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Monday, February 26, 2024

Questioning the banality of Trump’s Russia investigation

Interesting stories are out there — but this process isn’t one of them

If there’s one question that perfectly condensed the presidency of Donald Trump into a nutshell, it would be this: why? Head-scratching blunders, including the infamous “covfefe” tweet, are mixed with more pressing concerns like name-calling that increasingly erode the president’s credibility.

In the American open forum, we have a duty to ask why things are happening. For example, why would Trump tag members of his political consortium with names — including Sloppy Steve, Lyin’ Ted and Little Marco — recalling the worst days of middle school recess?

Rough-around-the-edges behavior is normal for Trump. So is the endless microscoping of his public and private life in the White House, which leads to another question:

Why is the Russia investigation still dominating our news cycle a year and some change after Donald Trump won the election?

Questions about Russian hacking, trolling and covert communications with Trump’s campaign team are as normal as burned tongues from McDonald’s coffee, and that’s saying something. The Russia investigation dominates talking points from the morning paper to the nightly debating circuit with Anderson Cooper. Hard to miss, no?

It’s also one of the most boring news topics in vogue. After school shootings, women’s marches, false missile alerts, immigration fights, government shutdowns and scandals over alleged affairs with porn stars, a slow-moving investigation about election meddling just won’t tickle the feet the same way.

The overall importance of this investigation should not be questioned. A foreign power attempted to interfere with the sanctity of American elections by a joint campaign of social media trolling and email hacking. Members of a presidential campaign repeatedly lied about contact with this foreign power, demonstrating contempt for the law and raising suspicions that there may be more than just an isolated Russia in play.

In the annals of history, the Russia investigation will attain the relevance of Watergate. The similarities are obvious — two presidents with a mean streak, a tendency to insult and lie, all culminating with coverups and illegal acts. Policy considerations based on Russia’s actions and Trump’s denials should remain at the forefront of conversation for a long time.

But the process is a snoozefest. The updates are incremental. Sometimes they falter in the spotlight of “information overload.” Amid every other scandal or poor decision by Mr. Trump, coverage of the Russia investigation adopts the mantle of an antique clock. Serviceable for now, and even interesting to look at from time to time, but its real value as a sellable antique will only be apparent later. The Russia investigation, additionally, suffers from a case of “too much boring Trump news” in the company of his flashier — and more entertaining — flaws.

Occasionally there are interesting developments. Michael Flynn’s resignation after a historically short three weeks as Trump’s national security advisor set off a chaotic White House staffing frenzy, replete with hirings and firings to the tune of “The Apprentice.”

James Comey’s sacking was certainly juicy, especially given the former FBI director’s role in Hillary Clinton’s trumped-up email fiasco. The legal hiccups involving Paul Manafort and George Papadopoulos, both former Trump campaign advisors, demonstrated to any impartial observer the depths presidential teams will go to gain an election advantage. (Indeed, Nixon may have company after all.)

If you actually thought ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos pled guilty to charges of lying to the FBI about contacts with the Russians, don’t feel embarrassed. Wolf Blitzer over at CNN did too. In any case, it may have proven one of the more interesting parts of the Russia investigation. It’s almost a pity. Almost.


Written by: Nick Irvin — ntirvin@ucdavis.edu

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual columnists belong to the columnists alone and do not necessarily indicate the views and opinions held by The California Aggie.


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