Trump’s Defenses Suggest Guilt, Not Innocence

Donald Trump and his friends in the right-wing media are employing several tactics that are designed to defend him against possible findings coming from the investigation underway by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller on whether or not his campaign coordinated with the Russians in an attempt to influence the election as well as whether or not the president obstructed justice in trying to shut down and/or influence the investigation.

The least surprising tactic for regular readers here will be that recently Trump has employed his typical pattern of lie, distract and blame. I’m going to repost all of his tweets on this topic because they are suggestive of how obsessed Trump is with this claim.

This is all based on a report in the Washington Post about how the Obama administration responded to the intelligence that was developing about Russia’s attempt to influence the election. It is significant to note that, as recently as last week, Trump was still calling the whole thing a “big Dem hoax.” In this series of tweets Trump assumes that the basics of what the Russians attempted to do is true and then blames Obama for not doing anything about it. It is just another example of how this president will say anything that suits his purpose in the moment—completely disjointed from any factual basis.

The most disturbing part of this lie is the way that some liberals are reinforcing it by suggesting there is a grain of truth to it. There is not. Four times in those seven tweets Trump says that Obama did nothing in response to the intelligence he received. Here is how an Obama White House official responded:

That pretty much nails down everything I wrote about the Washington Post story last week. The idea that the Obama administration did nothing is a lie, plain and simple. For those that think they should have done more, they’ll need to document exactly what that would have been and how it would have changed the dynamics at the time.

As I said, that tweetstorm by Trump is nothing more than an effort to lie, distract and blame by focusing on one of his favorite targets—Barack Obama.

The second defense against possible findings by Mueller and his team is to taint the messenger, as we see in an ad from a pro-Trump group called “Great America Alliance.”

That captures things we’ve heard pretty regularly from Trump as well as his friends in the right wing media. The one piece of information they consistently ignore is that Robert Mueller is a registered Republican who has been appointed to high level positions in the Justice Department by both Democratic and Republican presidents. But to right wingers, anyone who doesn’t toe their line exactly is automatically the enemy. That is necessary in order to maintain their epistemically enclosed bubble.

The final defense strategy that we’re watching unfold against possible findings from the special prosecutor is perhaps the most bizarre. As Julie Alderman chronicled, we are increasingly seeing right wingers in the media suggest that even if Trump colluded with Russia, it’s not a crime. We’ve heard this idea floated by Fox’s Gregg Jarrett, Geraldo Rivera, Sean Hannity and now Brit Hume, who said this while questioning panelists on Sunday about whether Mueller is running a counter-intelligence or criminal investigation.

JENNIFER GRIFFIN: We’ve heard about the grand jury in Alexandria that has been called. So they are looking into criminal–

HUME: But what crime? Can anybody identify the crime? Collusion, while it would be obviously alarming and highly inappropriate for the Trump campaign, of which there is no evidence by the way, of colluding with the Russians. It’s not a crime.

I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on the internet. So I’ll simply refer you to Politifact, where they documented what legal experts identified as the four criminal laws that might have been broken if the Trump campaign coordinated with the Russians. For those who might put more stock in the word of an ideologue than legal experts, there is the fact that when asked directly whether or not collusion with Russia or any other government would be improper or illegal, Attorney General Sessions replied, “Absolutely.”

Those are the three defense strategies we’re seeing from Trump and his friends: (1) lie, distract and blame, (2) attack the messenger, and (3) claim that collusion with Russia is no crime. I’d suggest that they are not only weak tea, but that they tend to be more suggestive of guilt than innocence.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.