Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Trump-Russia Interactions

The big news story today is that some emails leaked to the media show that Don Trump Jr, as well as Kushner and Manafort, met with a Russian government lawyer claiming to have damaging information about Hillary Clinton. Junior tweeted the email chain out, probably to get ahead of it before the media published it.

Are they damaging? They sure seem to be. They substantiate the narrative that the Russian government supported the Trump candidacy and that there was at least the intention of some indirect collaboration between members of Trump's team and Russian government employees. There is nothing illegal here, but there are certainly ethics questions.

The defense coming from Trump's fan base at r/the_donald is that it's perfectly reasonable for Trump's campaign to have accepted the offer of information relevant to the campaign if it doesn't violate the law. The left, on the other hand, see this as smoking-gun proof of treason. There's a problem with both sides of the issue: Hillary Clinton did something very similar when she accepted CNN debate question during the Democrat primary (amongst other things). So while the case might be made that meeting a Russian lawyer to receive controversial information is condemnable conduct, it cannot be made by anyone who supported Clinton when we knew full well from the DNC leaks what she was up to.

In the same manner, Trump supporters who cried foul at Hillary quietly accepting and using the debate questions must do the same regarding the willingness of Trump's team to accept and, had it actually been provided, use information provided by a foreign government agent that would damage a political adversary. Either Clinton and Trump's teams both engaged in unacceptable behavior, or neither did.

I would suggest that Trump supporters call out the recently revealed actions as unethical. We don't believe political candidates should be fed information from foreign governments. However, ultimately the actions are probably defensible on the grounds of When They Go Low, We Go Low. That is, given that Clinton was herself receiving information from foreign entities (such as Ukraine), and receiving information from the media that shouldn't have been receiving, let alone the tens of millions of dollars she was receiving from foreign governments indirectly through the Clinton Foundation, she opened the tactic for fair use by all parties. Bombing Japan is unethical. Bombing Japan after they bomb Pearl Harbor is fair game.

The concern here is that liberals are being hypocritical by condemning Trump but not Clinton, and we risk falling into the same mindless partisanship. We need to be very clear about how Team Trump's actions were unethical, yet how they were probably justified in the context of the behavior of his opponent. I have to say also that it probably wasn't wise for the team to accept the meeting in the first place. What good would dirt on Clinton have done? There's dirt on her a mile deep; her supporters don't care. One wonders how Manafort, a seasoned political operative, was naive enough to fall for all this. Also, how will Trump respond? In a fair world, he would admit the mistake, apologize, and possibly even fire Kushner over his role in the event. In the real world, however, apologies are taken as confessions by the left and firings chum the water. No one's getting impeached or fired over this. Conservatives need to pressure Trump on the issue, while also reminding everyone about Clinton's worse transgressions, and it'll all blow over eventually. In fact, the major outcome of all this will be to further enrage and frustrate liberals. That is certainly a silver lining.

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