If I may dabble, for a moment, in national politics, I’d like to express my relief that, maybe, we’re getting to the core of the Trump-Russia divide among Americans, generally, and conservatives, specifically. National Review’s David French provides the helpful phrasing:
… there now exists evidence that senior members of the Trump campaign tried unsuccessfully to facilitate Russian government efforts to defeat Hillary Clinton.
I’ll say, at the outset, that I agree with French’s conclusion that the “Russian investigation” is “a national necessity,” but those touting these latest findings seem to be implying that there’s a bigger “and so” to what we know so far, and in that regard, I don’t agree with French that “No American — Democrat or Republican — should defend the expressed intent of this meeting.”
To see why, observe how French phrases the sentence I blockquote above: Does he really think that the Trump campaign’s motivation was to help Russia, in contrast to helping their own campaign (which, we still have to presume, they thought was for the good of country — of their own country)? Honestly and truly, as an objective matter, I’ll insist that those are two different things.
Otherwise, what’s the meaning, here? That the Trump campaign was morally obliged not to take information that might illustrate the sleazy, compromising, and perhaps illegal dealings of his competitor? That they were supposed to give Hillary Clinton, who they presumably thought would be harmful to the country as president, the unfair advantage of keeping quiet her transgressions because the information might come from a compromised source, despite the collusion of our self-proclaimed objective news media to minimize and brush aside information harmful to its favored candidates?
This is the trick of the news media’s drum-pounding about “collusion.” What if there really had been useful information available for that meeting, but what if Russia had put it out through American news media and then the Trump campaign had run with it? Would that get us to a just-fine, non-collusion place?
My honest, non-Trumpist opinion is that the additional separation doesn’t make a moral difference, just as having a lower-level, plausible-deniability staffer vet the potential information transfer wouldn’t have made a moral difference, and that there is nothing morally culpable in taking the meeting per se. Taking information that you think is good for your campaign and, therefore, good for your country does not count as treason (even in a figurative, moral sense) just because a hostile foreign power thinks it will benefit, too.
Show me President Trump selling out his own country to benefit Russia or himself (personally) through some deal with Russia, and you’ve got something. Running with false information from a foreign power would be bad, too, and the Trump campaign’s horrid use of National Enquirer conspiracy theories against, for example, Ted Cruz proved that the candidate wasn’t above doing that sort of thing. But that’s not what we have, here… at least not yet.
An expectation that the Trump campaign would have gone to such lengths may be an unspoken component in the Never Trumpers’ reaction to the latest revelation. Therefore we come right back to the “and so.” Is the “and so” that we continue to support an investigation? In that case, fine, but the argument is only useful in opposition to somebody suggesting that the investigation should be closed.
Or are we supposed to hobble the president’s agenda because his campaign was (surprise, surprise) impure? In that case, sorry, but I still have to insist that you’ve got nothing.