|JUAN MANUEL HERRERA / OAS|
In Trumpworld the truth is a lie, down is up and the rule of law has been rescinded. So it comes as no surprise that Donald Trump and his minions are hard at work recasting the Russia scandal not as an assault on a bedrock of American democracy but a deep-state plot by Robert Mueller and the FBI to seek revenge for Lock Her Up Hillary's defeat by trying to undermine the Trump presidency. And that the disappeared academic Joseph Mifsud, a key figure in the early days of the scandal investigation, is not a Russian agent but a Western intelligence plant and FBI stooge.
Because of the vacuum of information about Mifsud, he is a convenient fall guy for the Republicans, Fox News reactionaries and other fever swamp denizens trying to rewrite the scandal into a Through the Looking Glass absurdity by portraying Trump as a victim, not a conspirator, in the run-up to former Special Counsel Mueller's highly-anticipated televised appearance before two Democratic-led House committees next week.
Mifsud, should you have forgotten or not really cared in the first place, is the Maltese professor whose outreach to Trump campaign coffee boy and foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, whom he informed in April 2016 that Moscow "had dirt" on Clinton, sparked the Russia investigation. (No, it wasn't the Steele dossier, as some deep-staters claim in trying to discredit it, but that's another twisted story for another time.)
The Mueller report describes Mifsud as "a London-based professor who had connections to Russia," period. But Devin Nunes, Rudy Giuliani and Papadopoulos himself assert without a shred of evidence that Mifsud is a western intelligence asset who was working for the FBI and sought to entrap young Papadopoulos. Trump's Republican allies on the committees will, of course, echo that allegation.
Inconveniently, Mifsud went missing in November 2017, three days after Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Mifsud. Some 18 months later, his whereabouts are unknown and there is speculation in some quarters that he is dead.
Meanwhile, when Mueller appears before the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees on July 17, Democrats will focus on Mueller's conclusion in his report that Trump obstructed justice on at least 10 occasions in trying to shut down the Russia scandal investigation, but as a sitting president could not be indicted.
Republicans on those committees will try to undermine Mueller's credibility by running up the Mifsud flag and again focusing on what Trump calls "the FBI lovers," Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, although that has proved to be a dry well because, again, there is no evidence they are guilty of anything beyond poor judgment.
Strzok is a former chief of the FBI's counterintelligence section who initiated the bureau's investigation into Russia-Trump campaign ties after the bureau learned of Mifsud's courtship of Papadopoulos. He was removed from the Mueller team for having sent text messages criticizing Trump to FBI colleague Lisa Page, with whom he had an affair. That was indeed poor judgment, although not proof that he sought to influence the outcome of the investigation, which from everything we know he did not.
Will the Republicans' deep-state pyrotechnics and bloviating attempts at character assassination during Mueller's committee appearances make any difference?
Probably not since the Mueller report, while deeply critical of Trump, has sunk like a stone, thanks in part to Attorney General William Barr's whitewash. Most Americans have not bothered to read the report to begin with, and there is a Trump fatigue abroad in the land that grows deeper with every new outrage -- witness the numbness with which the migrant concentration camps, latest sexual misconduct allegation, the president's kissy face with Kim Jong-un, the jingoization of the Fourth of July celebration in Washington and his redefinition of Taking Our Daughters To Work Day have been greeted.
Yes, the U.K. ambassador's description of Trump as "inept," "insecure" and "incompetent" is spot on. Yes, Trump's poll numbers are up a bit because of a robust economy not even he has been able to screw up, and the unwavering support of his "base." And yes, Democrats continue to dither over impeachment.
All together now: Big sigh.
Minds are made up, as they say. Absent a shocking revelation or two from Mueller, which is not likely since he has said he would only repeat what was presented in his report, they're going to stay that way.
Click HERE for a comprehensive timeline of the Russia scandal
and delated developments.