It was appropriate that ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, who got President Trump to admit he would take dirt from a foreign adversary — something many Republicans deplored — would expose that Republicans can no longer acknowledge the same. After all, not only was Trump ready to receive dirt from Ukraine, he used his office to try to force Ukraine to cough it up. Stephanopoulos’s interview of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) on Sunday was instructive:

CRUZ: Well, look, there’s a difference between foreign interference of the kind Russia did, which was hacking into the election, creating fraudulent bots, actively trying to deceive people, and law enforcement investigation into — into corruption. We cooperate with law enforcement with countries all over the Earth.
And one of the central issues right at the heart of this discussion is on the face of the transcript with [Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelensky, what President Trump is asking for is assistance with the U.S. government with investigating corruption. That is inherently within the authority of the president, the Department of Justice to do, and that is their responsibility to do.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But, Senator Cruz, as you know in that phone call, the president never mentions the word corruption. He talks about CrowdStrike. He talks about the Bidens. And back in September, you actually said that you wish the president didn’t go down that road to look into the Bidens, to call for investigations into the Bidens. So, what’s changed?

Cruz then launched into speculation about Hunter Biden, who no one has shown to be guilty of anything other than questionable judgment. But more important, this is playing the game that Trump actually cared about corruption, which is preposterous. He has cavorted with corrupt dictators, insisted on no new anti-corruption measures before releasing the Ukraine aid (in fact, he got caught) and never mentioned “corruption” in his July 25 call with Zelensky. Moreover, Trump did not want an actual investigation, just an announcement of one.

The interview then got really dicey for Cruz:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, just to be clear, then you think there is nothing wrong with the president continuing to ask and having his personal lawyer continuing to ask for investigations into Joe Biden and the Democrats?
CRUZ: I think it is perfectly within the authority of the president to investigate corruption, and to investigate corruption with allies. We’re doing it every day. And, by the way, we did it every day under Barack Obama, under Bill Clinton, under George W. Bush.

He does not answer the question, of course, because it is never appropriate to demand a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen. Cruz concedes that the “U.S. Justice Department cooperates with the justice departments — when I was at DOJ, I flew to Rome to meet with the Council of Europe, to meet with justice departments all throughout Europe, focusing on cybercrime. That’s a big part of how you enforce the law.” But that is not what Trump did. Trump told Ukraine through his personal lawyer to announce the investigation.

Cruz makes an interesting concession, “Now, I’m not suggesting that you can cook up fraudulent attacks on your opponents. This would be a very different allegation if someone was say — if the president had said, please concoct something that isn’t real, that — that would be qualitatively different.”

Over the past four months, congressional Republicans have floated no fewer than 30 different defenses of President Trump’s actions on Ukraine. (The Washington Post)

The defense seems to come down to: It is okay to get a foreign investigation into a debunked conspiracy theory if you actually believe it. Since Trump is so out to lunch as to believe Ukraine interfered with our election, it’s all good! This begs the question of whether someone who buys into debunked conspiracy theories is fit to serve. Moreover, not too long ago, some Republicans conceded that even the receipt of foreign dirt was off-limits. What happened to that standard?

It was only June when Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) reacted to Trump’s signal he would be open to foreign dirt: "It should be practice for all public officials who are contacted by a foreign government with an offer of assistance to their campaign — either directly or indirectly — to inform the FBI and reject the offer.” Back then, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was swearing up and down that this president “does not want foreign governments interfering in our elections.” Well, he had that wrong.

President Trump's attempt to extort Ukraine for personal gain signals a dangerous turn for American foreign policy, says Global Opinions editor Christian Caryl. (The Washington Post)

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) were among several Republicans who said it was, in Romney’s words, “unthinkable” for a president to accept foreign assistance. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was similarly upset at the notion a president would accept foreign help. ("If a foreign agent or a cutout for a foreign agent approaches any American politician, they should report that to the FBI.”) Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) also chimed in: “I wouldn’t do it. I wouldn’t accept material like that.”

The New York Times noted, “Republicans across the board said they would never do what Mr. Trump suggested. ‘Certainly, absolutely not,’ said Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. ‘Just say no. Turn it over,’ said Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado. Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina said, ‘I would go immediately to the authorities, period.’”

If all these Republicans were horrified at accepting foreign opposition research (which could be true or false), one would think extorting a foreign government to get dirt (which did not exist) on an opponent would be truly beyond the pale.

You see, you really cannot object to receiving foreign help to win an election while you excuse strong-arming a foreign power to give you help. Well, unless you are Ted Cruz and the rest of the Republicans who discarded logic, consistency, principle and fidelity to the Constitution years ago.

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