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Increasingly freaked out by Mueller, Repubs throw Cohen under the bus



The Fox “News” writer, Steve Hilton, has written one of the most disreputable opinion pieces I’ve read yet in this Trump era—which is saying a lot, because the Republican Party has been the source of so many blatant lies and smears.

First, let’s get to his core purpose in writing it: Trump’s coordinated effort to throw his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, under the bus. The entire Trump team is doing its best to destroy Cohen, and now, the Trump media, as evidenced by this snide Hilton piece, has joined the show.

Hilton’s thesis is one everybody, Republicans, Democrats and independents, can agree on: Cohen has become the poster boy for the “swamp” Trump promised—and failed–to drain. “Cohen must apologize, pay back his swamp fees and tell us who else he pitched his services to” besides AT&T and Novartis, Hilton demands.

Hilton’s indignation is refreshing; it’s rare for conservatives to even hint at any sort of unhappiness with anyone who was part of Team Trump. But to be clear, being anti-Cohen is key to the emerging Republican strategy of protecting Trump. By discrediting Cohen, they pre-emptively undermine any evidence he has given to Mueller about Trump crimes. Trump supporters are so terrified of what the Southern District’s detectives found in their searches of Cohen’s homes and office that, when Cohen turns on Trump (as he will), Republicans will be able to argue, “See? Cohen was a swamp creature. We never really trusted him, and you voters shouldn’t believe anything he says, because Cohen lied to the President, and tried to take advantage of his good nature.” It’s called “discrediting a witness” and it’s a classic defense ploy.

Along the way, Hilton manages to squeeze in most of the predictable Republican falsehoods, starting with “the anti-Trump establishment’s obsession with Russia, Stormy Daniels and all that nonsense.” Characterizing very serious issues as “nonsense” is all very well for a Republican, but doesn’t eliminate the dangers that the ongoing Mueller probe poses to Trump, or the threat that Michael Avenatti presents to him via the Stormy Daniels case and its related offshoots. Hilton and his fellow Tea Party-ites might wish for “that nonsense” to disappear, but disparaging it won’t make it go away.

Then there’s Hilton’s smearing of “Deep State bureaucrats like fired FBI Director James Comey, former CIA Director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.” All three have the effrontery to question the fitness of an habitual liar, bully and megalomaniac to serve as President. Hilton interprets this as a kind of disloyalty to the Great Leader, in language reminiscent of the kinds of charges authoritarian states level against their critics, in one-party regimes such as Iran, Russia, Burma, North Korea and Zimbabwe.

I love that pejorative Republican term, “Deep State.” It’s really brilliant marketing. Conservatives use it to disparage Democrats working within the government, the same way Communist governments used to ferret out “capitalist imperialist running dogs” from their midst, or, in our own history, the way the deranged Republican Senator, Joseph McCarthy—whose chief counsel, Roy Cohn, was Trump’s mentor–used to disparage Democrats during his Communist witch hunts of the early 1950s. Tyrants who favor one-man and one-party rule always need scapegoats to offer up to the mob, and the Republican Party has found theirs with this nebulous “Deep State” characterization. Anybody whom they don’t like is automatically a member of the Deep State.

Hilton saves his most savage attacks for Avenatti, who is “sleazy” and “rotten.” When a Republican resorts to that kind of ad hominem frenzy, you know that the Republican is running scared. Hilton can’t counter the legal and factual facts of Avenatti’s case, so he insults the messenger instead.

It’s hysterical to listen to Hilton pretending to be outraged by “the corrupt, pay-to-play business model of the Washington Swamp, where Big Business bribes and lobbies Big Government to get its way.” Such outrage! Such righteous indignation! You’d think Hilton is one of those Goo-Goo types—“Good Government” liberals fighting for political reform. I wonder if he’s ever heard of Sheldon Adelson, Robert Mercer, Peter Thiel, Linda McMahon, Woody Johnson or Carl Icahn—all billionaires who hopped onto the Trump Gravy Train in hopes of getting even richer by having a President who serves their purposes. These men and women, already immeasurably rich, have become immeasurably richer through Trump’s tax “reform” and relaxed regulations.

It would be refreshing for a Republican columnist to condemn Trump’s collaboration with these Big Money billionaires, but that’s not going to happen. Instead, enablers like Hilton pretend that Trump is somehow different. But then, Republican writers are hired and paid by wealthy Republican publishers to write favorably about the Republican Party and Donald Trump. This is what propagandists like Hilton do: they’re interested in draining the Democratic side of the swamp, and leaving the Republican side intact.

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