U.S. President Donald Trump’s obsession with destroying the reputation of former president Barack Obama knows no bounds. It began when Mr. Trump took a leading role in the birther conspiracy theory – the notion that Mr. Obama wasn’t born in the United States and was therefore ineligible to be president.
Despite repeated denials from the White House, Mr. Trump kept at his fantasyland claim, to the point where Mr. Obama actually produced his birth certificate. He humiliated Mr. Trump with a series of barbs at the 2011 White House Correspondents’ dinner.
In the Oval Office, Mr. Trump has unrelentingly continued to pursue his preoccupation with his predecessor. He’s made many attempts to deep-six Mr. Obama’s Affordable Care Act. He withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate accord, removed many Obama-era environmental regulations to fight climate change, and distorted the former president’s records on both the economy and infectious diseases. He often uses Mr. Obama’s middle name, Hussein, pejoratively. Whether race has anything to do with this is a pertinent question.
So now, with Mr. Trump beaten up for having made America sick again through his shaky handling of the coronavirus pandemic, it shouldn’t be all that surprising that in trying to deflect attention from the crisis, he would target Mr. Obama – yet again. This time he’s going all-out, pushing without substantiation a conspiracy theory he’s hashtagging “Obamagate.”
In a weekend tweet-rage, he charged that his predecessor has committed the "biggest political crime in American history, by far.” In its essence, the claim is that Mr. Obama and his intelligence services nefariously plotted to show Mr. Trump colluded with Russia in order to help him win the 2016 election. In so doing, they used Washington’s “deep state” to spy on and frame members of Trump’s inner circle, including his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.
Emboldening Mr. Trump for his latest attack was the move last week by Attorney-General Bill Barr to dismiss a false-statements charge against Mr. Flynn. The former adviser pleaded guilty to making such statements in a call to Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak but now says he didn’t lie and wants out of the plea.
With the Obamagate tag, Mr. Trump has thrilled his hard-wired right-wing base, including Fox News commentators Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity, who have been jumping through all of the President’s hoops.
Mr. Trump and his supporters have cause to be exercised about the FBI’s work in the 2016 election campaign. The gumshoes mishandled the investigation into Russian interference, paying heed, for example, to the infamous Democrat-linked research document called the Steele dossier, which contained many fantastical charges against Mr. Trump.
But the Democrats have arguably even more cause to be outraged; the bureau’s bungling of the controversy over Hillary Clinton’s e-mails was ruinous for them. Then-FBI director James Comey’s reopening of the e-mail investigation on flimsy grounds late in the campaign was critical in creating a late momentum swing towards Mr. Trump that won him the election.
On the Russian-interference question, the Trump legions choose to ignore a probe carried out by Justice Department inspector-general Michael Horowitz, who found in December that the investigation was properly started and not influenced by political bias. He also found, however, “serious performance failures” by the FBI. Mr. Barr, who appointed Mr. Horowitz, openly disagrees with his finding on the startup of the inquiry.
In its bid to drop the Flynn prosecution, which has now been halted by a district court judge, the Justice Department released a trove of documents that provide more incriminating evidence of incompetent and biased FBI work. But they reveal no incriminatory involvement on the part of Mr. Obama.
At a press conference Monday, Mr. Trump could not say what exact crime he was alleging Mr. Obama committed. “Uh, Obamagate. It’s been going on for a long time,” he said. “And it’s a disgrace that it happened.”
Mr. Barr is widely viewed as a handmaiden of Mr. Trump. Remarkably, nearly 2,000 former Justice Department employees have come forward to challenge his move to drop the charges against Mr. Flynn, saying in an open letter calling for him to resign that he has “assaulted the rule of law."
Mr. Trump wants sweeping investigations of Mr. Obama and his associates, but several Senate Republicans, in a further blow to Obamagate’s credibility, reject the idea of a probe of the former president.
More fuel, or non-fuel, for the fire will come when another investigation of the origins of the FBI’s Russia investigation is completed, this time by attorney John Durham.
Mr. Trump is no stranger to the matter of concocting plots. It was he who sought to have the government of Ukraine investigate former vice-president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden for their activities in that country. He wielded the threat of withholding military aid to Ukraine’s government in order to do so.
Mr. Trump denied the charge, but the evidence for it is vast compared to the daydream case he is attempting to build in his never-ending quest to smash the honour and legacy of Barack Obama.
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