Trump: No Collusion, No Collusion, But Would I Collude? You Bet!

Ken AshfordElection 2020, L'Affaire Russe, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

In an Oval Office interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Trump said he would consider accepting information on his political opponents from a foreign government, despite the concerns raised by the intelligence community and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III over Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Trump also said he wouldn’t necessarily alert the FBI if a foreign country approached his campaign with “oppo research” about his Democratic challenger.

“I think you might want to listen; there isn’t anything wrong with listening,” Trump said. “If somebody called from a country, Norway, ‘We have information on your opponent,’ oh, I think I’d want to hear it.”

When Stephanopoulos asked the president whether he’d want that kind of “interference” in American politics, Trump pushed back on the word.

“It’s not an interference, they have information — I think I’d take it,” Trump said. “If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI, if I thought there was something wrong.”

“You’re a congressman, someone comes up and says, ‘I have information on your opponent,’ do you call the FBI?” Trump asked.

“If it’s coming from Russia, you do,” Stephanopoulos said, pointing out that Al Gore’s campaign contacted the FBI when it received a stolen briefing book in 2000 and that the FBI director said recently that the agency should have been notified when the Trump campaign received an offer of information on Clinton.

“The FBI director is wrong,” Trump said.

“I don’t think in my whole life I’ve ever called the FBI — in my whole life,” Trump says. “You don’t call the FBI”

Yeah. That’s what mobsters say.

Politico makes the following observations:

FAR BE IT FROM US TO DIVINE why the president said this, and what exactly is going through his head. But the people we spoke to Wednesday night said it is rooted in a win-at-any-and-all-costs mentality — a life-is-complicated vibe that tries to paint everyone else as rubes, and yet ignores the guts of American law. Furthermore, it reflects his thinking that he hates the idea the 2016 election was stolen from him, so he tries to rationalize the very things he and his campaign stand accused of doing.

IN OUR TIME COVERING CONGRESS — going on a decade — we’ve never heard anyone ever even privately say they would accept foreign assistance in an election. Ever. And a lot of members have said crazy stuff to us privately!

THE PRESIDENT IS RIGHT on one element here: Oppo research is absolutely a part of every election, and it’s often not pretty. But that dirt-digging is not conducted by foreign governments. It is conducted by political professionals who spend all day on Nexis, and digging through clips and county court filings. Many of them are Playbookers.

This adds pressure on Pelosi to impeach. Many Democrats have condemned the statement; Republicans are mute.

Sean Hainnity’s spin is a meaningless argle-bargle, calling it “the greatest setup Donald Trump has ever made.”

He then pivotted to Hillary:

You know I call them the media mob, right? They lie to us for two years, conspiracy theories, a hoax. So, Donald Trump, if you’re outraged in the media over that, him saying, “I might want to listen and if need be report to the FBI.” If you’re outraged over that then how could you not be outraged over Hillary Clinton literally empowered a foreign agent who produced a dossier full of Russian lies, that was used to infiltrate our electoral process, first by influencing the American people but more importantly they used a British foreign national, a spy, it was never verified, they used it then to spy on Americans… It’s far worse what Hillary Clinton did and they show no outrage in this fake media environment we live in.

Yeah. Well, first of all, Steele wasn’t a representative of any foreign government. Secondly, even if he was, England is not an adversary. And thirdly, STEELE DID GO TO THE FBI!

A president’s job is to uphold laws, not twist or ignore them depending on his campaign prospects. And Trump’s stance puts him at odds with the political appointees he’s installed at the nation’s top law-enforcement agencies. Last month, when Attorney General William Barr testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, he was asked if a campaign contacted by, say, North Korea should alert the FBI. Barr hesitated before giving his answer, but said that if a foreign intelligence service made the overture, calling the FBI would be the right move.

The FBI offers generic defensive briefings to campaigns, warning them of foreign influence efforts. At a May 7 Senate hearing, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray said any suspected attempts should be reported.

“I think my view is that if any public official or member of any campaign is contacted by any nation-state or anybody acting on behalf of a nation-state about influencing or interfering with our election, then that is something that the FBI would want to know about,” Wray said.

It is illegal to accept foreign campaign contributions, although an exchange of information is a more murky matter.

But that is beside the point. Security experts have warned about how dangerous this is. It puts a price tag on the presidency—whoever helps Trump get reelected will then be able to call in favors. It is Trump’s “Russia, are you listening?” on steroids, an invitation amplified around the world. And given Russian President Vladimir Putin’s success in bending Trump to his will, why wouldn’t others get in the game? China, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Ukraine, Poland, who knows? The options for foreign influence are endless.

And yes, our most committed foreign adversaries could actually get into a bidding war over which government and their hackers could help Trump the most. In other words, Trump put a fricking target on our 2020 elections, and Mitch McConnell is now conveniently blocking an election security bill designed to help protect our elections from being breached by outside actors.

This morning, Trump tries to save himself by doing contrary things — doubling down while also shouting FAKE NEWS

FYI: He fixed his type about “Prince of Whales” but it is fodder for humor, as you can imagine.

I’m not sure what Trump is talking about with regard to Warner and Schiff. Probably this, in which case, Trump has his facts wrong.

UPDATE: Schiff responds:

He is referring to this:

In this audio posted on YouTube by Russian pranksters, Rep. Adam Schiff can be heard discussing claims that the FSB has naked pictures of President Trump. Assume these Russians are involved with intelligence operations. 

The Daily Mail reports that Schiff sent his staff to try and collect “classified materials for the FBI” after the prank callers told him Putin has naked blackmail pictures of President Trump. 

Schiff can be heard discussing the Russia investigation with a man who claimed to be Andriy Parubiy, the chairman of the Ukrainian Parliament.

The call, made a year ago, was reportedly from two Russian comedians nicknamed ‘Vovan’ and ‘Lexus’ who have become notorious for their phony calls to high-ranking American officials and celebrities, including UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and Elton John. The call was first reported in The Atlantic’s Jan/Feb 2018 issue, where a spokesman for Schiff said: “Before agreeing to take the call, and immediately following it, the committee informed appropriate law-enforcement and security personnel of the conversation, and of our belief that it was probably bogus.” 

“There were pictures of naked Trump,” one of the pranksters told Schiff, explaining that they were obtained by Putin’s goddaughter. 

Schiff asks: “And the materials you can provide to the committee and to the FBI, would they corroborate this allegation? … So you have recordings… where they’re discussing the compromising material?”

It wasn’t election meddling, and Schiff called the FBI about it. I can believe top GOP leaders no longer understand the difference between opposition research and soliciting stolen property because they seem to have lost all capability to distinguish crimes from not-crimes in general.

More reactions:

The Steele dossier is being thrown around a lot, but it is quite different. For one thing, Steele informed the FBI. For another thing, it was the GOP who hired Fusion GPS which is based in Washington, DC, which then subcontracted oppo research to Steele, the former head of MI6’s Russia desk.

On the Dem side:

Information obtained by interviewing people and other lawful methods = research Information obtained via the major felony of hacking servers and stealing contents = espionage