I cycled through a few dozen stories related to Trump, Russia, the government shutdown, Mueller, and related doings with the idea of capturing some of the “tick-tock,” as they say in the biz, of what the heck is going on with this stuff. But when you zoom way back, you start to get the following picture:
- By any measure, Donald Trump and those closest to him — both in his family and administration (past and present) — are trapped in an intensifying hurricane of scandals, lies, indictments, and investigation-worthy acts (both alleged and definite)
- The Democrats took over control the House of Representatives recently
- President Trump, who has a clear history of doing this already, has manufactured a “crisis” in order to demand funding for his wall (although there is no actual “crisis”) as a means to deflect and distract from other things.
- The government closing in on a full month of being partially shutdown, already an all-time record. This could end up being bad for an already shaky economy that at some point, historically speaking, will surely begin to contract anyway
As is often the case, my mind flickered to pop culture for context. I thought about The Departed, the Martin Scorsese-directed movie about gangsters and cops and moles and rats in Boston. There’s a great little scene where Alec Baldwin’s character, a cop, is adding up the pieces of evidence he sees and asks Matt Damon’s character, a very dirty cop, “cui bono?” which is Latin for who benefits.
From The Washington Post, “From Brexit to NATO and the shutdown, Putin is winning so much he might get tired of winning“:
- Against the backdrop of the American withdrawal from Syria and President Trump’s musings about pulling out of NATO, it adds up to a strategic bonanza for Vladimir Putin and his vision of a revanchist Russia. We don’t know exactly how much Moscow spent supporting influence operations to impact the U.K. and U.S. elections in 2016, but it seems hard to overstate how good the Kremlin’s return has been on what Western intelligence agencies believe was a relatively modest investment.
And here’s another disturbing pull quote from a piece chock full of them:
- If Putin doesn’t think the United States will use force to defend the tiny Baltic states if he were to invade, as required under Article V, millions of freedom-loving Europeans are more likely to fall under the yoke of Putin’s authoritarian rule.
Another way to look at it, from The New Yorker:
- Trump’s America is not Putin’s Russia, and, with the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of the President ongoing, we do not yet know whether Trump himself is actually Putin’s man in Washington or merely a sycophant with a distinctly un-American affinity for autocrats in general and Putin in particular.
Either way and meanwhile, things like this are going on:
- Model who claimed U.S.-Russian collusion tape held in Moscow on prostitution charges
- Trump has concealed details of his face-to-face encounters with Putin from senior officials in administration
Looking forward, we’re starting to see cracks in the vaunted “Trump base”:
- Rebuking Trump, over 130 House Republicans challenge plans to lift sanctions against Putin ally
- Only three-quarters of Trump supporters definitely plan to vote for him in 2020
- Will popular Maryland Governor Larry Hogan run against Trump in the 2020 GOP primary?
- “There’s plenty of time for Trump’s numbers to improve, but for now, they’re getting worse.”
You have to wonder if Trump will be the Republican nominee for 2020 at this point. And a worried nation waits to see what will happen next in the meantime.
This post originally appeared in what had originally been called The Eric Berlin E-mail Newsletter. To get a weekly blast of pop culture, digital media, and politics that helps make sense of an increasingly frazzled world, sign on up for The Berlin Files here.