Whenever the legal walls start closing in on Donald Trump, the president releases a bad rabbit on the political field, a creature invisible to all but the haters of Hillary Clinton. The most recent example is his attorney general's call to "evaluate certain issues" regarding the sale of a majority stake in Uranium One and the Clinton Foundation.
Yes, that again. There was absolutely zero wrong with or troubling about the Uranium One transaction. Even Fox News viewers who heard Shep Smith dismiss the wild charges as nonsense know that.
And that's why Democrats should resist the urge to chase this non-scandal down the rabbit hole of Trumpian distraction. Provoking them to become players — to angrily defend Hillary with their files of facts — is the point of Trump's game.
So go ahead, investigate Hillary for the 10,000th time. Other than a monumental waste of taxpayer dollars, there's little harm in taking another look at the Uranium One sale. Okay, Jeff Sessions, go forth and direct federal prosecutors to look into "potentially" unlawful international dealings — at least as imagined by Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee. A special counsel could be appointed if they find something, which they won't.
This sideshow immediately followed the release of Don Jr.'s secret correspondence with Russian-controlled WikiLeaks during the presidential campaign. The Atlantic reports that campaign advisers Jared Kushner, Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Hope Hicks and Brad Parscale knew about it
U.S. intelligence has long held that WikiLeaks acted as an arm of the Russian military to push the race in Trump's favor. Trump ally Roger Stone was in touch with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and worked with the Russian agents running Guccifer 2.0, the entity that launched cyberattacks on the Democratic National Committee. We know that because he stupidly bragged about it.
"There is one 'trick' that is not in my bag, and that is treason," Stone said last September in his defense. Ooooh. We don't know about that.
Lest anyone doubt that a fire could be raging under this heavy smoke of denials, the Department of Homeland Security and the director of national intelligence on election security issued a joint statement last year that "the recent disclosures ... are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts."
Funny that Trump was in Asia this month telling Americans to trust Russian strongman Vladimir Putin but not the leaders of their own intelligence services. Actually, it was not funny at all.
Harassing a political opponent no longer in office is not without risk for Trump. Given the tawdry family history — going back to the '90s, when a bankrupt Trump turned to Russians for loans — the president has provided ample opportunity for his successor to push for investigations of him
Directing the government to go after a former political foe, of course, broke a major political norm. Trump may believe that no one else has the guts to ravage the democracy as he has. We shall see.
In any case, launching a new witch hunt against Clinton is a sure sign that the heat's been turned up high. Do Democrats want to help Trump turn attention away from the web of troubles in which he is thrashing?
As Mueller's investigation trains more hot lights on Trump and company, the president's people will send more rabbits for the media to chase in the opposite direction. Democrats will undoubtedly be asked to respond to the phony allegations. Their best response would be a quick dismissal and a shrug.
(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)