It would have been an insightful guess if you had predicted that Cleveland would eventually turn up in the dark epic of the Russian hackers and other Putinesque plots. Thank you, Gail Collins.

In her New York Times column on Saturday, she wrote about Carter Page, a shadowy figure on Trump’s campaign foreign policy team. He had said on MSNBC that he had never met Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak “out of Cleveland”. Although the tete a tete was during the Republican convention, Collins was so impressed by Page’s evasion that she advised other Trump apparatchiks to apply it when they “want to deny any embarrassing -to-indictable behavior, they just say ‘only Cleveland’. We’lll get the massage. “

We may never know precisely what happened in the private hotel rooms of Lake Erie during Page’s s meetings with the globular ambassador who is reputed to be Russia’s top spy in America. It’s a safe bet, however, that they didn’t discuss recruiting a quarterback for the Browns from Siberia.

What rotten luck for the city. Things were going to well for it from the Republican convention to the Cavaliers NBA championship Now this.

It wasn’t a good week for the president. As the Vesuvian outpouring of burning questions about Jeff Sessions’ testimony flowed down to Pompey to engulf Congress and those awful media mice. There was word that Trump’s ubiquitous son-in-law, Jared Kushner, was busily engaging Putin’s people. Not even Trump’s star apologist, Jeffrey Lord, a CNN contributor these days, could whitewash his inspired leader’s flaws under severe questioning by Bill Maher on HBO. The comedian and liberal-at-large virtually leapt from his chair , eyeball to-eyeball, to thrash Lord in language restricted to cable TV:

“Let’s not play games here, Mr. Lord. I like you and I hear that you’re a very nice guy. But don’t bullshit me.”

The tone was anything but pleasant.

Oh, there were still outliers who defended Trump. Kevin O’Brien, the Plain Dealer’s uber-right columnist, checked in with his own assessment of the spreading fireball, assuring his crowd that the hacking was a “complete fiction”. He dismissed it as nothing more than “Democratic hysterics”. Problem solved.

O’Brien’s colleague, Ted Diadiun, roared from the same school of denials, writing of the “phony outrage”. But didn’t he also say that the women’s protest march of many thousands was nothing more than ‘“caterwauling”?

During the Watergate inquiry, Sen. Howard Baker, the Tennessee Republican, soberly raised a question about President Nixon: “What did the president know? And when did he know it?”

That’s where we are today. Alas. There are few Republicans around to repeat his words.