[Part I is here]
As usual with most of the “It’s outrageous that the President would say/do that!” freak-outs, this one is rife with amnesia, double standards and hypocrisy.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign hired a British operative to gather anti-Trump dirt—most of which appear to have been rumors and lies, but that doesn’t matter here–from Russian sources. This is indistinguishable legally, ethically and morally from accepting offered intelligence. A candidate’s agent—by law, the same as the candidate herself–sought and received adverse intelligence from foreign nationals. In truth, this is worse than the conduct Trump hypothesized to George, which involved a foreign national approaching him.
That is, however, not all. In July 2016, the Obama administration, in all respects supporting and favoring the candidacy of Hillary Clinton, accepted unsolicited information from Alexander Downer, an Australian diplomat who also helped arrange a $25 million government donation to the Clinton Foundation years before. Downer said that he had witnessed a Trump campaign aide, George Papadopoulos, bragging about some dirt that the Russians supposedly had on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. The Obama administration gave this to the FBI which, in turn, used it to justify opening a counterintelligence case against the Republican nominee for president.
Summary: The Democratic administration accepted dirt from a foreign friendly and used it to justify investigating its GOP rival.
Then, writes John Solomon in The Hill, it’s back to the Steele Dossier….
..they did it again just a few weeks later. In October 2016, less than three weeks from Election Day, the Obama Justice Department approved a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant to spy on the Trump campaign through its former adviser, Carter Page. The primary evidence supporting the warrant? A dossier written by a foreign friendly named Christopher Steele, a retired MI6 intelligence agent from Great Britain. Of course, the Justice Department and the FBI forgot to tell the courts that Steele actually was working on behalf of the Clinton campaign, but that’s a small detail for the purpose of this column.
For the second time in three months, the Obama administration took dirt on Trump from a foreign ally — this time, from one in Europe — and weaponized it for a criminal investigation.
The “resistance”—and in that I include the news media, isn’t even trying to be honest, fair or consistent here. Many of the accounts equate Trump’s statement with saying that he would accept the information from an “enemy,” a.k.a. Russia, except the example Trump gave was Norway.
Read this NPR article, with the provocative headline, “Why Trump’s view of accepting foreign opposition research is ‘textbook illegal.”
In fact, the article never tells us why. One guest, a prosecutor named Shan Wu, calls it “textbook illegal,” but contradicts himself by saying earlier that it’s a “gray area.” Well, those two terms are mutually exclusive. Wu also disqualifies himself by deliberately characterizing the Steel dossier as “a U.S. entity doing the opposition research.” Yeah…”a U.S. entity doing the opposition research” through a British operative gathering information obtained and offered by Russians. After falsely claiming that accepting the information—from Norway—would be “textbook illegal,” the NPR discussion falls back onto justifications like the Mueller Report opining that “confidential information,” whatever that means, could be considered “something of value.” Yet there are no cases on point where information that is not paid for in some manner has been deemed “of value.” Mueller was expressing an aggressive prosecutor’s theory, which may well have failed at trial.
Trevor Potter, another guest, says,
“So we already know that taking something or soliciting something from a foreign government is, in fact, illegal. The Mueller report went on to say they were not going to prosecute the Trump campaign or Don Trump Jr., who met with the Russians, who had promised information. And Mueller says that’s because, we can’t prove that he knew it was illegal at the time. But that’s very different than where we are now, when we have the statement in that report that says the standard here is, the law says you can’t take anything from a foreign government, anything of value.”
But we don’t “know” that, and the fact that Mueller’s report took the position that learning something from a foreign source met the “of value’ standard in the law doesn’t mean that is, in fact, the law. No court has ever determined that. It’s a theory, and one that the Mueller team chose not to pursue.
And the NPR crew knows it. After Wu proclaimed taking the offered information “textbook illegal,” Potter says,
“Well, it seems to me that the FBI director has been pretty clear in saying that if a U.S. campaign is contacted by representatives of a foreign government on campaign matters to give them specifically dirt on an opponent, then they should tell the FBI.”
Full stop. The FBI director saying that they should “tell the FBI” does not mean or even imply that a candidate cannot or should not listen to what such a contact has to say, or that doing so is illegal. And while I understand that Christopher Wray heads the agency and thus is biased, why should any candidate trust the FBI after the fiascos of the James Comey era?
Whether it is necessary to write that into the law, as some members of Congress have proposed, is, I think, today an open question. I would have thought, after the Mueller report, that the standard was pretty clear here and candidates would understand they shouldn’t do this.
Gibberish. What standard? Gee, do you think we should clearly write into law what exactly us illegal? The standard is the law, and the law isn’t clear at all. Who says they “shouldn’t do this”? As I have pointed out, even what “this” is is unclear, and I don’t see the moral and ethical values that create “shouldn’t.” Candidates shouldn’t allow those who know of serious misconduct by a Presidential candidate to make that knowledge known so the public can be informed? How is that right, moral , or ethical?
Even if there was murkiness about what happened in 2016, there is no such murkiness, I think, today after that. But, given the president’s comments, maybe we do need to clarify the law and specifically say anything of value includes information about the campaign and the candidate and their opponent that is offered or provided by a foreign government or a representative.
Ya think? Yes, our laws should define their terms sufficiently well that conduct indulged in by a Democratic candidate and the Democratic President supporting her is deemed acceptable, but a Republican President saying that he would do the same thing can be called treasonous and “textbook illegal.”