Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Opposing Opposition Research

Dear Donald: Let us try to explain it to you. Yes, most politicians do some form of “opposition research” on their political campaign opponents. They look for some embarrassing personal incident, political misstatement, or questionable decision made, usually from some long-ago time in the opponent’s past – an action that is not appropriate in today’s climate. Then they use that information to either inform a rational debate on an issue, or far more often, use that information in the sleaziest and/or most distorted manner possible to defame their opponent. This element of campaigning has gone on since the first political vote in our Republic, and for better or worse has little chance of ending.

But the doing or receiving of “opposition research” for your campaign is not the issue that has provoked the latest well-deserved criticism of you. We already assume that you would welcome such dirt on a campaign opponent. Rather, it is the SOURCE of the research that is being called into fierce criticism. When you were asked, you stated that “of course” you would be interested in receiving such negative information, even if it came from a foreign source. “Give me a break – that’s the way it works.” And “no,” you saw no reason to call the FBI and report such an offer from a foreign source. And the Director of the FBI who said that is what you actually should do? Your answer was “he is wrong.”

Stated simply, he is not wrong. Your answer was wrong because existing federal law says contributions to American political campaigns from any foreign source – including of money, services, or “things of value” – are prohibited. Prohibited means it is illegal – for both the giver and the receiver. This legal prohibition has been publicly affirmed by the Chairman of the Federal Election Commission. Your answer was wrong because American elections are actions that Americans take towards governing this country, and governing America is not the business of non-Americans. Your answer was wrong because when foreign entities – governments, hired agents, or individual foreign citizens – seek to influence the American electorate, this is an assault against our Constitutional governance. The President of the United States – and every Congressperson and judge – has sworn to protect that Constitution above all else.

Failing to understand the distinction between obtaining opposition research, and it coming from a foreign source, is the universal criticism. To later say that you would “first examine the information to see if it was correct or inappropriate” and then, based on that review, decide whether or not to notify the FBI (“maybe”), does not change the intent or the impact of your words. It is the receipt of the information, not its quality, that is pertinent. Your position is ethically wrong and criminally liable.

Your statements were recorded and broadcast for all to hear. No amount of attempted backtracking and rewording can change them. No efforts at “clarifications” can undo the confirmation that you once again believe that you are above the spirit and fact of our laws, and the enforcement thereof. After two years of Mueller investigations and his findings about Russian influence on our 2016 election, you have clearly learned nothing about your legal and moral obligations regarding the sanctity and integrity of our American elections. Hence your claims of “no collusion” in 2016 have become even more unbelievable given your publicly stated willingness to collude in the future. Which explains your failure of leadership to strengthen protections for such sanctity and integrity going into our 2020 elections.

Your FBI Director was right. You were wrong. It would be nice if, for once, you could just simply acknowledge that. The country’s faith in its leadership deserves that. Then again, we won’t hold our collective breath waiting for it.

©   2019   Randy Bell             https://www.ThoughtsFromTheMountain.blogspot.com