The Sunday Afternoon of the Long Knives?

Evan Vucci/AP
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Yesterday I noted that the biggest thing in the Times‘ Don Jr article was the sourcing. The story came, apparently unprompted or voluntarily, from what the Times identified as 5 advisors to the White House. Top Trump advisors don’t casually drop incredibly damaging information about the President’s son for no reason. You do that to get ahead of something bigger.

But … remember, this is Trump World. And now I realize there’s a quite different potential explanation, but in the spirit of Trump’s Razor (perhaps Trump’s Razor by Proxy?) the stupidest one possible. 

Let’s speak entirely hypothetically. We tend to think of Donald Trump and his top advisors and associates as something of a group. But really there are numerous players, each with their own particular and distinct legal exposure. Many of them are driven by comical but intense feuds with each other. Flynn, Kushner, Manafort and a bunch of others are already in profound legal jeopardy. Anyone already in hot water might see advantage in making Don Jr the center of attention in the scandal. Not smart or longterm thinking but thinking nonetheless.

Who else might have it in for Don Jr? Well, what about Corey Lewandowski? Lewandowski was canned on June 20th, 2016, a bit less than two weeks after Don Jr’s meeting with that Russian lawyer. He’d be in a position to know the details of the meeting since he was still at least nominally still the campaign manager. And Lewandowski was reportedly fired after an intervention with Trump by his kids, Ivanka and Don Jr and Jared Kushner (my sense is at this point is that Eric is only allowed to run the winery). It also wouldn’t be the first time. One of the things that got Lewandowski fired was that he started shopping dirt to reporters about Kushner. That was reckless and stupid and poorly executed. It wouldn’t be the first time.

Flynn, Manafort and perhaps Flynn’s ne’er-do-well son also look like logical culprits. But it’s not clear any of them could still be reasonable called advisors – though we cannot rule out at least the first two from still advising from the outside. Remember, the White House Counsel has reportedly had to warn Trump repeatedly against contact with Flynn (it’s a bit like a Mary Kay Letourneau situation). But Lewandowski has definitely been back in the fold, even coming close to being hired a month or so ago to run a Russia war room.

These are all purely hypotheticals. It remains key that five people that the Times chose to call advisors to the White House talked to the Times. That’s a lot of people. But today I get the sense that the story is one I should have considered more fully yesterday: one of the biggest threats to the Trump White House is the kind of dingbat, spy v spy infighting and blood feuds we’ve observed already but likely only know the half of. In a normal White House this might just lead to lots of bad press and lack of esprit de corps. Reagan’s White House was a bit notorious for this. But when numerous advisors, in and outside the White House, are looking at profound legal jeopardy, the stakes get a lot higher.

If my hypothetical is correct, it is bad news for the White House. If “advisors” to the White House are sharing incriminating stories with reporters to knife their administration enemies rather than help the White House by making the best of a bad situation, which is what I surmised yesterday, well … that won’t end well for any of them. And it looks like that is what’s happening.

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Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.
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