Remember the scene in “Star Wars, A New Hope,” when the heroes find themselves in a giant trash compactor? They seem to escape danger until the walls start to close in on them, creating suspense and danger for the audience. It’s a classic metaphor, now being beaten to death by the media in reference to the so-called Russia investigation.
On Dec. 3, for example, Jill Abramson wrote an article for The Guardian titled, “The Mueller investigation is closing in on Trump,” citing recent news about the Moscow Trump Tower project and the disintegration of Paul Manafort’s plea deal. Why does that phrase sound so familiar? It’s been in the press in this context for more than a year now.
Credit to Eddie Scary, who separately made a similar November 2018 observation in the Washington Examiner about why, and to David Rutz of the Free Beacon, who prepared a hilarious montage in August also noting the overuse of the phrase. Here’s a comprehensive run down of its use in the press.
November 30: The incoming House Judiciary Chair promised that the “walls have started closing in on President Trump,” based upon the new Michael Cohen plea. The Hill reported essentially the same story a day earlier here.
November 29: Dana Milbank of the Press Herald announced that the “facts are closing in on Trump,” citing the “half-dozen convictions” obtained by the Mueller team (that for the 1,000th are not within Mueller’s mandate of Trump/Russia collusion to subvert the election). The Nation borrowed much the same headline on the same day here. The Times Herald published yet another “closing in” headline on Nov. 29 here.
November 28: The Daily Star published an op-ed declaring, “Mueller is closing in on Trump,” citing unconsummated plea discussions between Mueller and blowhards Roger Stone and Jerome Corsi. A more detailed debunking of these “bombshells” can be read here.
November 23: CNN titled a video clip with the question of whether Mueller was “closing in on Trump’s inner circle,” citing nothing.
November 18: Salon quoted author Tim Weiner, citing (with noticeable hopefulness) Mueller’s grand jury or perhaps the emoluments clause lawsuits. If you haven’t followed, these lawsuits seek a declaration that it’s unconstitutional for Trump (but not Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama) to have commercial interests outside of government that might be patronized by foreign governments.
August 30: Greg Sargent wrote in The Washington Post: “The walls are closing in. And Trump’s lawyers know it.” He predicted the potential termination of former attorney general Jeff Sessions would bring down Trump under a vaguely defined obstruction of justice theory.
August 24: The Hill reported that the Mueller team was “closing in on Trump tax return secrets.” Does anyone seriously believe that the Mueller team hasn’t been in possession of the Trump tax returns since the spring of 2017?
April 10: Newsweek warned that the Mueller investigation is closing in on Trump and he’s no longer denying it. The article cited the raid on Cohen’s office, which fulfilled Mueller’s mandate to criminalize Trump’s alleged extra-marital sexual encounter a decade earlier and a related non-disclosure agreement. This is another example of a crime that only exists if it can be used to get Trump. Rush Limbaugh recently observed that Congress has more than 264 settlements that use taxpayer funds to buy the silence of alleged victims of sexual harassment perpetrated by congressmen. Are those settlements all crimes, too?
September 20, 2017: Vanity Fair told its readers, “Robert Mueller is officially closing in on Trump.” One interesting tidbit in this article is a claim that, “Manafort is believed to have offered a Russian oligarch closely aligned with the Kremlin, Oleg Deripaska, private briefings of the presidential race through an intermediary.”
A year later, The New York Times published an article disclosing that none other than Assistant Attorney General Bruce Ohr acted as Deripaska’s handler and unsuccessfully tried to either set up a sting using Deripaska or to get Deripaska to say Manafort was talking to Russia. Deripaska said the allegation was preposterous. It makes one wonder whether Vanity Fair’s 2017 source may have been Bruce or Nellie Ohr.
August 5, 2017: The Guardian (which recycles headlines to save the environment) wrote that “Robert Mueller is closing in on Trump,” citing the impaneling of grand juries in both Virginia and Washington D.C.
May 18, 2017: The New Republic announced that “the walls are closing in on Trump-and he’s starting to lose it,” citing the “near-constant watch for the thing that will finally doom Trump.” After so many misses, the New Republic hopefully wrote, “The firing of James Comey, though might be different.”
In a refreshingly prescient note, the New Republic wrote of the Mueller probe that even if “it does not ultimately show collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia,” then “it’s likely that Mueller’s investigation will uncover some damaging details.” In May 2017 — almost immediately after Mueller was appointed — the New Republic saw it for what it was: An unguided missile pointed not at any crime, but at Trump himself.
April 1, 2017: Joy-Ann Reid wrote in The Daily Beast that the “Political Walls are closing in on Donald Trump,” telling her readers, “Trump may not last the summer,” because former Trump national security advisor Michael Flynn was known to have talked to the Russian ambassador and to have lied about it. Of course Flynn’s conversations were legal and appropriate and the whole reason we “knew” is because of illegal felony leaking, which will never be punished because it was done to harm Trump.
I can only imagine that the Chinese propagandists must envy the precision lockstep in which much of the American media has voluntarily organized itself to assail Trump. If we didn’t so badly need a free and independent media, it would be comical how the disparate sources all yap the same headlines and talking points in perfect harmony.
The walls have been “closing in” for so long, the media tells us constantly. Yet the American public is still left wondering whether this is all a manufactured smear story. If it’s not, Muller should present his evidence and close up shop already. The fact that he’s not is certainly suggestive.