THE WASHINGTON POST OPINIONS
President Trump is a lawyer’s client from hell. He lacks self-control, cannot tell the truth and will not absorb legal advice he doesn’t like. Most clients don’t incriminate themselves in public. Again and again. Trump does, however.
“Fake News reporting, a complete fabrication, that I am concerned about the meeting my wonderful son, Donald, had in Trump Tower,” the president wrote in one of several early morning tweets Sunday, many of which took aim at the media. “This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics — and it went nowhere.”
He concluded by further distancing himself from the meeting his son arranged, writing: “I did not know about it!”
Trump was responding to a Washington Post report this weekend that although he does not think his eldest son intentionally broke the law, he is worried that Trump Jr. may have unintentionally stumbled into legal jeopardy and is embroiled in [special counsel Robert S.] Mueller’s investigation largely because of his connection to the president.
That’s worse than acknowledging to NBC’s Lester Holt that he was thinking about the Russia investigation when he fired then-FBI Director James B. Comey. It’s worse than his nonstop attempts to obstruct the prosecutors — who are investigating an obstruction-of-justice case. (You cannot make this stuff up.)
The tweet was awful for Trump and a gift to prosecutors in several respects. Most important, Trump confirmed that the meeting with Russians was designed to obtain something valuable — previously undisclosed dirt on Hillary Clinton. That arguably would violate federal law prohibiting a candidate from asking for or receiving something of value from a foreign national. Put it this way: The most powerful evidence that Donald Trump Jr. violated campaign law comes from Donald Trump Jr.’s own email (“I love it” in anticipation of the Trump Tower dirt-finding meeting) and his own father’s tweet. Like father, like son.
Trump Sr.’s insistence that he did not know about the meeting in advance might, to an outside observer, suggest he knows it would be a problem if he did. But then again, he knew about the meeting after the fact and drafted a false statement, so it’s not as though prior knowledge is essential to the prosecutors’ obstruction case. (In any event, his promise at a campaign event at the time that he’d have a speech on Clinton’s nefarious conduct suggests he certainly knew what the Russians had promised.)
Trump fails to understand that the very meeting he is acknowledging is collusion — or conspiracy, if you will — to break campaign-finance laws. Insisting that it is legal to get dirt from a foreign national is politically and morally offensive (Trump was picked by the Kremlin) and contradicts his claim the Russians didn’t want him to win (another lie in the coverup). He knows they did — they had a meeting to help his campaign.
The email also suggests that Trump Jr. (allegedly with drafting help from his father) tried to conceal the true purpose of the meeting with a false cover story (it was all about adoption, you see.) According to news reports, Trump Jr. may also have lied to Congress by suggesting his father was not intimately involved in drafting the false written statement.
Trump’s insistence that the meeting was perfectly legal and perfectly normal is wrong on both counts. No presidential campaign has gone to a hostile foreign power for help in winning an election. It’s a invitation for a foreign power to help pick our elected leaders, a constitutional abomination and a repudiation of the very concept of democracy (i.e., we pick our own leaders).
The political implications of Trump’s latest confession are quite stunning. Will the rest of the GOP go along with the position that it was perfectly fine for Russia to help Trump? That would sure be a change from “No collusion” (to “Collusion, so what?!”). I don’t know how a major political party can maintain the view that hostile powers have carte blanche to influence our elections. Every Republican in elected office or on the ballot should be asked his or her view on the matter.
The notion that collusion with a hostile power is no big deal is so preposterous and unpalatable, you would think Republicans would not dare try to defend Trump on this point. But this crowd? They might just try it.