Trump is about to become the right-wing smear machine's greatest unintended casualty
It’s commonly said that the “wheels of justice turn slowly,” and that’s usually true. But once in a while those wheels suddenly pop into reverse, jolting the car backwards and crushing whoever happens to be standing behind the truck.
In what is truly the richest of ironies, Donald Trump is now poised to become just another piece of right-wing roadkill, an unintended casualty of his own disinformation machine, the exact same machine that cemented his electoral victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016. By extorting foreign leaders to manufacture dirt involving Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Trump stupidly fell into the trap of believing his own team’s propaganda, a result that those who created the Biden/Ukraine fairy tale in the first place completely failed to foresee. And now he’s looking at impeachment for believing their lies and taking them to their logical conclusion.
The warning signs for Team Trump were there from the start, but they went unheeded. It’s well-documented that Trump the politician (as opposed to Trump the phony media creation) is at his core a deeply stupid, credulous man whose ”agenda” and worldview are shaped entirely by what he sees on Fox News. Couple that with a tendency to surround himself with sycophantic “yes-men” who assure him that all his actions are examples of some titanic genius, and it should have been predictable that this president, watching dumbly as his Hannity-fed heroes droned on and on about supposedly nefarious dealings by the one political opponent he feared the most, would do something extraordinarily idiotic with that information at some point.
Jane Mayer of the New Yorker explains how the “Biden/Ukraine” hoax was invented and spread by the same people who invented the “Uranium One” fiction which Fox News and other Republican sludge generators spawned in order to smear Hillary Clinton in the 2016. The cast of characters for both smears is remarkably similar.
Anyone trying to track the Ukrainian conspiracy stories that were eventually embraced by President Trump is likely to get mired in the same echo chamber of right-wing news purveyors that misinformed voters in 2016. A pivotal source of the allegations against the Bidens, for instance, is the Government Accountability Institute, a Florida-based opposition-research operation that was founded by the former Trump political adviser Stephen Bannon—the same conservative nonprofit that ginned up questionable stories about the Clintons during the last Presidential campaign. In both instances, much of the coverage of the scandal was kicked off by Peter Schweizer, a longtime conservative political writer who is an editor-at-large at Breitbart News and the president of the Government Accountability Institute.
The “Government Accountability Institute” or GAI is funded by a “libertarian” (i.e., I’ve got mine so fuck you) billionaire named Robert Mercer, a major donor to Trump’s campaign, whose interests apparently lie in shaping American society in tandem with his grotesque social whims. As Stephen Bannon himself acknowledged in an email to Mayer, the GAI acted as the primary source for the Biden/Ukraine “story.” Mayer’s article describes the purpose of the GAI as intended to generate baseless smears and worm them surreptitiously into the “mainstream” media where they can be repeated by more “credible” sources, even if those sources are simply busy debunking them.
Bannon designed the organization as a means of transmitting partisan dirt-digging to the mainstream media. He realized that, though mainstream reporters were suspicious of partisan opinion, they were open to damning facts about public figures, regardless of the sourcing. He set out, with Schweizer, to produce material that would generate mainstream coverage, and right-wing outrage.
In 2016 Schweizer published the book “Clinton Cash” which made the baseless accusation that Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State, had essentially traded away American national security by selling uranium mines to Russia in exchange for contributions to the Clinton foundation. By hawking this over and over through their mouthpieces on Fox News, Mercer, Bannon and Schweitzer had no trouble convincing susceptible viewers eager to believe any right-wing drivel spoon-fed to them that the Clintons were wholly, unimaginably corrupt. The fact that these insinuations were totally false was beside the point. As it turned out, several government agencies having nothing to do with Hillary Clinton approved the deal, which ultimately involved a “negligible” amount of uranium.
Just as with the “Clinton Cash” fable constructed to inflame a drooling base of Fox News knuckledraggers, we now have practically the exact same cast of characters behind the latest baseless smear against Joe Biden—that he somehow intervened with Ukraine to protect his son’s profits.
In March of 2018, Schweizer and the Government Accountability Institute once again produced a book that was perfectly timed for the Presidential campaign. “Secret Empires” devoted a chapter to the subject of “Bidens in Ukraine,” which laid out the conflicts of interest posed by the wheeling and dealing of Biden’s son Hunter.
Even though Schweizer conveniently omitted the fact that there was no prove to his insinuations about Ukraine and Joe Biden, that didn’t stop the conservative media from jumping on the bandwagon like flies on the proverbial shit. And, just as before, again we had the same hawking on Fox News of a shabbily-source tome of lies that every credible media source has shot down. But this time an attention-whoring sleazebag named Rudy Giuliani became involved, traveling to Ukraine under the guise of being Donald Trump’s “private attorney,” and attempting to solicit Ukrainian acquiescence and participation in the scam. And as Mayer points out, a couple new characters were now recruited by the Trump campaign itself to stoke the phony story. In particular, John Solomon, formerly a respectable reporter for the Hill but now entrenched in the more lucrative occupation of churning out right-wing trash for profit, was tapped to spread the manure around.
As Giuliani conspired this past spring with questionable Ukrainian sources, Solomon pumped out a string of eye-catching stories echoing those sources’ claims about the Bidens. This appears to have been no coincidence. According to NBC, the Giuliani documents show that Solomon’s columns were part of the Trump team’s strategy. (The New Yorker was unable to reach John Solomon, and a question e-mailed to the editor of The Hill, about whether the publication stood by Solomon’s stories, went unanswered.)
(As you may have noticed, Mayer’s article notes several people whom the New Yorker contacted for comment, but refused to respond)
She explains how the story was churned by Solomon and Schweizer, with lots of mutual dick-sucking apparent on both sides:
In Solomon’s April 1st column, he cited Schweizer’s book. Two days later, Schweizer sent “kudos” to Solomon during an interview on Breitbart News, and added, “We’re talking about potentially legal jeopardy involving the Vice-President’s family.” Schweizer opined that it was “all the sort of thing that needs to be investigated and looked into by a grand jury,” and added, “it’s pretty clear that you have a pattern that the for-sale sign was open with the Biden family . . . and that in itself demands investigation in the United States.”
Republican state television (also known as Fox News) then proceeded to run twelve or more segments hyping this wholly in a single month, seeding it into the right-wing swamp. Of course, dumb Donald was watching like any other addled fool, slurping up every word. Sean Hannity mentioned it on seven separate shows, prompting Trump to respond personally to his hero with this Tweet, praising Solomon’s reporting:
“John Solomon: As Russia Collusion fades, Ukrainian plot to help Clinton emerges.” @seanhannity @FoxNews— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1553136055.0
If Trump was capable of generating a hard-on, it must have happened during April of this year, as measured by the rapid, subsequent merging of the White House and Fox News, first by Giuliani, then of Trump himself, who called the network to declare that further action was needed, and in particular, that he wanted to involve his stooge William Barr in the investigation.
By this time, the stodgy New York Times had become involved in “covering” the “controversy,” and even though the Times threw in a casual disclaimer--nineteen paragraphs into their own story-- confirming that the entire farce was bullshit (”No evidence has surfaced that the former vice president intentionally tried to help his son by pressing for the prosecutor general’s dismissal.”), as far as Bannon, Schweizer and Mercer were concerned, they had already won the battle. Nevermind that several credible news sources spent the next few months confirming that it was all an invented hoax—the damage was done, and high-fives and clinking shot glasses were doubtlessly being exchanged all around.
Except no one stopped to consider what an irrational, power-mad sociopath like Trump would do with this information, swirling around busily in his brain. As it turns out, he went with his instincts, which, unlike the arc of history, do not bend towards justice but towards extortion. And his attempt to extort Ukraine by withholding Congressional aid until they manufactured some non-existent dirt about Joe Biden has ended up biting him squarely in the ass. He’s going to be impeached, something he existentially has dreaded since he assumed office, because it will forever leave a stain on his presidency that people will use to compare his tenure to that of an untarnished, impeccable, Barack Obama.
Thanks to his slavish devotion to the right-wing propaganda machine, Donald Trump is about to become just another piece of collateral damage. And he has no one but himself to blame.