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Who has Donald Trump over a barrel?

The President reacts with neuralgic sensitivity to any imputations that he might be a Russian agent or subject to influence from Moscow

August 31, 2018

6:49 PM

31 August 2018

6:49 PM

Donald Trump got his sugar high last night at a rally in Indiana for Republican Senate candidate Mike Braun. Trump issued his most blatant threat yet to monkey with the Justice Department, saying he’s ready to ‘get involved.’ By involvement he means denuding it of those conversant with Russian money laundering activities such as Justice official Bruce Ohr. Throw in some jabs at the Fake News media and the crowd was soon whooping it up. Mission accomplished.

Or maybe not. It was back to reality this morning as the Washington Post released the results of a poll it conducted with ABC News about Trump. The results were not good. Trump’s popularity rating was a measly 36 per cent. Disapproval givers at 60 per cent. A majority support Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Half think Congress should start impeachment proceedings.

At the same time, reports are now circulating that Ohr told lawmakers that he learned from former British spy Christopher Steele at a breakfast meeting in July 2016 that Russian intelligence believed it had Trump ‘over a barrel.’ This news is certain to trigger a fresh paroxysm of wrath from Trump who reacts with neuralgic sensitivity to any imputations that he might be a Russian agent or subject to influence from Moscow. At this point the best thing that could happen to Ohr would be being fired by Attorney General Jeff Sessions — he can hit the talk show circuit, sign a juicy book deal and become a martyr. Trump has almost turned him into a household name.

The person who helped pioneer this strategy is former Nixon aide John Dean. Admittedly, Dean was working in the White House itself but he leveraged events to create an aura around himself of rectitude and probity. Now the Democrats have scheduled him to testify at the hearing of Brett Kavanaugh. This will be his ultimate moment of redemption and Dean will milk the spotlight for all its worth.

Trump has been able to mobilise his hardcore supporters, but the Post poll suggests that his ability to demonise Mueller and Co. has passed its meridian. Trump has been operating with relative impunity. But the Democrats are preparing a variety of new investigations should they win power. As the midterm elections approach, Trump may increasingly wonder who has whom over a barrel.

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