Where do we go from here?
Did he really say that out loud?
Did the presidents’ attorney, Rudy Giuliani, really say “There is nothing wrong with taking information from Russians”?
A small review is in order to put that statement, undisputed by anyone in Trump world, into context. The Mueller Report, a broadside on all things Trump in its factual detail, concluded that the Trump campaign did not actively conspire with the Russians in the 2016 Presidential election. That is great news and avoids the fear of crimes bordering on treason by the Trump campaign.
However, the report notes that, while not finding enough evidence of committing a crime (see ongoing charges against Roger Stone), the Trump folks were aware of Russian interference and welcomed it, both literally and figuratively. The literal welcome was the now famous Donald Jr. quote, when informed by Russians claiming to represent the Russian government that they had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.
Trump Jr. replied, “I love it.” The figurative support was the constant Trump praise for Putin and his reluctance to criticize Russia at any time in 2016.
Trump, after warned by the FBI to report any contacts by Russians with his campaign, went on to have his staff meet with Russians at least 16 times during and after the campaign. During that time, Trump lied about those contacts and said, “no one I know of” in the campaign had contacts with Russians.
Trump then lied throughout the campaign to the American people, claiming he had no business in Russia while he was seeking a hotel deal with the Putin government.
After the election, Trump met with Putin in Helsinki and told the world he believed the Russian dictator over U.S. intel agencies regarding Russian interference in the 2016, all while knowing and welcoming Russian activities in 2016 explicitly known to benefit him and harm his opponent Hillary Clinton.
And now, we have Team Trump finally saying that they knew what the Russians were doing and received information from the Russian effort, but failed to report that to the FBI and welcomed the attacks on Clinton. Thank you, Mr. Giuliani, finally, for that honesty.
But now, what next?
Is the Trump team counting on more help from the Russians in 2020 to win his re-election? It certainly appears that way, given his now ex-Homeland Security secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, was directed to not even discuss concerns about 2020 Russian election interference with the president, by Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.
While the White House seems determined to ignore the threat entirely, U.S. intel agencies are fearing the worst.
“We assess that foreign actors will view the 2020 U.S. elections as an opportunity to advance their interests,” Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence told the Senate intelligence committee in January of this year.
So, Trump and his allies are attempting to normalize using a foreign government, an adversary, perhaps our primary adversary, in a U.S. election, to benefit Donald Trump again. For, if it is OK to accept help from the Russians in 2016, and there were no consequences (excepting those six Trump staff convicted or confined), then, as Giuliani says proudly, why not?
That leaves us with many questions, but with one certainty: If Russia prefers Trump, it is not because the Russians seek a strong U.S. president, but because Russia seeks a weak U.S. president. The Russians did not help Trump in 2016 for the good of America, but for the good of Russia. And that is the one secret Trump cannot hide.
Jim Crawford is a retired educator, political enthusiast and award-winning columnist living here in the Tri-State.