Trump’s Defense Rests on a Denial of Russian Interference

The leader of Donald Trump’s legal team, Rudy Giuliani, made headlines on Sunday when he told Jake Tapper that, in the context of the Trump Tower meeting, there was nothing wrong with taking information from the Russian government for his campaign to use against Clinton. A statement like that came as a shock to many people in the media, and justifiably so.

But even more troubling was something Giuliani said just a few days prior to that. As it turns out, Chris Cuomo posed the question that I suggested should be asked of the president concerning the opening statement from the Mueller report which reads, “The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion.” Watch how Giuliani dissembles in a sea of lies and denial.

In that short three and a half minute clip, here are all of the ways Giuliani tried to dodge the reality of Russian interference in the 2016 election:

  • he says that the president has no knowledge of Russian interference in his campaign,
  • he distracts with lies about the findings of the Mueller report,
  • he diverts attention with an argument about “spying” on the Trump campaign,
  • he claims that the surveillance of Carter Page was based on a false affidavit,
  • he claims to not know what the president knows about Russian interference,
  • and he suggests that the president “has a different opinion” on Russian interference than the intelligence community and Mueller’s investigators.

That is an excellent example of the method of propaganda known as the “firehose of falsehoods.” You can almost see Giuliani’s brain searching for one of the many lies he has catalogued to use in defense of his client on these matters. But the outcome is eventually clear: Giuliani, on behalf of Trump, can never acknowledge that the Russians interfered in the 2016 election. One can only imagine that they would be even more loathe to admit that Putin did so in order to support Trump’s candidacy.

This president cannot acknowledge those basic facts—and that has important ramifications. One is that it calls into question every other statement he makes with regards to the investigation of these matters. To the extent that they begin with a lie, how can anyone believe what comes next?

Perhaps an even bigger concern is that as long as the president denies that the Russians attempted to interfere in the election, he has no reason to implement strategies that could stop them from doing so again. The result is that a foreign adversary interfered in our elections in a sweeping and systemic fashion and, because the president denies that it ever happened, he won’t take measures to protect the most fundamental cornerstone of our democracy.

I have already suggested that the reason Trump denies the fact of Russian interference is because it inevitably leads to the question of why they would do so—especially on his behalf. It also raises important questions about why the Trump campaign didn’t report overtures from Russian emissaries regarding things like the offer to share dirt on Clinton. Finally, to acknowledge Russian interference in the hacking of emails would call into question why Trump did things like champion Wikileaks over 140 times during the last month of the campaign. All of that points to the kind of “collusion” Mueller identified in his report (emphasis mine).

The investigation also identified numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump Campaign. Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.

In other words, Trump’s entire defense is based on a denial of the most basic facts related to Russian interference in the 2016 election. That is not the defense of someone who is innocent. As a matter of fact, it reeks of guilt. But perhaps even more importantly, the president’s defense relies on not doing anything to protect this country’s elections going forward.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.