HELP WANTED: Former bankrupt casino owner currently possessing nuclear codes is willing to take 2020 campaign dirt from hostile foreign powers. Knowledge of American law or U.S. Constitution not required. Write very nice solicitation letter to Donald Trump c/o Mar-a-Lago. Fulsome flattery required.
Good grief. No wonder Trump’s lawyers were terrified to let their client flap his yap under oath. It’s not just his serial lies, it’s his instinctive lawlessness. What we saw last night, in the video of an interview with ABC News, was the despicable spectacle of a “president” essentially declaring that if a hostile intelligence agency offers him damaging information on a 2020 rival, some dirt that might help him win re-election, then he’s all ears. And he wouldn’t bother to alert the FBI.
In other words, after two long years of scrutiny, and despite abundant Mueller report evidence that the ’16 Trump campaign welcomed “sweeping and systematic” assistance from Russian hackers and military intelligence, this guy is still incapable of learning. As I wrote repeatedly in 2016, he’s “a clear and present danger to our national security.” And based on what he just told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, he seems determined to advertise anew his manifest unfitness for the office he occupies.
He clearly hasn’t read the Mueller report, which is tough to boil down to a half-page memo with pictures. It says, on page 184, that federal law bars all foreign nationals from interfering in American elections. Specifically, “foreign nationals may not make — and no one may ‘solicit, accept, or receive’ from them — ‘a contribution or donation money or other thing of value … in connection with a federal, state, or local election.'” (Italics are mine.) Trump’s new remarks violate the spirit, if not the letter, of federal law. He’s telling hostile foreign spies that he’s open for business. Again.
Referring to those foreign powers, he told Stephanopoulos: “Somebody comes up and says, ‘Hey, I have information on your opponent. Do you call the FBI? I don’t think — ”
Stephanopoulos: “If it’s coming from Russia, you do.”
Trump: “I’ll tell you what, I’ve seen a lot of things over my life. I don’t think in my whole life I’ve ever called the FBI. In my whole life. You don’t call the FBI …”
Stephanopoulos: “The FBI director says that’s what should happen.” (Last month, Christopher Wray told Congress, “If any campaign is contacted by a foreign agent, that’s something the FBI would want to know about.”)
Trump: “The FBI director is wrong.”
Stephanopoulos: “Your campaign this time around, if foreigners, if Russia, if China, if someone else offers you information on opponents, should they accept it should they call the FBI? … You want that kind of interference in our elections?”
Trump: “It’s not interference. They have information. I think I’d take it.”
Well, that’s interesting. Because yesterday, during a House Intelligence Committee hearing, former federal prosecutor and current Fox News analyst Andrew McCarthy — called as a witness by the panel’s Republican members — had the precisely opposite view. He told the committee that he has read the Mueller report’s listing of contacts between Russians and the Trump campaign. A Democratic congressman then asked, “At any of those points, putting yourself in the place of those who received those contacts, would you have called the FBI? Yourself personally?”
McCarthy’s response: “Would I have called the FBI? I’d call the FBI for things probably a lot less serious than that.”
Even Brian Kilmeade, the “Fox & Friends” host, assailed Trump this morning – on Trump’s favorite show, no less. Kilmeade essentially said that Trump, by welcoming foreign dirt, risks compromising himself (and us). Rest assured that Trump won’t retweet this rebuke: “You don’t want a foreign government or foreign entity giving you information, because they will want something back…There is no free lunch. If someone wants information, they want influence.”
That’s prudent advice for anyone who professes to care about our national security. In fact, during Christopher Wray’s 2017 Senate confirmation hearing, one of his key inquisitors urged him to protect our elections by enforcing the rule of law. This particular senator told the future FBI director, “Here’s what I want you to tell every politician: If you get a call from somebody suggesting that a foreign government wants to help you by disparaging your opponent, tell us all to call the FBI.”
That senator was Lindsey Graham – who, like his servile Senate Republican colleagues, has yet to utter a peep of protest about Trump’s latest betrayal of America.
As conservative commentator and ex-Bush aide David Frum points out, it’s happening in plain sight — and it’s a veritable invitation for the House to impeach. Frum says that Trump “is such an institution-wrecker — his instincts are so lawless — that he may simply refuse to allow Congress not to impeach him. Confessing a willingness to collaborate with foreign spies against his domestic political opponents is a hand-forcing move.”
Or maybe the House — heck, all of us — are just too benumbed by his serial debasements. Although I’ll give Trump some credit for one particular remark:
“I don’t think in my whole life I’ve ever called the FBI.”
Well. Considering that Trump reportedly spent much of his earlier life working with mobbed-up construction unions in alliance with mobbed-up lawyer Roy Cohn, buying concrete from a mobbed-up company, and doing a land-lease deal in Atlantic City with a mobbed-up financier, I believe that, finally, he has said something grounded in fact.