Like Richard Nixon, who probably wasn’t aware of the Watergate break-in before it happened, Trump is getting into serious trouble not because of his involvement in some cockamamie Russian plot to steal the American presidency, but rather his high-handed attempts at squashing an independent investigation. “It’s not the crime that gets you,” Nixon himself said. “It’s the cover-up.” Had Trump simply left well enough alone with Comey, he wouldn’t be in the hole he’s dug, with another former FBI director, Robert Mueller, carrying on not only the bureau’s investigation into Russian meddling but now also Trump’s possible obstruction of justice.
In a sense, it would be more reassuring for the robustness of America’s civic health were investigators to expose Trump as the recipient of laundered Russian money, or of colluding with Russian officials, or as having been recruited by the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, as one of the wilder conspiracy theories claims. Any of these would at least supply a grubby, opportunistic explanation for Trump’s pro-Russian rhetoric; and Americans who voted for him would have an excuse, of sorts, for their folly — namely, ignorance as to what was really going on.