Trump’s base and reinforced their desire to shield Trump from impeachment.
Years ago, I was a computer programmer at the FBI in Washington. Back then it was a tightknit organization that fiercely protected its untarnished reputation. I don’t think that has changed. Trump may discover it’s not wise to punch the guys who know where the bodies are buried.
The results of Mueller’s Russia investigation will out and I don’t believe Trump’s base can protect him from the consequences.