The bombshell last night in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report was that there was none. What he did not say turned out to be more significant than what he did. Filled with extensive redactions that made it look more like a newly declassified CIA than a court document, the memo on former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, he of ‘lock her up’ fame, recommended no prison time. In maintaining a vigilant silence, Mueller is sure to enrage and unsettle Trump more than if he had disclosed what he knows. Now Trump — and everyone else’s — imagination is free to run riot.
Mueller indicated that Flynn had provided ‘substantial assistance,’ including no less than 19 interviews with the FBI. Flynn, in other words, has been tattling on his old compadres from the Trump campaign. The notion that collusion, or collaboration, or whatever term you want to use, did not take place is looking increasingly farfetched. The only questions are who, what, when and where. And so, a new round of fill-in-the-blanks has ensued as speculation centers on whom, specifically, Flynn has fingered in the Trump campaign as colluding with the Russkies. Was it Jared Kushner? Don, Jr.?
If Trump is concerned, he isn’t displaying it this morning. Instead, he is on best behavior even as his presidency continues to wobble unevenly. Yesterday key Senators, including Lindsey Graham, expressed the conviction, after listening to CIA Director Gina Haspel’s account of the Khashoggi affair, that, lo and behold, the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman really was the culprit in the murder. ‘If you give this guy a pass, after he disrespected you, you will look weak and you don’t want to look weak. Right now, you’ve got to be strong. Everybody’s watching,’ he warned the president last night.
The weakness of Trump, however, is becoming palpable. On China he’s been tweeting up a storm this morning. Mr Tariff has given way, after a stock market crash yesterday, to Mr Emollient. Trump declared, ‘Very strong signals being sent by China once they returned home from their long trip, including stops, from Argentina. Not to sound naive or anything, but I believe President Xi meant every word of what he said at our long and hopefully historic meeting. ALL subjects discussed!’ Not to sound naive or anything, but I don’t believe a word of it. Always the salesman, Trump proclaimed that China’s leader Xi Jinping has promised to launch a crackdown on sales of Fentanyl to the US: ‘If China cracks down on this “horror drug,” using the Death Penalty for distributors and pushers, the results will be incredible!’
Trump is driving his presidency in increasingly peculiar directions. Yesterday Trump and Melania used a stretch limo and an eight-car motorcade with sirens blaring to travel 250 yards from the White House to Blair House, where he met for about 20 minutes with the grieving Bush family, then motored back home. His failure simply to walk across the street has spurred speculation that his bone spurs, which prevented him from serving in Vietnam, were acting up. Others have rushed to Trump’s defense, noting that Michelle Obama observes in her new memoir, Becoming, that the Secret Service sometimes insisted on a motorcade: ‘If Barack and I had a meeting in Blair House, located just across an already closed-off part of Pennsylvania Avenue, they’d sometimes request that we take the motorcade instead of walking in the fresh air.’ But if Trump’s defenders are reduced to invoking Michelle Obama as, in effect, a character witness, then they are really in trouble.