All you need to know about American politics in 2020 is that the sitting president just accused his predecessor of committing treason by investigating him for possibly colluding with the Kremlin and it’s like a Page 13 story in most newspapers. It’s not even linked on the Drudge Report as I write this at 1:45 p.m. ET. There’s too much else going on and the country’s too inured to Trump’s daily rhetorical blasts to take it seriously.
It’d make for a perfect one-line curio in a daily Trump-based “News of the Weird” feature alongside him riffing about putting flag-burners in jail or adjourning Congress if they don’t start confirming his judicial nominees more quickly. (Remember that?) “What’d he say today?” “He thinks Obama committed treason.” “Ah, geez.”
Bill Barr’s in his office right now, halfway down a bottle of Jim Beam, thinking, “He’s going to start hate-tweeting me if I don’t indict Obama for treason, isn’t he?”
In @DavidBrodyCBN interview, President Trump, without evidence, accuses President Obama of “treason” and says he’s looking forward to seeing what the Justice Department pursues in the coming months. pic.twitter.com/AKo9chdgPI
— Robert Costa (@costareports) June 22, 2020
I doubt Trump expects any treason charges to come out of the Durham probe. It’s a nonstarter given the constitutional definition of the crime but it’s an effective — if irresponsible — political accusation. He and his allies have used the term at times in connection with James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and Adam Schiff, among others, per Law & Crime. It’s their go-to pejorative for maximum damnation of a probe that undermined Trump’s legitimacy as president after taking office, not a carefully considered criminal allegation. Rationally he shouldn’t want to see O in the crosshairs, as any precedent set now about prosecuting one’s presidential predecessor will be gleefully enforced by Democrats against Trump himself. (There’s a 95 percent chance that they’ll try to prosecute him for something regardless once he’s out of office but prosecuting O would get it to 100.) But I wonder if he expects Durham to charge the others with *something.* After all the faith Trump and Barr have placed in him as the avenging angel of the Russiagate mess, it’d be almost unthinkable for him not to go after Comey or Strzok or whoever.
If there’s going to be action on the “Obama treason” front, it’ll be in a war of words between Trump and O once the latter hits the trail for Biden this fall. Calling the first black president a traitor would be an *interesting* complication for Trump’s effort to make inroads with black voters, but it’ll certainly be good for righty turnout. Besides, Obama’s going to accuse Trump of crimes too, starting with obstruction of justice for placing his own electoral interests above the country’s strategic interests by holding back the Ukraine aid. Might as well make it a true brawl.
I think Trump would prefer to run against Obama than Biden, frankly. That seems illogical since O is more popular than Biden is, but Biden’s great advantage against a demagogue like Trump is that no one has strong feelings about him. It’s hard to beat him by positioning yourself as the lesser of two evils, which worked spectacularly well four years ago against Hillary Clinton. Obama may be generally popular but he’s a much more clearly defined politician than Biden is and thus has more obvious points of attack than Biden does. Trump could (and does, as in the clip above) exploit him as a foil. It’s hard to do that with Grandpa Joe, which is why Biden himself doesn’t figure much in Team Trump’s account of how the great deep-state coup against him was organized. Trump thrives on fear and loathing of the opposition and Biden just doesn’t inspire feelings that strong in anyone. Being a boring generic candidate isn’t all bad!
Exit question: Might this subject come up at the Obama/Biden joint online fundraiser tonight?