The President is furious that a probe of what he claims
is the worst political crime in history has come up empty. In an investigation endlessly hyped by conservative US media
, the Justice Department had sought to find whether Obama aides improperly tried to identify US citizens during wiretaps of foreigners (a process known as "unmasking") around the 2016 election. But the inquiry has now fizzled out, and its chief investigator will not even issue a public report, The Washington Post reported
Leveraging the power of the federal government for his political gain, Trump wanted a big scandal to tout before Election Day -- and to drag in Democratic nominee Joe Biden, Barack Obama's vice president. "Personally, I think it's ridiculous. It's ridiculous. It's a disgrace," Trump told Newsmax when asked about the hot air whooshing out of the unmasking balloon. "I think it's too bad. I think it's too bad. They're guilty as hell."
But national security officials can legitimately request that a name mentioned in top-secret documents be unredacted -- in fact, Trump's team has been an enthusiastic intelligence unmasker
itself. And what Trump's cheerleaders never seem to mention is that this particular case stems from conversations between top Trump aide Michael Flynn and Russia's ambassador -- at a time when Moscow was accused of interfering in the 2016 election to help Trump win. Flynn later lied about the chats to the FBI.
That's not the only conspiracy theory that's failing to deliver. Despite Trump's and Fox News' claims that the Russia investigation had dirty origins, the prosecutor involved in that probe has signaled there will be no report before Election Day, and major indictments look unlikely. It seems even William Barr draws the line somewhere — a fact that has Trump publicly wondering whether to keep his obedient attorney general in a potential second term.
'If I'm going to get sick and die, I guess it's my turn'
The President's rally in Des Moines, Iowa
, on Wednesday raised fears of another Covid-19 super-spreader event, but several attendees told CNN's Jim Acosta that they don't fear the virus. "If I'm gonna get sick and die, I guess it's my turn," Brenda Strothoff said. "I put myself at risk every time I go to the grocery store. I go to McDonald's. I go to work. I do anything! I'm not gonna stop living."
Early and often
The election is weeks away — but Americans are already voting, in the millions.
Long lines — sometimes bringing waits of up to eight hours — show the enthusiasm motivating many citizens to make their choices after the most turbulent presidential term in modern history. "There is a lot of tension that's going on in the country right now so I feel like, you know, every vote counts," one voter, Dewayne Newman, said in Georgia, where early balloting broke records.
Texas is also shattering previous highs for early voting — a sign that amid the pandemic, voters are wary of Election Day crowds and want to get their ballots locked in safely. Trump's repeated warnings that the election is not fair, false attacks on the security of mail-in voting and Republican lawsuits designed to make it harder to vote may also be convincing Americans that it's smart to vote early.
In Florida's Miami-Dade County, which Hillary Clinton won in 2016 but not by enough to offset Trump's strength elsewhere, a "historic turnout" is expected when early voting begins Monday, according to election supervisor Christina White. Nearly 80% of voters are expected to cast their ballots either in person or by mail by Election Day.
There is undeniable enthusiasm among Biden voters, who want to get rid of Trump, as well as MAGA voters, who want to prove that 2016 was not a fluke. Nevertheless, it's all rather troubling for the President, who is polling far behind nationally and more narrowly in swing states — and needs every minute left in the race to change as many minds as possible.
But once a vote is cast, persuasion is pointless. And so far, more than 10 million Americans have already taken themselves off the table.
'A win for tyrants'
Authoritarian China and Russia, among others, joined the UN's Human Rights Council earlier this week -- appointments that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says prove that the US was right to quit the council
. "Of course, yesterday China, as well as Russia and Cuba, won seats on the Human Rights Council -- a win for tyrants, an embarrassment for the United Nations. It's an example, an indication, of why we were right to leave that body," he told reporters on Wednesday.