April 14, 2018

I understand why Donald Trump rails against the Robert Mueller investigation for examining possible collusion between his campaign and the Russians. I understand why Trump is upset about investigations into his business dealings and possible obstruction of justice. There are serious consequences for Trump, his family, and his associates if more wrongdoing is conclusively demonstrated.

But why is he so worked up about the pee tape?

The nation’s intelligence chiefs had just finished briefing Donald Trump on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election when FBI Director James B. Comey stayed behind to discuss some especially sensitive material: a “widely circulated” intelligence dossier containing unconfirmed allegations that Russians had filmed Trump interacting with prostitutes in Moscow in 2013.

The president-elect quickly interrupted the FBI director. According to Comey’s account in a new memoir, Trump “strongly denied the allegations, asking — rhetorically, I assumed — whether he seemed like a guy who needed the service of prostitutes. He then began discussing cases where women had accused him of sexual assault, a subject I had not raised. He mentioned a number of women, and seemed to have memorized their allegations.”

... Comey describes Trump as having been obsessed with the portion dealing with prostitutes in the infamous dossier compiled by British former intelligence officer Christopher Steele, raising it at least four times with the FBI director.

I'd be embarrassed if I were videotaped engaging in that kind of activity and the tape leaked. I assume you would, too.

But this is Donald Trump we're talking about. This is a guy who'd survived the Access Hollywood tape and won a presidential election shortly before he had all these fearful conversations with Comey about the pee tape. This is a guy who'd said that he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and not lose any votes -- and he was probably right. So why doesn't he feel the same way about this tape?

If it emerges, can't he just claim it's a fake? Won't 40% of Americans, including a majority of whites, either believe him or think it doesn't matter?

Didn't Bill Clinton's reputation survive sexual scandals, at least until recently? Didn't David Vitter -- whose experiences with prostitutes were rumored to be similar to what's alleged about Trump -- win reelection after the scandal broke? (And now he may get to watch his extremist wife -- yes, they're still married -- join the federal bench.) Anthony Weiner briefly led in New York mayoral polls after his first of wave of sexual revelations. Missouri governor and alleged rapist and blackmailer Eric Greitens is embattled, but his poll numbers are slightly better than Trump's -- 40%/39% approval/disapproval according to Morning Consult, 41%/47% according to Mason-Dixon.

I think there's something beyond fear of prosecution here (could Trump even be prosecuted for the pee tape?). I think this taps into a visceral source of shame for Trump. Remember, this is a guy who changes his own bedsheets at the White House, according to Michael Wolff's book.

It's possible that Trump believes that the entire edifice of his corruption will come crashing down if the tape is unearthed. But although I think it's connected to his unsavory dealings, I don't think it's central. I think Trump just believes a revelation of this kind would be shameful. I think it reaches into an area of his psyche where his usual shamelessness fails him.

crossposted from No More Mister Nice Blog


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