For several years Donald Trump has depicted himself as a kind of Roger Thornhill, the advertising executive in Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest played by Cary Grant. Thornhill tells his secretary at the outset of the film that in his line of work there is no such thing as a lie only ‘expedient exaggeration’ and soon gets swept up in the machinations of the Cold War deep state as a gang of thugs mistakes him for someone named George Kaplan. An indignant Thornhill eventually manages to rescue himself, but Trump seems to get further enmeshed in his ongoing deep state saga by the week, and, in contrast to Thornhill, much of it is his own fault.
The latest revelation is that he tried to force Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, one day after the Mueller report cleared him of collusion, into providing kompromat on Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company called Burisma. Trump may have tried to hold up military aid to Ukraine in exchange for an investigation into the Bidens. But Kiev isn’t chickening out. The Daily Beast reports that Kiev is now indicating that it’s happy to cooperate with Trump but only if he asks officially.
Last night Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani went on CNN to admit that he was looking for dirt on Biden and argue that it was a perfectly sensible course of action. In Washington scandals have become the political equivalent of vaping, a constant and agreeable form of stimulus, so this development is heaven sent. No week seems to pass by in which Democrats don’t fail to ask themselves if this is the big one or if Trump will once more escape unscathed. As usual Trump is going on the offensive, asking whether the intelligence official who first blew the whistle on his move isn’t in fact a partisan hack. He’s also battling his favorite antagonist Adam Schiff who he declared is ‘at it again.’ In a sense Trump is back on his favorite territory. He gets to denounce ‘little’ Adam Schiff and the deep state.
The Ukraine story might be a damp squib. Or it could be the vast conspiracy that some Democrats scent, involving the resign of Dan Coats, Sue Gordon as well as the machinations of one William P. Barr, the new heavy of the Trump administration who has not a few liberals pining for the reign of Jeff Sessions at the Justice Department. The likelihood is that this brouhaha will continue only until it is eclipsed by a fresh scandal. But it does indicate two things. Trump is scared of Biden. And he really, really wants to get re-elected. Does Biden or any other Democrat want it as much?