Now let's look at today's front page:
On October 29, every above-the-fold story was about Clinton and the emails. Today, the Trump/Russia story is barely above the fold.
So here's what we know:
A classified report delivered to President Obama and President-elect Donald Trump last week included a section summarizing allegations that Russian intelligence services have compromising material and information on Trump’s personal life and finances, U.S. officials said.The source is said to be an intelligence pro hired by Trump opponents from both parties:
The officials said that U.S. intelligence agencies have not corroborated those allegations but believed that the sources involved in the reporting were credible enough to warrant inclusion of their claims in the highly classified report on Russian interference in the presidential campaign.
The raw memos on which the synopsis is based were prepared by the former MI6 agent, who was posted in Russia in the 1990s and now runs a private intelligence gathering firm. His investigations related to Mr. Trump were initially funded by groups and donors supporting Republican opponents of Mr. Trump during the GOP primaries, multiple sources confirmed to CNN. Those sources also said that once Mr. Trump became the nominee, further investigation was funded by groups and donors supporting Hillary Clinton.The U.S. intelligence community obviously thinks this former agent is credible, or the information wouldn't have put into the briefings. Political insiders thought the agent was credible enough to hire. John McCain confronted FBI director James Comey about the agent's information last month.
None of which means that what the agent claims to have learned is true. All of it might be true, or some of it, or none of it. I think some is true and some is hyperbole.
BuzzFeed has posted what it says is the agent's reporting. Some are calling BuzzFeed's dossier "obviously fake," but with not much to back up that skepticism.
As I say, I don't know which allegations to believe. I guess I should stop dithering and get to the most eye-popping story:
Do I believe this might have been reported to a professional spy? Sure. Does that mean it's true? Not necessarily. Could it be true? It's a very Howard Stern-ish scenario, and Trump used to be a regular Stern guest. Maybe a decadent guy like Trump would want to see a show like this. I can't tell.
But I agree with something Hot Air's Allahpundit wrote before we had this specific tale from BuzzFeed:
The recurring question whenever Trump is accused of being some sort of stooge for Russia is “What could the Russians possibly have on him that would damage him?” He survived the “Access Hollywood” tape. He survived accusations of sexual assault. He survived about 8,000 different “gaffes” and outre statements on the trail that would have sunk any other candidate. Even if Russia had covert video of Trump in a compromising position, why would that damage him? He’s a playboy who’s boasted about his conquests for years. A sex scandal wouldn’t leave a scratch.I can imagine this leaking in October, even with video -- and I can imagine Trump winning in spite of it. The deplorables would actually have thought it was a tremendous idea. The rest of the GOP electorate would have shunned the video and/or assumed it was doctored. Some Trump voters would say they disapproved, but it's his private life and that's not their concern.
The more important allegations are that Trump and his people colluded with the Russians on the anti-Clinton campaign. Allahpundit again:
One thing that would hurt him, though, is the mere fact of coordination with Russia. If it could be proved that his campaign and the Kremlin were quietly colluding during the campaign, especially if money was changing hands, that would wreck him forever with everyone outside his own hardcore populist base. He’d have to somehow govern despite being perceived by many as an illegitimate president, a de facto Russian agent, and he’s already under suspicion for that thanks to his curiously consistent apologetics for Putin and Russia’s role in the hacking. I don’t know how he could recover.I disagree. The GOP electorate can see that Trump is pro-Putin and doesn't care. I'm sure that wouldn't have been enough to cost him the election, because there's literally nothing he could have done that would have persuaded his voters that a victory by the hated Hillary Clinton was preferable.
Trump certainly isn't going to step aside. He's not going to release tax documents that would clarify the extent of his involvement in Russia. He's not going to tolerate further investigations of this by the intelligence community.
Republicans in Congress will circle the wagons around Trump, because they need him to sign their bills. (I heard Senator Jeff Flake, a persistent Trump critic during the campaign, downplaying this story on NPR this morning.) Maybe John McCain and Lindsey Graham will keep pushing for a serious investigation, but Mitch McConnell will put the kibosh on that, and Jason Chaffetz in the House will just keep investigating Hillary Clinton's emails.
Maybe things would change if Democrats shut down the government while demanding a serious investigation, or if there were a million angry people in the streets of D.C. calling for Trump to resign. But short of that, I think Trump will muddle through, despite his woeful 37% approval rating, according to Quinnipiac. There are no inviolable norms anymore, at least if you're a Republican. There'll be no rerun of the Watergate years. We're just not that country anymore.