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Taking Stock of Another Manic Trump Morning

We thought all hell was breaking loose yesterday. We were wrong. That’s happening today. The idea that a sitting President is threatening to sue a former top staffer over an NDA and (putative) defamation is so comically ridiculous as to defy rationality and mark a new summit of nonsense even in the nonsense pile of the Trump presidency. Taking the matter on the merits, it is hard to imagine the number of first amendment-based fences Trump and his lawyer (the same lawyer who Hulk Hogan and Peter Thiel used to destroy Gawker. Really.) have to jump to sustain this. In any case, close to a certainty, there will be no lawsuit.

Meanwhile, Matt Drudge is shooting off a series of tweets that appear to be either a prediction or a suggestion or perhaps even a report that the owners of Breitbart News will fire Steve Bannon. On this a minor digression … Since Breitbart the website has become a strange amalgam of right-wing chop shop with a Stalinist sensibility purveying fake news with an antic edge, there’s been a backdrop of criticism on the right that the Bannon-era Breitbart represents a betrayal of the late Andrew Breitbart who died in 2012.

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Some Random Speculations about Trump, Bannon, and Wolff

I am trying to write a book, but I keep getting diverted by events in my hometown. The latest is the furor over Michael Wolff’s portrayal of Donald Trump and Trump’s break with his former aide Steve Bannon. I have three marginal reflections about this that have to do with Trump’s physical and mental state and with the way he governs.

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The End of the Beginning

One of the things we will be focusing on on the Russia front in 2018 is not simply breaking a lot of news but on narrating the bigger picture. It can be a difficult story to make sense of because it has so many tentacles. There are so many disparate and far-flung parts to keep track of and make sense of. One of the top themes of Glenn Simpson’s and Peter Fritsch’s must-read oped published yesterday in The New York Times is that the focus on conspiracy during the 2016 campaign cycle has almost totally eclipsed examination of Donald Trump’s longstanding involvement with the Russian criminal underworld and money laundering which laid the basis of what happened in 2016. (That has always seemed to be Trump’s greatest fear.) We’ll come back to that.

So where are we now in this story? A series of revelations in the final weeks of 2017 placed us at what we should think not as the beginning or the end but the end of the beginning. We are still only at the front end of this investigation. We still know only the outlines of what happened and how. But we are past any serious question about whether there was collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. There was. It’s no longer a matter of probability, even high probability. We know it from either undisputed facts or sworn statements from Trump associates now cooperating with the Mueller investigation.

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