On Wednesday, President Trump continued defending his 2016 victory by playing down anything he perceives as undercutting it: In this case, that meant tossing aside national security and legal considerations to suggest he may accept foreign help in the 2020 election.
Indeed, Trump’s dismissal this week of Donald Trump Jr.’s 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer promising “dirt” on Hillary Clinton was not all that different from what he said days after the meeting was reported in July 2017.
“I think from a practical standpoint, most people would have taken that meeting,” Trump said at the time. “It’s called opposition research, or even research into your opponent.”
On Wednesday, Trump said he may not call the FBI if offered Russian “dirt” on an opponent in 2020: “It’s called oppo research.”
Equating potentially criminal behavior with “opposition research” is part of a continuous goalpost-moving effort by the Trump campaign to play down Russian election interference, examples of which you can watch in the video above.
“There was no communication between the campaign and any foreign entity during the campaign,” then-Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks said in November 2016.
In January 2017, Trump tweeted he had “nothing to do with Russia.”
After the 2016 Trump Tower meeting became public, Trump Jr. said it was “opposition research.”
In December 2017, Trump said, “There is no collusion, and even if there was, it’s not a crime.”
By May 2018, Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani was defending accepting foreign election assistance: “That’s what you do, maybe you shouldn’t, but you do. Nothing illegal about that.”
And asked earlier this month whether he would call the FBI if the Russians offered help in the 2020 election, Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner said, “It’s hard to do hypotheticals.”
One month after declaring his candidacy in 2015, Trump was asked on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” whether his campaign was doing opposition research on his opponents.
“I really do my own research,” Trump said. “I read a lot of newspapers, a lot of stories. I read a lot of things about opposition. I know the opposition well.”