Sunday, April 21, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He said there was nothing wrong with colluding with the Russians to get himself elected.

On his fourth day Twitter outbursts over the Mueller report, Trump deployed a surrogate to try to defuse its main indictment: that the Trump campaign knew about, approved of, and expected to benefit from Russian criminal interference in the 2016 election on Trump's behalf.

Accordingly, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani took to the Sunday morning news shows to claim that "there's nothing wrong with taking information from the Russians." (Trump, his son, his son-in-law, and his now-convicted campaign manager were all actively involved in attempts to get access to material stolen from the DNC by the Russian government, through a variety of schemes detailed in the Mueller report.)

At almost exactly the same time that Giuliani was defending the Trump campaign for having worked with the Russian government to influence the election, Trump was on Twitter claiming that he had not colluded with Russia. 

Pressed for clarification by both CNN's Jake Tapper and NBC's Chuck Todd about whether he really meant to say that hostile foreign powers were allowed to intervene in American elections, and American politicians were under no obligation to report that intervention, Giuliani agreed:

GIULIANI: Any candidate, any candidate in the whole world, in America, would take information, negative— 
TAPPER: From a foreign source? From a hostile foreign source? 
GIULIANI: Who says it's even illegal? Who says it's even illegal?

It is definitely illegal for campaigns to solicit and receive things of value—including information—from foreign countries.

Also, in reality, the Trump campaign's active solicitation of help from Russia is completely unprecedented. Until Trump, "any candidate in America" had gone to law enforcement under these circumstances. For example, when a stolen tape of George W. Bush's debate prep mysteriously showed up at Al Gore's campaign headquarters, the Gore campaign turned it over to the FBI, which then began a major criminal investigation. The perpetrator, an aide to one of Bush's media consultants, was sentenced to a year in prison.

Why is this a problem?

  • Actually, there is something wrong with asking for and getting a foreign power's help to sabotage an election.