Phone tapping, Sweden and fraud: 'Wag the Dog 2', brought to you by POTUS

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We're talking about phone tapping claims and make-believe terror attacks when just six months ago, Trump faced fraud and racketeering charges, writes James McArdle.

I KNOW we’re all concerned for the president.

That word "tapp" bothers me, but also has anyone noticed that the tweets from the president are getting ever more paranoid, ever more outrageous, ever more dangerous?

The only way former president Obama could have secretly bugged Trump Tower was to have done it himself, perhaps on an unannounced social visit.

But then he would have spent most of the next few months listening in on Trump’s conversations, especially at tweet-time.

And was it really just over a week ago we had the “top of the pack” comment, signalling post-time for a new nuclear arms race? The previous one you may remember was just a two-horse affair. This time around there’d be nine starters. Add in the UK, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea. And then you consider some of the jockeys: Trump, Putin, Kim Jong Un — hardly bears thinking about, does it?

Yet, as that Minutes to Midnight thingy advances, we move on to the next disaster du jour.

Carl Bildt is the former Swedish prime minister.

Before that it was Sweden.

"Sweden?! Has he been throwing darts at a map?" That was my reaction to that piece of Trumpflummery. "It’s Sweden Mr President, it’s in Europe. Pronounced Swee-din, Mr President."

Social media lit up with speculation. Remember the theories?

My second thought was that if the commander-in-chief of the world’s greatest military power ever declares war on Austria, we could be in deep shit.

Never Fjorget What Happened In Sweden, Source:The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

Anyway, I was trying to figure out what Swee-din had done to draw his ire and that’s when it hit me. Could this be Wag the Dog 2?

The original movie had a U.S. president embroiled in an underage sex scandal two weeks out from the election. Before you know it, spin doctor Connie Brean (played by Robert de Niro and upon whom Stephen Bannon is loosely based) has America declaring war on Albania as a distraction. Not a real war mind, just a virtual war, a "pageant", produced by Dustin Hoffman’s Hollywood titan Stanley "This is Nothing" Moots.

There is, of course, an appropriate patriotic hymn recorded by a choir of pop superstars, with composer Willie Nelson as conductor. At the end of the movie, the president is re-elected by a nation grateful for his winning/avoiding a war — we’re not quite sure which. Stanley is whisked away in a White House limo, to die of a heart attack because he wants the credit and can’t keep his mouth shut.

But what if Stanley and Connie were instead whisked away to an undisclosed luxurious location somewhere in the Bahamas? They’ve decided to get out on top. Nothing could trump what they’ve just achieved.

The Oval Office, 20 years later. A new president needs a distraction and he needs it bad, but doubts whether these two old timers are up to it.

He barely listens to the pitch, so Connie lays it on the line:

“Name a country Mr President. We’ll give you illegal Muslim immigrant riots or a terrorist attack within 48 hours."

The president ponders presidentially, beckons an aide and gestures to a single dart and an old-style wall-map of the world. Sean Spicer knows what to do — he’s done this before.

“Sweden Mr President, it’s in Europe. Pronounced Swee-din, Mr President."

Is that what this is all about? Distractions? A reality TV Wag the Dog 2?

Let’s face it, there is a certain frisson of excitement waiting for the next Sean Spicer Presser Spectacular — the daily Kellyanne Conway car wreck, or the POTUS himself ranting and raving about how the media reports him as ranting and raving. It’s compulsive viewing, albeit from the kitchen and through splayed fingers.

Watching Donald Trump using the joint press conference with the Israeli PM to explain to the assembled media of the world why his win had the "biggest winning margin" in the history of the world, I thought to myself, "Good move, Mr President" — I mean, just think what Sean would do with Benjamin Netanyahu. “Sean, you look a bit peaked today. Take the morning off. I’ll handle this one".

Meanwhile Kellyanne, an East Coast soccer mom with impeccable manners and anger management issues, effortlessly reconciled two alternating facts – that the POTUS retained full confidence in his national security advisor, which included sending him off to national security meetings – while knowing that he had gone rogue with the Russians and was lying his head off about it.

And here’s the thing. Those important talks involving one of the world’s hot spots? The spy who came in from the cold and into the White House? Tomorrow it will all be ancient news as we lurch on to the next distraction du jour.

There's no time to just stop, draw breath, look back. The recent past whizzes by. Pizzagate? Lock her up? Tax Returns? Grab ’em by the pussy? Drain the swamp? It’s all so 2016. Hard to believe, isn’t it, that back in August the then candidate faced fraud and racketeering charges in a civil trial?

"Fraud and racketeering charges? I don’t remember that!" I hear you say. Well, let me jog your memory. On 21 November last year, a class action brought against Trump by disgruntled ex-students of his now-defunct Trump University was settled quietly for $25 million, the new president claiming that he just didn’t have time to go to court to prove his innocence, what with his new job and all.

Although this is interesting (see, especially, 2:30 to 2:50-minute mark):

On 3 August, Judge Curiel (and I’ll get back to him) had ruled that Trump:

"... Must face civil trial for fraud and racketeering under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”). for misrepresentation, breach of contract, and taking advantage of seniors. …[Further]… that holding the institution out as a “university” constituted fraud; and that Trump personally participated in a scheme to defraud."

In a radio interview, Washington Post's Tom Hamburger said:

"... Emphasis was not so much on curriculum and substance, as far as we can tell, but there was a great deal of emphasis on targeting students that might be able to purchase the high-end gold standard courses. Those courses could cost up to $34,000, $35,000 at the high end. Students were promised personal mentoring. And the notion was if you can find a student who might be able to afford this and is on the hook, don’t offer them other options. Just get them into the gold program."

Back in May, the then-presidential candidate had traduced Judge Curiel as a "Trump hater" and accused him of being Mexican. In the latter instance, at least, he was as ever just plain wrong. Reporters pointed out wryly that it was unusual for a Federal judge to be attacked in this way by a presidential candidate from the podium at a campaign rally.

Innocent until proven guilty and all that, but from what I’ve seen of him on TV those charges sound well, plausible don’t they? It reads like a classic scam. Set up a “university” with the “gravitas” of the Trump name attached, enrol students in market schemes and upsell the most expensive gold-plated diploma course. (The gold-plated diploma, one suspects, being all that distinguished it from the non-gold plated one.)

Doesn’t it make you queasy, though, that just six months ago the POTUS faced fraud and racketeering charges? And that no-one’s talking about it?

Oh right, you’re queasy enough already.

You can follow James McArdle on Twitter @jamesMcArdle7.

Source: Washington Post

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