Jul 28, 2018

When wild conspiracies come to life

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Think back to the wild conspiracy theories that once floated through your head, or the minds of friends and critics of President Trump: collusion with Russia ... Hidden hush money ... Shady business dealings that only insiders like fixer Michael Cohen knew of — and they'd never tell.

The big picture: Trump has done almost nothing to dispel these theories since taking office.

Now, think about July, 2018: With millions wondering if Vladimir Putin has damaging info about Trump, and suspecting they have a secret pact, the president does something almost unheard of in history: He meets alone with Putin for two hours. Then, with everyone looking for a public signal of Putin's power over Trump, the president shows so much deference at their press conference you would think he was meeting with the Pope. 

  • Then the tape of Trump talking about pre-election payments to a Playboy model surfaces (on CNN, to boot!). The tape + Trump’s admission that he paid off porn star Stormy Daniels = confirmation of what so many thought pre-election happened just as suspected. There was after all a pre-election scramble to silence women — and now it’s on full display for all to see. 
  • Then Cohen, the Trump boot-licker who had claimed he'd take a bullet for the president, indeed takes a bullet — and aims at his sugar daddy, leaking word he wants Robert Mueller to know he will testify that Trump knew of the infamous Russian meeting to discuss dirt on Hillary Clinton. (Trump denies that.) If true — and given Cohen’s jam and reputation, it remains an if — this is the kind of smoking gun that lives in infamy. 

Be smart: Who the hell knows how this wild saga ends? But it’s striking how much of it was foreseeable — and foreseen.

Go deeper

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U.S. enters 6th day of nationwide protests over George Floyd's killing

A protest in Philadelphia on May 31. Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

Local news footage captured a tanker truck appearing to drive toward protesters at a peaceful demonstration in Minneapolis, as demonstrators quickly got out of the way of the incoming vehicle on Sunday evening.

The big picture: Protests have continued across the country for six days, as demonstrators call for justice in response to the deaths of George Floyd and other other black Americans who have died in police custody or who have been killed in racist attacks.

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Tanker truck appears to plow into Minneapolis protesters

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Details: Minnesota Department of Public Safety tweeted, "Very disturbing actions by a truck driver on I-35W, inciting a crowd of peaceful demonstrators. The truck driver was injured & taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries. He is under arrest. It doesn’t appear any protesters were hit by the truck."

Inside Trump's antifa tweet

President Trump at Cape Canaveral on May 30. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

As recently as Saturday night, senior administration officials told me that the designation of a violent cohort of far-left activists, antifa, as a terrorist organization was not being seriously discussed at the White House. But that was Saturday.

Behind the scenes: The situation changed dramatically a few hours later, after prominent conservative allies of the president, such as his friend media commentator Dan Bongino, publicly urged a tough response against people associated with antifa (short for "anti-fascist").