After the Coup is Gone

As the perpetrators of one of the most shameful scandals in American political history begin slowly to retreat, we are left to ponder one overarching question:

What now?

The tale we’ve been told for more than two years—that Donald Trump’s campaign team, possibly even the candidate himself, colluded with the Kremlin to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election—has been exposed as a lie. Various investigations into this alleged conspiracy are coming up empty and the accomplices are trying to change the subject. Even more pathetically, some still are clinging to the farce, desperate to salvage whatever still remains of their already sketchy credibility.

To describe it as a witch hunt, the president’s preferred term, is too generous. The American public has witnessed a seditious attempt by powerful interests garrisoned throughout our political complex to overthrow a sitting U.S. president. The orchestrated and failed coup has exceeded the routine combat of our two-party system, where out-of-power partisans disrupt and agitate the other side. No, this has been a full scale insurrection that has violated the boundaries of law, normalcy, and civility in an unprecedented way.

Both Democrats and Republicans have been complicit. The national news media have acted as hatchet men. Influential public officials, operating both inside and outside of government, have aided the stratagem. One of the main culprits just revealed—no, bragged—how a handful of corrupt bureaucrats plotted unlawfully to remove the president from the Oval Office based on the fantastical scheme.

It’s the kind of treachery that is supposed to animate banana republics or Soviet-style regimes—not our country.

And now that the Senate Intelligence Committee confirmed this week that their two-year investigation—which involved the interrogation of 200 witnesses and a review of 300,000 documents—will find no evidence of collusion, the aftermath of this scandal is coming into view. How it plays out is anyone’s guess at this point, but one thing is evident: There is deep rage at what has happened not just to this president but to this country—and people want answers.

On his show Tuesday night, Tucker Carlson unleashed a tirade that reflected the anger felt by millions of Americans. “In the end, it was all fake, and they knew it wasn’t real, they knew they were lying,” Carlson said after playing a series of clips by Democratic leaders accusing the president of colluding with the Russians. “We’ve spent two years perpetuating a fraud and they are still doing it. What is it? It’s negligence on a stunning scale. Historians will look back on this moment in amazement and sadness. Why didn’t any responsible person in the media say anything about it, why did they collude in the charade?”

Carlson unloaded on House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), one of the key conspirators from the beginning, insisting that Schiff’s grandchildren “will be ashamed of what he did.” Perhaps they will. But only if his progeny have more integrity and decency than Schiff does which, I admit, sets a very low bar.

The cast of villians in this national nightmare is long. At the highest echelon is the Obama White House; to date, no one knows how involved the former president was in executing this scheme because not one journalist has yet confronted Obama about what he knew or when he knew it. Think about that for a moment. Barack Obama’s Justice Department weaponized federal law enforcement and intelligence powers to infiltrate and spy on a rival presidential campaign then leveraged that same authority after the election to raze an incoming administration, yet not one member of the press corps has asked him one question about it.

Former administration officials who pulled all the strings, including ex-FBI Director James Comey, ex-CIA Director John Brennan and ex-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper continue to attack the president, even accusing Trump of being a traitor and a Russian asset. Members of both the Obama and Bush administrations have become media celebrities by legitimizing the collusion fantasy on cable news shows and opinion pages. NeverTrump Republicans who long ago should have been run out of the public square for their consistently-wrong analysis on nearly every political and policy issue over the past two decades have earned earn rock-star status on social media from Democrats and liberals eager to exploit  their nonstop rants about Trump-Russia as proof “even Republicans” are suspicious.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have diverted time, money, and attention away from critical issues that matter to Americans in order to chase after a ruse that most, if not all, knew was a head fake from the start. It will be impossible to measure how many opportunities to fix illegal immigration or health care or entitlement reform over the past two years were lost while our political leaders across the country were mired in a nonexistent crisis. And probably that was the point. The Justice Department has diverted needed resources to a special counsel probe that has nothing to do with the safety and security of the American people.

Meanwhile, Robert Mueller’s investigation has not yielded one indictment related to collusion, yet it has wrecked countless reputations and livelihoods. Gutless elected officials have cowered in the presence of representatives from this ostensible fourth branch of government while Trump-Russia propagandists demand that every politician swear his allegiance and fealty to the almighty and unaccountable Robert Mueller. Any hint of disagreement with the special counsel is portrayed as either cowardice or insubordination.

But no entity has acted more recklessly and destructively than the national news media. From publishing illegally leaked information intended to destroy anyone in Trump’s orbit to ambushing elderly supporters of Donald Trump, the media have defiled their industry to a degree that will be unrecoverable. False reporting has been corrected quietly (when it is corrected at all) and without any consequence. Sex-for-Trump-Russia-Scoop arrangements result in promotions.

Consider these numbers: Since May 2017, the New York Times has cited the Mueller investigation 4,392 times and posted nearly 1,200 articles, columns and editorials about Russian collusion since January 2017. The Washington Post has cited Robert Mueller 4,162 times and posted 1,100 pieces about Russian collusion just in the past 12 months. CNN has devoted more than 3,000 articles and news segments to Robert Mueller since he was appointed. Those are just the results of a few cursory searches.

But we will never know the total amount of air time, column inches and social media chatter that have been dedicated to a fabricated conspiracy peddled by a media infrastructure desperate to believe it was true and maliciously trying to convince the public of a lie in a vain attempt to satiate their own appetite for political revenge against Donald Trump.

So, what now? Who will pay the price for unleashing this ordeal on the American public? Which lawmaker will be rebuked and censured for pretending to have evidence of malfeasance that never happened? Which former high level official will be charged for abuse of power?

What journalist will be fired and permanently jettisoned from the industry for intentionally misleading readers and viewers? What editor or media owner will be held accountable for publishing illegally leaked information that exacted real harm on innocent people? When will NeverTrumperers who accused more astute observers of this scheme of being “conspiracy theorists” going to apologize?

How will people harassed by the media and investigators restore their professional standing, squandered savings and mental wellbeing? How can the president regain the time in his term that has been lost to this craven insurgency?

These are only a handful of the questions now arising from the wreckage of the failed Trump-Russia collusion gambit; the answers might be just as infuriating as the questions themselves.

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Photo Credit: FBI

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