Trump and the (Mis)Uses of Distraction

President Trump has decided to punish reporters whose coverage he dislikes. His sycophantic press secretary, Sean Spicer, has barred journalists from The New York Times, CNN and several other news organizations from attending Spicer’s daily briefing, a extremely unusual breach of relations between the White House and its press corps. It’s an outrage; even Dick Nixon, at his most venal, didn’t bar national media from press conferences.


It’s pretty egregious. But it’s also a distraction.

A distraction, you understand, is what the con artist does do keep your attention away from the real scam. It’s a kind of deception. It’s the patter of the card sharp, the wrist flicks of the three card monte scam. In the Trump Administration, when there’s a distraction you always need to find what it is the Trumpsters don’t want you to be noticing.

And what they are trying to conceal is their interference in an ongoing criminal investigation. The FBI is looking into the documented Russian interference with the presidential election. The Trump Administration seems to be trying to talk the FBI into abandoning the investigation, or scaling it back, or focusing instead on “leaks” from the FBI and other intelligence agencies. Michael Bromwich, a former Department of Justice inspector general, noted:

You don’t want to have any political influence of any kind, any high level political influence, on any potential criminal investigation. It’s inappropriate contact, and the reason those contacts are prohibited is because there is a risk of influence, or at a minimum, the risk of the appearance of influence, and so they are improper. There’s really no gray area on this.

If you think WC is overstating the importance of this inviolate rule, remember that this very kind of conduct was the basis for Article 2 of the Articles of Impeachment adopted by the U.S. House against Richard Nixon. WC will put it as plainly as possible: the sideshow with the press corps is an effort to keep the publics focus away from impeachable offenses by the Trump Administration.

It’s naughty conduct to shift attention from criminal conduct. It’s a distraction. Don’t fall for it.