When a pol gets boxed-in by a thorny controversy or outright ethical accusations, he or she classically employs one (or more) of three gambits: denial, deflection and definition.
Denial comes in many forms, including flat-out rejection of the facts or charges. But that works only for the truly innocent, and even then, it comes with a degree of difficulty. For the current occupant of the WH, denials are usually delivered by minions on mop-up duty, who say things like “that was taken out of context” or “he was just joking.”
Deflection often takes the form of whataboutism, as in “What about what Bill Clinton did?” or “What about Hillary’s emails?” It can also be a pivot, as in “But we really should be talking about (anything else)” or a series of obfuscations and explanations, in which the “facts,” such as who attended the meeting with Natalia V. Veselnitskaya and what they talked about, keep changing.
Definition is a cousin of the pivot, but it adheres closer to the original topic. A good recent example is the claim that what happened in Charlottesville was not about racism and bigotry, but about preserving statues.
The more desperate — and guilty — a pol is, the more he or she tends to invest in these tactics. When one doubles or triples down on all three of them, as T**** has done, it’s a sure sign that he is both.
T**** spends about 90 percent of his time mounting these defenses. He has restructured his staff (again) to support those ploys, compromising their abilities to be effective on his behalf. His parallel on-line attacks on his fellow Republicans have damaged relationships needed to advance his policy objectives, and tarnished the GOP “brand” and its prospects for 2018.
If all or any of this is an intentional strategy, as Sen. Lindsey Graham has suggested, it is not likely to help T**** achieve his real goal, which is to wriggle out of the trap his Russian bromance has led to.
In fact, it is the kind of behavior that does not go unnoted by skilled investigators like Robert Mueller, and may well become part of the evidence that leads to indictment.