Trump and the coup that failed: Maria Bartiromo, James Freeman 'The Cost'

Investors never bought the Russian collusion hysteria

In their new book, “The Cost” FOX Business Network anchor Maria Bartiromo and James Freeman of The Wall Street Journal review President Trump’s first term and highlight many of his policies that drove one of the greatest economic booms in U.S. history, pre-pandemic.

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Amid that boom, Trump's U.S. enemies were trying to take him out, a move that failed very badly on all fronts, as outlined in this excerpt of the book.

Chapter 2: The Coup That Failed 

This should never happen to another president,” said Donald Trump in 2019, “because most presidents wouldn’t be able to take it.”

He was talking about the Russian collusion fraud that haunted his presidency—the evidence-free claim that he had somehow worked with Russia to rig the 2016 election. Trump has been known to say outlandish things, but in this case voters should take him both seriously and literally. The American republic cannot survive if government officials are routinely able to mislead judges into approving surveillance campaigns against political opponents.

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In the old days before media organizations sanctioned just about any effort to take down Donald Trump, the FBI’s activities in this era would have been fodder for a dark Hollywood thriller. The federal government used wiretaps, informants, and even doctored evidence against Trump associates—while hiding the real exculpatory evidence for years. If such outrages become a regular part of U.S. politics, the cost to political freedom will be severe. In this case the heavy cost was not just to Trump associates who had their most basic liberties violated; the cost to the people’s business was also significant. We’ll discuss other challenges of the Trump era in the chapters ahead, but what’s clear is that collusion claims dominated public debate for more than two years of his presidency.

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The collusion investigation was not an economic event. But America’s free economy and world-leading financial markets, which have created wealth and opportunity for people around the world, can exist only under a predictable rule of law. The unprecedented campaign by senior government officials against an opposition candidate and then a duly elected president was a fundamental assault on our rule of law. Destructive claims of Russian collusion poisoned our public discourse for years.

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It’s impossible to understand the Trump presidency or provide a fair accounting of Trump governance without noting the extraordinary obstacles he faced. Attorney General Bill Barr told Maria in June 2020 that it was “the closest we have come to an organized effort to push a president out of office since Lincoln’s assassination.”

It’s also worth noting the message of the markets in this era. While many of our colleagues in the media industry ran with bogus conspiracy claims and cast Trump as an existential threat to our way of life, investors clearly never bought that story. The era of Russian collusion hysteria in the press was an era of rising wealth in stocks. Investors tuned out the anti-Trump circus focused on Trump tax and regulatory reform, and then confidently made bigger and bigger bets on American business. When markets tumbled in recent years, it was usually due to a reaction to Trump trade policy, or, most dramatically, when a virus from China and the overreaction of state and local politicians shut down much of the U.S. economy.

The average investor figured out pretty quickly that Trump was actually not a traitorous authoritarian bent on destroying our republic. But all Americans should understand the threat his adversaries posed to the rule of law on which our liberty and prosperity depend.

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We can now see that, for many proponents of the collusion theory, the purpose of the investigation wasn’t really to search for evidence of Trump conspiring with Russian strongman Vladimir Putin; there wasn’t any. The point was to create headlines about the investigation and use this flow of controversy and suspicion to destroy a presidency.

Maria Bartiromo joined FOX Business Network (FBN) as Global Markets Editor in January 2014. She is the anchor of "Mornings with Maria" on FBN (6-9 AM/ET), which is the number one pre-market business news program in cable, and anchors "Sunday Morning Futures" (10 AM/ET) on FOX News Channel (FNC), which routinely ranks as the highest-rated show on Sundays in cable news. In April 2017, Bartiromo was also named the anchor for FBN’s weekly primetime investing program "Maria Bartiromo’s Wall Street" (Fridays at 9 PM/ET).  "The Cost" is her fourth book.

James Freeman is assistant editor of The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page and author of the “Best of the Web” column. He is co-author of "Borrowed Time: Two Centuries of Booms, Busts, and Bailouts at Citi," a New York Times Editors’ Choice and Financial Times Business Book of the Month. He is a Fox News contributor and former investor advocate at the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

This essay is adapted from "THE COST" by Maria Bartiromo and James Freeman. Copyright © 2020 by Bartiromo Productions LLC and James Freeman. Reprinted by permission of Threshold Editions, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.  All rights reserved.