By releasing a damning email exchange from last year revealing his own eagerness to take help from the Russian government to elect his father, Donald Trump Jr. has brought us to a watershed moment. One of the dikes blocking public understanding of the story line of potential collusion has given way. A flood of further incriminating evidence is now almost certain to follow.
President Trump is in a bind. Even if he were a model of rationality (which he is not), and even if he had retained the finest Washington attorneys to advise him (which he has not), he is confronted by impossible choices. After all, to state the obvious, Donald Jr. is his son. Jared Kushner, also tangled in the web, is his son-in-law. Even if the president himself is not implicated in the Russia trap, would he throw them under the bus? And if he is implicated, he cannot throw them there without getting crushed himself.
Caught in this predicament, Trump could lash out and sack the special counsel Robert Mueller, sparking a major crisis. Perhaps, recalling the applause he garnered by launching cruise missiles at Syria, he will start a diversionary conflict somewhere abroad. It is impossible to predict Trump’s future direction or gauge how long his damaged presidency might linger on.
To begin with the Republican Party, corrupt is hardly an adequate description of an organization that so readily jettisoned its core principles for their antitheses. Degenerate is perhaps a more appropriate word. A party that a mere two years ago stood for economic and personal liberty and saw itself as a defender of the Constitution followed a demagogue down the path toward protectionism, nativism, ethnic and religious bigotry and much else that is anti-Constitutional and on the dark side of American life.
Much of the impetus for this shift came from the ideological far right, with Breitbart News and its former proprietor Steve Bannon among its leading lights. But what is far more significant is how eagerly mainstream Republicans followed suit. Figures like Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer, cogs in the White House machinery who today seamlessly defend Trump and his lies, did not come to Trump World from the fever swamps of Breitbart News. They are from the heart of the GOP apparatus, the Republican National Committee, where only yesterday — in the aftermath of Mitt Romney’s 2012 defeat — they were preaching moderation and inclusiveness.
Employing their skills to rationalize Trump’s fabrications, his misogyny, his debasement of discourse and language, and his strange admiration for and acquiescence to Vladimir Putin, these apparatchiks have compromised themselves even more than Trump’s band of true believers. There is no going back. The latter — figures like Jeffrey Lord, Kayleigh McEnany,and Katrina Pierson — have come to resemble a cult of unswerving loyalty to Trump and the Trump line..