Special counsel Robert S. Mueller lll’s report established that while no criminal conspiracy with Russia could be proved, President Trump’s campaign sought and expected to benefit from Russian assistance. (Lawfare blog explains that there was “a large quantity of engagement that was apparently not chargeably criminal but that did involve covert attempts to engage with a hostile foreign government for the benefit of Trump’s campaign and business.”) Trump publicly called for the Russian government to find Hillary Clinton’s emails. Trump’s eldest son, son-in-law and campaign chairman went to a meeting to obtain “dirt” on Clinton.
While we do not know whether conspiracy/coordination occurred between Trump associates and WikiLeaks (highlighting one giant reason for getting the unredacted Mueller report), we do know that there was a pattern of inviting help and then making use of it (as when Trump blasted away at the leaked Clinton emails in the waning days of the campaign). This was not a criminal conspiracy, but rather, a betrayal of American democracy. Trump encouraged a foreign power to determine our election, to favor him over Clinton. In short, Mueller’s report states that “the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.”
This should be illegal, right? It’s a violation of campaign finance laws to solicit something of value from a foreign national, but it is not quite clear that opposition research or leaked emails meet the definition. (Mueller noted that the law had never been applied to cover such help.) We should — except the morally bankrupt Trump cultists — agree that it would be wrong for, say, Democrats to get opposition research from China to smear Trump, or for Trump to go to another hostile power to get help beating the Democratic nominee. The essence of our democracy is that the American people — not foreign foes — pick our leaders.
Nevertheless, Trump and his TV lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani are attempting once more to subvert U.S. sovereignty by getting help from a foreign power. The New York Times reports:
Mr. Giuliani said he plans to travel to Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, in the coming days and wants to meet with the nation’s president-elect to urge him to pursue inquiries that allies of the White House contend could yield new information about two matters of intense interest to Mr. Trump.
One is the origin of the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. The other is the involvement of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s son in a gas company owned by a Ukrainian oligarch.
Mr. Giuliani’s plans create the remarkable scene of a lawyer for the president of the United States pressing a foreign government to pursue investigations that Mr. Trump’s allies hope could help him in his re-election campaign.
Democrats should call this out for what it is: Betrayal of, and disloyalty to, the United States.
Beyond that, the House should expeditiously pass a law making it mandatory for a campaign to report all contacts with foreign officials, prohibiting solicitation of information or action from a foreign government for the purpose of influencing a campaign, and making it illegal to knowingly use material provided directly or indirectly from a foreign government in a campaign.
Should Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) refuse to take up the measure, he would confirm the moral degradation of the Republican Party and the same unpatriotic attitude that prompted him to oppose a robust warning in 2016 about Russian interference in the election. This would be nothing less than a repudiation of democracy, a willingness to become a vassal of hostile foreign powers for the sake of winning the election. In such a circumstance, Democrats should come right out and say it: The Republicans want to get hostile powers to help them win elections because those powers figure that Republican presidents will be patsies.
I am often asked whether the Republican Party can be rehabilitated. A party is made up of individuals; in this case, a group of elected leaders who uniformly invite foreign intervention in our election should be permanently disqualified from holding office. They have violated their oaths in the most egregious manner possible and cannot be entrusted with power again. Ever.