Thursday, June 13, 2019

What is collusion?

Samantha Vinograd wrote: "By putting a "for sale" sign on his forehead -- and indicating that he's open for business when it comes to receiving dirt on his political rivals -- President Donald Trump is encouraging foreign governments to attack his political opponents." Furthermore: By indicating that he's open to receiving help from foreign governments - despite troves of open source information indicating that Russia was trying to interfere in our 2016 election to advance its own agenda - the President's penchant for undercutting his home team continues to march forward."

On 12 June 2019, Trump gave this interview to George Stephanopoulos:

On 13 June 2019, Trump gave a phone interview to "Fox and Friends." Trump appears to say that he'd report an offer to the FBI if the information is "incorrect or badly stated"—implying that, if it's useful, he's taking it! The fidgeting from hosts Steve Doocy, Ainsley Earhardt, Brian Kilmeade at the more cringeworthy phrases is priceless. In this 1 minute 29 second clip (hosted by Axios) you hear and see the following interaction:

Transcript of Donald Trump on "Fox and Friends," 13 June 2019

Steve Doocy: “Mr. President, let’s talk about, early this week, you granted ABC and George Stephanopoulos great access, you spent a couple of days with them. And one of the sound bites they ran over the last 48 hours is essentially you say there is nothing wrong, in your estimation, with accepting dirt from Russia or any foreign country. You’ve taken a lot of heat from the Democrats regarding that since then—“

Trump: “Well I don’t stated it—I think it was accurately stated and I’ve had a lot of support—“

Steve Doocy: “Well then, clarify it.”

Trump:“Yeah, I mean, I’ve had a lot of support. First of all, I don’t think anyone would present me with anything bad because they know how much I love this country. Nobody’s gonna present me with anything bad. Number 2—if I was—and of course you have to have to look at it because if you don’t look at it you’re not gonna know if it’s bad. How are you gonna know if it’s bad? But of course you give it to the FBI or report it to the Attorney General or somebody, uh, like that. But of course you do that. You wouldn’t—you couldn’t have that happen with our country. And everybody understands that. And I thought it was made clear. In fact, I actually said, at the beginning, I think I said I’d do both.”

[Steve Doocy looks to heaven, nods rapidly, looks down at the floor, looks up with his lips tightly pursed. Ainsley Earhardt is frozen like a statue with her hands clasped, staring into the camera. Brian Kilmeade glances down thoughtfully as if trying to come up with an intervention plan.]

Trump:“But if you don’t hear what it is,—

Brian Kilmeade, trying to interrupt: “Right.”

Trump:“you’re not going to know what it is.

Ainsley Earhardt: “That’s right—”

Trump: “—I mean how can you report something that you don’t know—“

Ainsley Earhardt: “—How do you know if it’s bad if you don’t listen to it?”

Brian Kilmeade: “So Mr. President—“

Trump: “No, no! They say, “Oh, he would accept it.’ Well, if I don’t listen, you’re not gonna know. Now, if I thought anything was incorrect or badly stated, I’d report it to the Attorney General, the FBI, I’d report it to law enforcement, absolutely.”

Brian Kilmeade, interrupting: “So—“

The clip ends there.

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert parodied Trump saying "There's nothing wrong with listening."

On 16 June 2019, Chris Wallace asks Mike Pompeo what the heck Trump was talking about.

On 27 June 2019, in front of reporters, Trump joked with Putin about election interference. ("Don’t meddle in the election, please," Trump said; a better term would be "gibridnaya voyna — Russian for 'hybrid warfare,' Brian Klaas wrote, and even better "would be 'information warfare.'")

Donald Trump lightheartedly asked Russian President Vladimir Putin not to interfere in the upcoming U.S. election during a meeting at the Group of 20 summit, their first since Special Counsel Robert Mueller documented alleged Kremlin efforts to manipulate the 2016 vote.

Prompted by a reporter’s question about whether Trump would warn Putin against future election meddling, Trump said: “Of course I will.”

“Don’t meddle in the election, president,” Trump then told Putin, pointing his finger at his Russian counterpart. “Don’t meddle in the election,” he repeated.

Putin smiled at first, and turned to his translator. After she told him what Trump had said, he laughed. Trump looked at Putin, shook his head and smiled.

Trump’s admonition did not appear to be serious.

Chris Cillizza, Sept. 23, 2019, for CNN:

What we know happened is this: Trump called the top elected official in Ukraine and, at the very least, mentioned the possibility of corruption tied to the man who is the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination — and the man, not for nothing, that polling suggests carries a steady double-digit lead over Trump in a hypothetical 2020 general election matchup.

* * *

Raising the possibility of corruption, which, again, has no factual basis, by the Democratic presidential frontrunner is, at a minimum, hugely inappropriate behavior for an American president.

He quotes Trump as saying:

We had a great conversation. The conversation I had [with Ukraine's president Zelensky] was largely congratulatory, with all of the corruption taking place and largely the fact that we don't want our people like Vice President Biden and his son creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine and the Ukraine has got a lot of problems.

Heather Digby Parton, Sept. 23, 2019, in Salon:

Because of Mueller's legal conclusion that the evidence didn't prove the president and his men committed a crime, congressional investigators have largely ignored all that in favor of the evidence on obstruction of justice. But reports over the past few days about Trump's interactions with the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in hopes of digging dirt on Joe Biden, should show them that looking at those behaviors from a strictly legal standpoint is a mistake. If Trump was ignorant of the laws before he became president, after two years of 'Russia, Russia, Russia,' he most certainly understood that colluding with a foreign government to interfere in the election was not considered to be an ethical practice, whether it was defined as 'conspiracy' or 'collusion.'

He did it anyway.

Why? Because he got away with it.

On August 7, 2020, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center released a statement saying that the Kremlin was already actively undermining Biden's candidacy, using measures including social media. Trump responded: "I don’t care what anybody says."

In December 2021, Eric Trump said: "We weren't smart enough to collude with Russia. We didn't know what the hell we were doing." He didn't say they didn't want to, or that they knew it was illegal, or that they never would have betrayed their nation — only that they didn't know how.

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