The Washington Post
On Nov. 22, 2016 - a few weeks after winning the presidency - Donald Trump announced a stunning reversal. After months of “lock her up,” Trump said he opposed further investigation of Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation, as it would be “very, very divisive” for the country and Clinton had already “suffered greatly in many different ways.” Trump confidant Rudolph Giuliani said “there’s a tradition in American politics that after you win an election, you sort of put things behind you.”
A year later, Trump is no longer “putting it behind” him. He has all but ordered his Justice Department to reopen the investigation into Clinton’s emails and to explore the fantabulous theory that the Clinton Foundation somehow got nine federal agencies to tamper with the review of a commercial uranium transaction. This week, he called for jailing a former Clinton aide and prosecuting former FBI Director James Comey. If that weren’t enough, Trump’s allies are calling for an investigation of “high ranking Obama government officials who might have colluded to prevent” Trump’s election.
What is going on here?
Perhaps it is an effort to confuse and deflect from the rising tide of accusations against Trump and his cohorts - including sensational new charges from former aide and ally Stephen Bannon. Perhaps it is just another reflection of Trump’s lack of discipline and erratic nature.
But I suspect there is another reason Trumpland has reversed course just as special counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry into Trump’s actions appears to be reaching a critical point. Trump and his allies are proposing a bargain, with a not-so-subtle message to Democrats: “If you don’t want your people to be investigated, remain quiet as we shut down the congressional investigations and undercut the special counsel. If my people are going to be investigated, then so will yours.”
This indecent proposal needs to be considered against the backdrop of what we do know - and don’t - about the Trump-Russia mess.
First, we learned last year that Trump’s narrow 2016 victory was indelibly stained by Russian help. It has been shown that millions of Americans were subjected to deceptive Russian propaganda on social media. We know that a lesser but still significant number - given the narrowness of Trump’s win - were subjected to advertisements bought by Russian sources, paid for in rubles. We know that a Russian-allied intelligence operation stole emails from the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign officials and then facilitated their release to maximize their influence - forcing out the DNC chair on the eve of the party’s convention, counteracting the “Access Hollywood” tape by dumping many stolen emails the day that revelation came out.