Let's Fix This Country

Trump Says What’s Wrong With Collusion?

The Robert Mueller cohort did not rule on collusion — it's not a legal term — and could not find evidence of contact between the Trump campaign or transition that rose to the level of conspiracy or coordination — which are legal terms — but there were certainly repeated instances of "a secret understanding between two or more persons to gain something illegally" during those months, that being a definition of collusion. The Mueller report abounds in examples.

With Mitch McConnell trying to bury the subject, unilaterally decreeing "case closed", the president, in an Oval Office interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC, suddenly reopened the allegations about Russian contacts that have plagued him for three years when, in answer to, "If China, if Russia, if someone else offers you information on your opponents, should they accept it or should they call the FBI?", Mr. Trump said,

"I think maybe you do both. I think maybe you want to listen. There's nothing wrong with listening. If somebody calls, from a country, Norway, we have information on your opponent. Oh. I think I'd want to hear that."

Stephanopoulos pressed, "You'd want that kind of interference in our elections?” The president:

“It's not an interference. They have information. I think I'd take it. If I thought there was something wrong, I'd go maybe to the FBI...You go and talk honestly to Congressmen. They all do it. They always have. It's called oppo[sition] research".

Setting aside whether all Congress members engage in oppo research, which, if they did, would pertain only to opponents in the confines of their state, the subject is information volunteered by other countries to affect our elections. And turning that over to the FBI is only a “maybe” in Trump’s answer.

If oppo-research is okay because everybody does it, isn't that what the Right has been so outraged about over the last three years: the dossier developed from Russian sources by Britain’s former MI6 agent Christopher Steele? Now comes Donald Trump to say that there's nothing wrong with “dirt” obtained from other countries.

He continued with Stephanopoulos (GS):

"I've seen a lot of things in my whole life. I don't think I've ever called the FBI. In my whole life. You don't call the FBI. You throw somebody out of your office, you do whatever…"

GS: Al Gore got a stolen briefing book. He called the FBI”

Trump: Well, that's different, a stolen briefing book. This is somebody that said we have information on your opponent. Oh! Let me call the FBI. Give me a break. Life doesn't work that way."

GS: The FBI director says that's what should happen.

Trump: The FBI Director is wrong.

Trump’s acceptance of foreign intrusion was immediately viewed as an open invitation for adversarial countries — China, Russia, Iran — to come meddling as 2020 approaches. It was yet another "Russia, are you listening moment”, in which candidate Trump asked Russia to find the missing 30,000 e-mails on Hillary Clinton's private computer server (and Russia began searching that night, the Mueller report verified). Another “If it’s what you say, I love it” moment, as Donald Jr. e-mailed a Russian lawyer who promised she had dirt on Hillary Clinton, with Trump from Air Force One telling his son to say the follow-on Trump Tower meeting was about adopting Russian children. As the Mueller report said, “the campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts".

Rudy Giuliani was dispatched just this spring to go to Ukraine for some oppo research with government officials on Joe Biden’s involvement in his son’s business dealings there. That squares with he said in a CNN interview, that “There’s nothing wrong with taking information from Russians”, offering the fluid ethics that a political campaign deciding on whether to use stolen information from a foreign adversary “depends on the stolen material”. Jared Kushner thinks that the Mueller investigation “had a much harsher impact on our democracy than a couple of Facebook ads”. In the Trump camp, rules are for “losers”.

at least somebody knows the law

Trump’s receptivity to foreign influence brought a strong rebuke from an unusual quarter: Ellen Weintraub, chair of the Federal Election Commission:

"Let me make something 100% clear to the American public and anyone running for public office: It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election. This is not a novel concept. Our Founding Fathers sounded the alarm about ‘foreign Interference, Intrigue, and Influence.’ They knew that when foreign governments seek to influence American politics, it is always to advance their own interests, not America's."

And here is the FBI Director, Christopher Wray, being “wrong” in the president’s view:

“It's going to take all of us, working together to hold the field, because this threat is not going away. As I have said consistently, Russia attempted to interfere with the last election and continues to engage in malign influence operations to this day. This is a threat we need to take extremely seriously and to tackle and respond to with fierce determination and focus.”

lockstep

Republicans steadfastly ducked the FBI question. Asked by Laura Ingraham whether he had a problem with Trump’s answer to Stephanopoulos, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell answered, “They just can't let it go, Laura”, and when she persisted with, “Do you think the president made a mistake…when he said 'maybe I would, maybe I wouldn't", McConnell evaded again with…

”Well he gets picked at every day over every different aspect of it but the fundamental point is, they're trying to keep the 2016 election alive when the American people have heard enough”.

In the House, when Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was asked by a reporter, “Is it right for the president to say he would listen if foreigners offered dirt on his political opponents. Is that the kind of help you would take?”, McCarthy answered, “I think we all see you're talking about a hypothetical”. When the reporter pressed further, McCarthy repeated, “I think what you're asking here is a hypothetical”.

And then we had former representative and new senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tn) block an effort by Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va) to pass a bill by unanimous consent that would require campaigns to report any offers of foreign assistance to the FBI.

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley deflected to whataboutism with “I didn't hear equal outrage when Hillary Clinton [unclear] DNC paid a foreign spy to gather information from Russia” as did South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham with “I hope my Democratic colleagues will be equally offended by the fact that this actually did happen in 2016 where a foreign agent was paid for by a political party to gather opposition research.” Well, yes, as we’ve been hearing for almost three years, but how about this door that Trump has thrown open.

backpeddling

As often happens for him, President Trump attempted to walk back his indiscretion, dialing into his favorite program “Fox & Friends” a couple of mornings after the Stephanopoulos interview to deliver a rambling retraction:

"I don't know that anybody would present me with anything bad because they know how much I love this country. Nobody's going to present me with anything bad. Number two, if I was, and of course you have to look at it, because if you don't look at it, you're not going to know if it's bad. How are you going to know if it's bad. But of course you give it to the FBI, or report it to the attorney general or somebody like that. But of course you do that. You couldn't have that happen with our country. But how are you going to hear what it is. You're not going to know what it is. Nobody's going to say bad things to me. They know that I'm a very straight player".

His nemesis, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, thinks otherwise: ”Yesterday, the president gave us evidence that he does not know right from wrong".

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