President Trump isn’t waiting for the weekend to unleash one of his characteristically unhinged Twitter rants. He grabbed his phone early Thursday morning and launched unprovoked attacks on Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Robert Mueller’s investigation, Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ), and former Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz (D-FL).
Eight tweets into his tirade, however, he fired off his most desperate claim of the lot. Referencing a highly partisan report Senate Republicans released Wednesday with no Democratic participation, Trump lashed out at President Obama for his handling of the now dismantled nuclear agreement with Iran.
The Obama Administration is now accused of trying to give Iran secret access to the financial system of the United States. This is totally illegal. Perhaps we could get the 13 Angry Democrats to divert some of their energy to this “matter” (as Comey would call it). Investigate!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 7, 2018
“The Obama Administration is now accused of trying to give Iran secret access to the financial system of the United States,” he wrote in a highly dubious mischaracterization of the report’s central theme. “This is totally illegal. Perhaps we could get the 13 Angry Democrats to divert some of their energy to this “matter” (as Comey would call it). Investigate!”
’13 Angry Democrats’ is the nickname he’s tried to christen the members of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Never mind that nowhere near all of them are Democrats, including Mueller himself, who’s a lifelong Republican and someone most GOP members praised when he was first appointed as special counsel.
This latest conspiracy theory goes something like this. President Obama and then-Secretary of State John Kerry banked their collective legacies on a deal with Iran, but the mullahs were playing hardball.
They demanded that any deal they agreed to include relief from the sanctions that barred their access to western financial markets and severely limited their ability to do business in dollars.
Because only Congress has the power to grant sanctions relief, and the Republican-controlled Congress had about as much interest in helping President Obama as it did in helping Iran, the Obama administration had to find a way to meet Iran’s demand.
And they did, one that didn’t violate the law.
“The report focuses on $5.7 billion from Iranian oil sales that were frozen in Oman’s Bank Muscat in that country’s currency, the rial,” CNN described the crux of the scandal Republicans are trying to generate.
Oman’s currency is pegged to the dollar, which, among other restrictions, means it must be converted into dollars before it can be converted to other currencies.
And so the State Department directed the US Treasury to facilitate a one-time transaction to allow Iran to convert the $5.7 billion in Rials into dollars, which were then immediately converted into Euros.
That’s the scandal. Here’s the kicker: it was completely legal, and the partisan report released by Senate Republicans Wednesday even acknowledged its legality.
So if the transaction was legal – despite what the current president wants you to believe – then of what exactly are Republicans accusing President Obama? According to Sen. Rob Portman (OH), the Republican chair of the subcommittee, not much.
“The Obama administration misled the American people and Congress because they were desperate to get a deal with Iran,” he said upon the report’s release.
That’s it? “Misled?” That’s all they got? Not only is this the very definition of a nothing burger, the four-part rollout of this latest manufactured scandal is all too familiar.
First, phase one: Republicans in Congress release an official sounding “report” or “memo” that accuses Democrats or enemies of the president of something they think discredits them.
Next, phase two: Fox News and the right-wing spin machines on social media and talk radio breath life into this report and fan the flames for their followers.
With the scandal/crisis/conspiracy theory now firmly laundered through the conservative media ether, the president initiates phase three: talking about it as if it’s a fact, complete with feigned outrage as if he only learned about it on Fox & Friends that particular morning.
Finally, the inevitable phase four: the real news media spends a day discrediting and debunking the entire story and exposing the transparent effort to spread misinformation and distract the public from the real scandals plaguing this president.
Tomorrow we’ll be on to a new scandal and conspiracy theory, but for now, sadly, we rinse and repeat.