Again, Trump showed poor judgment in making Manafort his campaign manager, but he fired him last August.
In short, it’s entirely possible none of this really has anything to do with Trump directly. Yet he’s been a human smoke-making machine. He is simply incapable of a little deftness.
During the campaign, he could have easily said, “It’s clear the Russians are behind this hacking, and I’m appalled by it, but boy, is Hillary Clinton corrupt.”
After the campaign, he could have said, “I support any and all investigations to get to the bottom of the Russian hacking.” Anytime over the past few months, he could have said, “If there was any collusion with Russia by people in my campaign, I knew nothing about it, and I want them exposed expeditiously and punished harshly.”
Maybe Trump doesn’t say these things because he has a cognizance of guilt and fear of exposure. But there’s a ready, innocent explanation: He never makes a concession against interest.
He knew admitting the Russians were involved in the hacking during the election would make his attacks on Clinton a little more complicated. He feared any additional focus on Russia after the election would legitimize Democratic claims the election was stolen and believes that, now, every day spent on Russia weakens his administration.
So he fights back hammer-and-tongs, and his critics sense something rotten lurking underneath the combativeness. Even if there’s nothing at the bottom of the Russia matter, Trump and his team are still in jeopardy. Washington scandals have a way of becoming about the handling of the scandal, and the firing of Comey may signal the beginning of that phase.
Certainly that’s the hope of the Democrats. Where there’s smoke, in other words, they want to make fire.