‘Trump’s Showdown’: a thorough and helpful recap of the Mueller probe

Tuesday night at 8 on PBS, the great documentary series “Frontline” will offer a refresher course on the Russian interference story so far. It’s titled “Trump’s Showdown.”

The showdown to which it refers is the ongoing investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into various possible improprieties during the 2016 campaign and extending into the first two years of the Donald Trump presidency.

The two-hour film doesn’t break much news. But as one who has followed the story so far quite closely, I found it helpful as an authoritative reminder of how we got to where we are. It starts with then-CIA director John Brennan expressing concern, two weeks before Trump’s inauguration, that Trump didn’t understand the demands of the job and lacked a great deal of the necessary background.

It proceeds to the growing awareness in intelligence circles that the election had been compromised by Russian interference. Enter FBI Director James Comey to tell Trump about the existence of the famous “dossier.” Trump takes that briefing as a threat, even a “shakedown” by the FBI.

The film proceeds to a deeper background on Trump’s pre-presidential life and character, under the mentorship of the famous tough-guy lawyer Roy Cohn, who trained him to be on the attack always, to never admit to anything, no matter the evidence.

Told largely through brief clips from interviews with a jillion journalists who covered the story and many of the players involved, it reminds us how and why Attorney General Jeff Sessions came to recuse himself from overseeing the investigation, for which Trump will never forgive him; Trump’s unsuccessful efforts to recruit Comey to let the Mike Flynn investigation go; and the various recusals of officials which create the need for an appointment of Robert Mueller to handle the overall investigation.

Capping a mini-biography of Mueller, Journalist Michael Isikoff says: “Robert Mueller cares about one thing, and that is indicting bad guys and putting them in prison.”

Trump soon adopts his catch-phrase for the investigation in all its aspects: “witch hunt.”

As you can gather, for those who have been paying attention, “Trump’s Showdown” doesn’t break much news but is a recap and a thorough, helpful one. It comes almost up to the current moment, including the publication of Bob Woodward’s recent book and the run-up to the midterms and the possible Democratic takeover of one or both houses of Congress. The last note I made while watching it is a quote from Trump, at once self-pitying and defiant: “How do you impeach somebody who hasn’t done anything wrong?”

Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 10/01/2018 - 12:54 pm.

    “How do you impeach somebody who hasn’t done anything wrong?” Mr. wonderful has no concept as to how he is doing because he is a very poor judge of his own character. Self evaluation is not within a narcissists capability. As shown last week at the UN Trump had no idea the rest of the world is laughing at him, until they did. Look out rest of the world because Trump is vindictive. I guess in Trump’s alternative world lying is not a crime, until Mr. Mueller gets done with him. Trump is very immature for a man in his seventies. Trump doesn’t have any plans because then there would be something to measure him against. Trump loves to brag about his accomplishments before they have stood the test of time. If anything goes bad it will be President Obama’s fault.

    “How do you impeach somebody who hasn’t done anything wrong?” I think Mr. Mueller will have just the answers to answer Trumps question.

  2. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/01/2018 - 03:36 pm.

    At this point there is no question that the Russians meddled in the 2016 election; at the very least by planting social media posts that appeared to be authored by American citizens.
    The only question is whether they were simply trying to get Trump elected because they knew that he would be sympathetic, or whether Trump and/or his organization actively colluded with the Russians.
    Someplace in the middle is the possibility that the Russians meddled without Trump’s collusion because they knew that they had information that could be used to put pressure on him to act favorably to Russian interests.

    • Submitted by Pat Berg on 10/05/2018 - 11:32 am.

      And now there are charges that the Chinese are meddling to PREVENT Trump’s re-election.

      What an interesting and epic showdown 2020 promises to be – the Russians trying to get him re-elected against the Chinese trying to keep it from happening.

      And the American people caught somewhere in the middle – either unable or unwilling to do anything about it.

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