Whenever Donald Trump does something strange and outrageous, you will often hear this warning from one of your friends who thinks he is very smart: He’s just trying to distract you. He did this on purpose. It’s all a plan.
Maybe sometimes. But more often, Trump is just being impulsive and impetuous.
Consider, for example, Trump’s tweets 16 days ago, alleging that Barack Obama had ordered a “tapp” on his phones. Was this a way of “distracting” from the investigations of his links to Russia? Was it an effort to reframe the issue, as a matter of domestic politics waged by his enemies?
If the tweets were part of a strategy to do that, it was a terrible strategy.
On Monday, FBI director James Comey not only told the House Intelligence Committee that he had “no information” to support Trump’s accusation about wiretapping — he, unusually, confirmed the existence of an FBI investigation into whether Russia coordinated with Trump associates in its efforts to interfere in the election.
If Trump hadn’t gotten mad on the internet, Comey likely would not have made that public confirmation, unless and until there were charges issued in the investigation.
But because Trump, personally, was making an allegation about the existence and nature of an investigation into him, Comey was put in a position of needing to clarify, publicly, what was going on. The clarification was not favourable to Trump.
Monday’s dominant news story should have been the first day of the hearing into Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court. That hearing went pretty well. But it’s not the hearing everybody was paying attention to.
So, Trump did distract you. He distracted you from one of the few political bright spots for his administration, and got you to pay attention to the fact that there is a counterintelligence investigation into his associates.