Donald Trump, Joe Biden, William Barr and Barack Obama (Photo illustration by Salon/AP Photo)

Trump, Barr and the Obamagate scam: there's no there there. The Red Hats won't care

It's Ukraine all over again: Trump doesn't care if the charges stick — he just wants the appearance of wrongdoing



Bob Cesca
May 19, 2020 11:00AM (UTC)

As we slowly advance closer and closer to November, it's important to remind ourselves that Donald Trump was impeached for attempting to cheat in the 2020 presidential election. Indeed, it's crucial to circle back to events like this during the Trump era, given how the firehose of news relentlessly floods the zone with awfulness every damn day, one Trump trespass against reality — and the rule of law — after another. Otherwise, all kinds of atrocities get lost in the deliberate noise.

Seriously. Trump was impeached. That's a thing that actually happened. Enough evidence was gathered by investigators, including transcripts and eyewitness testimony, to allege that Trump thought it'd be a clever idea to withhold military aid to Ukraine in order to extort that nation's newly-elected president into announcing an investigation into Burisma, an energy company that had employed Joe Biden's son, Hunter, on its board.

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The operative word here is "announced." It turned out that Trump didn't actually need President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch a new probe into Biden and Burisma. All Trump wanted, in the end, was for Zelensky to publicly announce an investigation, irrespective of whether one was going to take place. The patina of impropriety was all Team Trump craved. Fortunately for the truth, Zelensky, a comedian by trade, was too smart to take the bait in Trump's screwball plot.

Nevertheless, Trump has accumulated a devoted cult of Red Hat loyalists who will absorb and repeat every sloppy chunk of made-up gibberish he belches into the world, especially when he accuses his endless roster of political enemies of being "the swamp." It's blindingly ironic, given how, during his term in office, Trump's charitable foundation and his so-called university were both shut down due to rampant fraud. And that's without mentioning the bottomless pit of other Trump scandals.

How many times have we heard Trump shrieking over the brain-piercing whine of Marine One: Look at the Bidens! Look at the 30,000 emails! Look at Shifty Schiff! Look at Pelosi and the Do Nothing Democrats! Trump never mentions any actual crimes, nor does he ever announce investigations (save for one that we'll get to presently). All he needs to do is alert his drooling disciples that someone, somewhere, did something that we should "look at." Why? Obviously because, as with his Ukraine scam, there don't have to be real crimes involved. Trump's strategy is all about the suggestion of wrongdoing. It's one of the chief components of kangaroo courts, prevalent under dictatorships. No crime? No evidence? No problem.

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The only exception so far has been an actual investigation launched by Trump and his bootlicker-general Bill Barr into the origins — or the oranges," as Trump said — of the Russia investigation that ultimately led in part to the prosecution of former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Around the same time Trump threatened to expose the "oranges," Barr assigned U.S. attorney and Trump appointee John Durham to be the designated inquisitor (of the "oranges"). So far, nothing dubious has emerged from Durham's office, including any final report summarizing his findings.

On Monday, Barr announced that neither Barack Obama nor Joe Biden would face a criminal investigation as a consequence of Durham's work. The attorney general told reporters, "I don't expect Mr. Durham's work will lead to a criminal investigation of either man."

I suppose that's good news for factual reality, but the president doesn't need Obama or Biden to be charged with crimes. He only needs to repeat the nonsense word "Obamagate" over and over, often in all-caps on Twitter, for it to infiltrate the tenderized skulls of his fanboys — and maybe shoehorn the sinister-sounding word "unmasking" into his blurts every now and then, just to add another scare-word to the bogus appearance of criminality. Oh, and it's almost certain that few if any Red Hats will figure out that Trump is doing to Biden exactly what Trump is accusing Obama of doing to Trump.

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In today's cockeyed discourse where the president is playing fantasy politics, the suggestion of a crime is the same as an actual crime. As long as the gomers unquestioningly believe that Obama "wiretapped" Trump (Obama didn't wiretap Trump), then it really happened. Mission accomplished. For the Red Hats, Obama's already been convicted. Incidentally, during an event at the White House on Monday, Trump was asked about Barr's announcement. Contradicting Barr's statement, the president said Obama and Biden "were participants" in the alleged non-crime crimes. Which version will the Red Hats believe, do you think?

Likewise, Trump will continue to act as though the Flynn investigation didn't continue in earnest under his own administration, which it did. Contrary to the desperate "Obamagate" narrative, Flynn was fired by Trump, then Flynn was arrested, indicted, pleaded guilty, put on trial and nearly sentenced to prison on Trump's watch. Now the president wants his suckers to believe it was all Obamagate. It wasn't. While the investigation into Russia's election attack began in the summer of 2016, the vast majority of it took place after Trump's inauguration. The more accurate portmanteau, then, would have to be "Trumpgate."

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And never forget: Even under the Barr Justice Department, the FBI specifically concluded that Russia cyber-attacked the 2016 election to help Trump win. Russia continues to attack our process with the same intention today. The Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee agrees, as does the entire intelligence community. But the Trump zealots are, instead, going with the word of professional con man Donald Trump, who claims to be the only man in politics who's telling the truth — you know, the guy who's lied nearly 18,000 times and who said the COVID-19 pandemic would be over by Easter. That guy's the only truth-teller around, they say.

Meanwhile, Barr added, "Our concern over potential criminality is focused on others." Clearly this was directed at other Obama administration officials, including appointees like former FBI director James Comey. 

Regardless of the names and roles, this is the first time in American history that a presidential administration has investigated members of the previous administration. Trump always makes things worse for Trump, and establishing this new precedent could well lead to a blowback investigation into the Trump administration's multifarious crimes, following either the 2020 or the 2024 election (provided free elections exist in 2024). 

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Trump's living in a glass White House, indiscriminately catapulting boulders at his perceived enemies. When you've already been named as an unindicted co-conspirator in at least one federal investigation linked to hush money paid to a porn star, for starters, it's not a good idea to establish a presidential norm in which the next attorney general can reopen that indictment. 

Like Trump's bizarre clown makeup, "Obamagate" is entirely cosmetic. It's all a lie because Trump can't win this election on his own. He needs all the help he can get, whether that help emerges from Brad Parscale's billion-dollar disinformation machine or Russia or Ukraine or Bill Barr or his own incurably warped imagination.


Bob Cesca

Bob Cesca is a regular contributor to Salon. He's also the host of "The Bob Cesca Show" podcast, and a weekly guest on both the "Stephanie Miller Show" and "Tell Me Everything with John Fugelsang." Follow him on Facebook and Twitter. Contribute through LaterPay to support Bob's Salon articles -- all money donated goes directly to the writer.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Barack Obama Bill Barr Commentary Donald Trump Editor's Picks Joe Biden John Durham Obamagate

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