Why Trump suddenly took an interest in George W. Bush's emails

Why Trump suddenly took an interest in George W. Bush’s emails

Through his Twitter-like social media platform, Donald Trump last night directed his followers to a relatively obscure article. Specifically, the former president apparently wanted the public to read this article, published by Newsweek exactly six years ago this week:

For 18 months, Republican strategists, political pundits, journalists and the Americans who follow them have been chasing Hillary Clinton’s personal email habits, and no evidence of a crime has been found. But now they at least have the skills and interest to focus on a much larger and deeper email conspiracy, involving war, lies, a private server run by the Republican Party, and disregard for quotes from the Congress – all still unresolved and unpunished.

The Newsweek article then shed light on a largely understated controversy: In George W. Bush’s White House, millions of emails were conveniently “lost.” The result, as congressional Democrats explained in 2008, was a “huge gap in the historical record” during a critical time.

Indeed, the Newsweek article added in 2016: “This correspondence included millions of emails written during the darkest period in recent American history, when the Bush administration was beginning to support what turned out to be a disastrous war in Iraq with false claims that the country had weapons of mass destruction and, later, when it fired American lawyers for political reasons.

This was, of course, a legitimate controversy. It didn’t generate much media coverage – in 2008 much of the political world was focused on the presidential primaries and tired of the Bush scandals – although long duration readers may recall that I was preoccupied with the story when it broke 14 years ago.

But the problem is not that Bush was plagued by serious controversy. Rather, the fact is that Trump referred his subscribers to a six-year-old Newsweek article for no apparent reason.

Indeed, the article – which I have a hunch Trump didn’t read before promoting it – noted in its first sentence that there was simply no evidence of criminal wrongdoing on the part of ‘Hillary Clinton. Last I checked, that’s not exactly the message Team Trump wants the public to see.

So why promote it? Because the former president is still looking in vain for a coherent defense of his Mar-a-Lago scandal.

Trump’s first attempt, of course, was to link his controversy to Hillary Clinton’s emails, although that didn’t work because the stories had so little in common.

This led Trump to shift gears and claim that Barack Obama also took classified secrets and ran into the National Archives. It turned out to be completely insane.

Seemingly out of options, Trump tried again last night, luring people to the fact that millions of important emails had gone missing from the Bush White House. While this is true, Bush has not been accused of taking classified documents, storing them in a glorified country club, refusing to return them, and allegedly obstructing the retrieval process.

Trump, on the other hand, has been accused of doing just that. To suggest that the Bush team email controversy is somehow similar is a hard idea to take seriously.

Ultimately, what we have seen in recent weeks from Trump is not a suggestion that he is innocent or that the allegations are unfounded. On the contrary, the Republican seems increasingly fond of the proverbial “everybody does it” defense.

The problem is that everyone doesn’t does what Trump is accused of doing, and the more he tries to find evidence to the contrary, the more he reminds us of how unique his alleged misconduct truly was.

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