If the standard for removal of a president were “pollution of the civic realm” rather than “high crimes and misdemeanors,” President Trump would deserve impeachment.

Trump’s assertion that he would gladly accept “opposition research,” even from hostile foreign powers, shows yet again that his inclination is to replace the rule of law and ordinary standards of decency with the unethical ethic of “whatever I can get away with.” It also reminds us that neither he nor his son, Donald Trump Jr., would have avoided “collusion” with Russia if the anticipated benefit had been substantial enough.

ABC’s George Stephanopoulos specifically asked Trump “If Russia, if China … offers you information on an opponent, should [your campaign team] accept it?” Trump’s bottom line reply, after some back and forth: “They have information. I think I’d take it.”

For the record, if a candidate merely listens to a foreign national spread a rumor, that probably would not be prosecutable. But if any documentation or evidence or actionable intelligence actually changed hands, that would clearly be illegal. The relevant law, 52 USC 30121, reads as follows, with the context being federal election campaigns: “It shall be unlawful for … a person to solicit, accept, or receive a contribution or donation described in subparagraph (A) [including any ‘thing of value’] … from a foreign national.” In our current context, given that foreign nationals did all of the publishing and hacking themselves in the 2016 election, this statute likely couldn’t be applied to Trump. But if he were to accept valuable documentation about an opponent, then it arguably might apply to him.

The FBI has a Foreign Influence Task Force specifically to combat efforts by foreign nationals to undermine our electoral system. The president is dead wrong to suggest that such foreign influence is no big deal — especially when coming from adversaries such as China and Russia…..

[The full column is here.]


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