Thursday, December 28, 2017

What did Donald Trump do today?

He changed his story on the subject of "collusion."

In excerpts of an interview he did with the New York Times today, Trump used the word "collusion" 23 times. In 22 of them, he denied having colluded with the Russians in their interference in the election that made him president--or accused Democrats of having been the real colluders.

On the 23rd time, however, Trump said this: "There is no collusion, and even if there was, it’s not a crime." 

Since Trump knows best of all what the Mueller investigation will find, it is safe to assume that this is the official pivot to a new political "framing" of Trump's activities--one in which his defense is less "I didn't do those things" and more "it's not wrong that I did them."

Trump is correct that "collusion" is not a crime (except in anti-trust law). A more legally precise word for what Trump and his closest advisors are suspected of in their eager, secret dealings with Russia during the campaign is criminal conspiracy. Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, the Trump campaign's manager and deputy manager, have already been charged with conspiracy against the United States, among other crimes.

Conspiracy is a crime all by itself, but so are the crimes that might be committed in furtherance of a conspiracy: obstruction of justice (including in the performance of official duties with corrupt intent), perjury, lying on official documents, various computer-related offenses, accepting illegal campaign contributions, and being an accessory to any of the above. 

Why should I care about this?

  • It's pretty sad if a sitting president of the United States, under investigation for conspiring with a hostile foreign power to attack democracy itself, is playing legal word games.