Mr. Trump’s bark loses its bite

The pres­i­dent still traf­fics in imag­ined scan­dals, but he’s lost the ear of vot­ers — and his own ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION - EDITORIALS

ACENTRAL el­e­ment of Pres­i­dent Trump’s re­elec­tion cam­paign has been the use of his pres­i­den­tial pow­ers to smear Joe Bi­den and other Democrats with false cor­rup­tion al­le­ga­tions. The ef­fort be­gan 18 months ago, when Mr. Trump and per­sonal at­tor­ney Ru­dolph W. Gi­u­liani set out to pres­sure Ukraine’s new pres­i­dent to launch an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Mr. Bi­den. De­spite Mr. Trump’s im­peach­ment for that ac­tion, his at­tempt to lever­age his of­fice to bol­ster his mud­sling­ing has re­lent­lessly con­tin­ued.

Mr. Trump has pushed the Jus­tice De­part­ment to in­ves­ti­gate his vague and con­fused claims that the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion spied on his cam­paign. He has de­manded that for­mer pres­i­dent Barack Obama, Mr. Bi­den and Hil­lary Clin­ton be in­dicted. He has or­dered the po­lit­i­cal op­er­a­tives he in­stalled as di­rec­tors of na­tional in­tel­li­gence to se­lec­tively re­lease in­for­ma­tion that ap­pears to bol­ster his false charges. He has even in­sisted that Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo re­lease more of Ms. Clin­ton’s State De­part­ment emails, even though the overblown con­tro­versy over them ended with her elec­toral de­feat four years ago.

The rel­a­tive good news about these gross im­pro­pri­eties is that they are fail­ing to ac­com­plish the pres­i­dent’s aims — as he him­self has an­grily ac­knowl­edged. Ukrainian Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Ze­len­sky ul­ti­mately re­fused to launch an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Mr. Bi­den. Last week, The Post re­ported that an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by a fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor into one of the pieces of Mr. Trump’s “Oba­m­a­gate” con­spir­acy the­ory qui­etly ended with the con­clu­sion that there had been no mis­con­duct by Mr. Obama, Mr. Bi­den or any­one else in the “un­mask­ing” of in­di­vid­u­als named in in­tel­li­gence re­ports.

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Wil­liam P. Barr, who has bent over back­ward to ac­com­mo­date Mr. Trump’s im­proper de­mands, nev­er­the­less has told Repub­li­can con­gress­men that another fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor’s probe of the FBI’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into pos­si­ble col­lab­o­ra­tion between the 2016 Trump cam­paign and Rus­sia will pro­duce no pub­lic re­port, much less in­dict­ments, be­fore Elec­tion Day. Even Mr. Pom­peo, one of the pres­i­dent’s most loyal re­tain­ers, has dodged the de­mand for more of Ms. Clin­ton’s emails, most of which were long ago made pub­lic.

None of this has de­terred Mr. Trump from con­tin­u­ing to air false charges. Last week, he once again was re­ly­ing on Mr. Gi­u­liani, de­spite warn­ings from U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies that his lawyer has be­come a chan­nel for Rus­sian dis­in­for­ma­tion. Mr. Gi­u­liani has ac­tively col­lab­o­rated with a Ukrainian leg­is­la­tor sanc­tioned by the Trea­sury De­part­ment as a Krem­lin agent seek­ing to con­duct an in­flu­ence cam­paign against Mr. Bi­den. Yet Mr. Trump seized on a du­bi­ous story Mr. Gi­u­liani ped­dled to the New York Post pur­port­ing to re­veal com­pro­mis­ing emails in­volv­ing Hunter Bi­den and Ukraine.

Again, the wel­come news here is that few out­side Mr. Trump’s base and the me­dia who cater to it are tak­ing his slan­ders se­ri­ously. Polls show that Mr. Bi­den’s fa­vor­a­bil­ity rat­ings have grown rather than di­min­ished dur­ing the cam­paign. Main­stream news or­ga­ni­za­tions and so­cial me­dia have planted red flags around the New York Post story. Mr. Trump clearly hopes that con­cocted scan­dals about his op­po­nent will pro­pel him to vic­tory, as they did in 2016. But four years later, his own ad­min­is­tra­tion is re­sist­ing his at­tempted abuses — and vot­ers know bet­ter than to be­lieve him.

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