5 new accelerants for the raging Trumpster fire

Chief Executive of Cambridge Analytica (CA) Alexander Nix

Chief Executive of Cambridge Analytica (CA) Alexander Nix, leaves the firm's offices in central London on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. He was suspended amid a controversy about the company's use of social media data. (Dominic Lipinski/AP)

What’s fueling the Trumpster fire this week? Let’s list the latest accelerants:

Cambridge Analytica

The stench of corruption emanating from Trump’s ’16 campaign keeps getting worse. Now we’ve learned that his backstage strategists may have committed crimes, by stealing the Facebook data of millions of people — a large swath of the American electorate — in order to psychologically profile them for campaign messaging. There’s much we still don’t know, and rest assured, it will all come out.

What we do know is that CA sent toxic anti-Hillary messages to targeted liberals and minorities, seeking to dissuade them from voting. Meanwhile, that’s precisely what the Russians sought to do; according to Robert Mueller’s recent indictment of Russian bots: “In or around the latter half of 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators, through their ORGANIZATION-controlled personas, began to encourage U.S. minority groups not to vote in the 2016 U.S. presidential election or to vote for a third-party U.S. presidential candidate.”

What a coincidence! Or not. Mueller now has a whole new avenue of inquiry. Did Cambridge Analytica work with the Russians, and, if so, to what extent? Trump’s Twitter mantra — NO COLLUSION! — is already thinner than dental floss.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Groveling to the Kremlin

We’ve long been aware that the White House weakling functions as Putin’s western branch manager, but yesterday’s disgrace was extra special. On the phone, Trump congratulated his master for winning a rigged re-election, thereby ignoring the urgent advice of his national security team, which reportedly wrote in big capital letters “DO NOT CONGRATULATE.” And because he was so busy congratulating Putin, he failed to bring up Russia’s nerve gas attack on British soil, thereby ignoring the further advice of his aides, who wanted him to grow a pair.

This episode reeked of the usual Trumpian hypocrisy — Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended the phone call by saying “We don’t get to dictate how other countries operate,” even as the White House was sending Mike Pence to Latin America for the purpose of pressuring Venezuela to hold “free and fair elections” — but what’s most striking is that Trump’s national security briefing material was leaked to the press. Clearly, people on his own national security team are freaked out by his Putin-groveling and reckless freelancing. Clearly, Rex Tillerson isn’t the only one who thinks the guy is a “moron.”

The extramarital ladies

Finish this joke, because I’m stuck on the setup: “A Playmate, a reality TV contestant, and a porn star walk into a bar …” Or maybe that’s good enough, because yesterday Trump hit the trifecta. Ex-Playboy centerfold Karen McDougal filed a lawsuit seeking to break a confidentiality agreement that bars her from talking about an affair with Trump (allegedly conducted in 2006 while Melania was home with a newborn); ex-“Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos got a judge’s OK to proceed with a lawsuit alleging that Trump sexually assaulted her in 2007; and Stormy Daniels, the star of “60 Minutes” this coming Sunday, reportedly aced a polygraph test (“99 percent probability”) about her ’06 affair with Trump, as reported yesterday by The Wall Street Journal and backed by a sworn declaration from the test examiner.

All this action will undoubtedly prompt religious conservatives to declare anew that Trump is totally awesome, but at this point their moral bankruptcy is irrelevant. What matters is that these court cases will stay in the news for months, even years. What matters is that Trump risks being compelled to answer personal questions under oath, especially in the case of the “Apprentice” contestant (the judge who gave her the green light said yesterday that “no one is above the law”). What matters is that millions of voters during this midterm season will have fresh impetus to register their revulsion.

Fed up at Fox News

Trump is lucky to have his own state media outlet, which devotes itself to the care and feeding of his credulous acolytes. But now it turns out that its systematic lying is even too much for one of its own talking heads, a Fox News vet of 10 years standing.

Ralph Peters, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, and frequent contributor well known for railing in colorful language against President Obama and Democrats in general, has decided to sever his association with Fox News, and yesterday, in an email to colleagues, he stated the obvious:

“Fox News is assaulting our constitutional order and the rule of law, while fostering corrosive and unjustified paranoia among viewers …. In my view, Fox has degenerated from providing a legitimate and much-needed outlet for conservative voices to a mere propaganda machine for a destructive and ethically ruinous administration …. To me, Fox News is now wittingly harming our system of government for profit.”

Read the whole email. We might well wonder why it took Peters 10 years on Fox to conclude that he feels “ashamed” of his association with a “propaganda machine,” but hey, why quibble? Any time the truth wins out, it’s a good day.

Millennial women

Thanks to Trump, and thanks to Republicans’ subservience to Trump, the GOP has  lost ground with most voter groups, especially in the populous suburbs, especially among people with education beyond high school. But the hugest shift to the Democrats has occurred among millennial women (born between 1981 and 1996). The nonpartisan Pew Research Center reported yesterday that as recently as four years ago, only 56 percent of millennial women identified with, or leaned toward, the Democrats. Today, it’s 70 percent. That’s the biggest shift among all voter groups. Gee, I wonder what’s motivating them to tilt blue.

One thing we do know: If millennial women vote in droves in the congressional midterms, Trump will have one more reason to envy Putin’s sham election.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal