There’s no way I can avoid writing about this one.
The question of whether or not the Trump campaign “colluded” with the Russian government is an important one. Slowly, drip by drip, many of Trump’s fans are acknowledging certain unsavory truths. First they denied that Russia tried to influence the election. Then that Russia was behind the hacking of democratic email servers. The collusion question, though, is a big one, because that takes it from the realm of a foreign government doing something wrong, to whether or not the administration did. Most of Trump’s advocates have been insisting that there is no evidence of collusion, so his detractors should just drop it. I always thought that stance was odd. We are still in the middle of investigating it. No conclusions have been drawn. At this point, no one knows if there was collusion. I would think that a more persuasive stance would be something like, “We don’t know what the investigation will find, so let’s focus on making America great again in the meantime.” Changing the subject is a classic persuasive maneuver, and it’s a classic because it works. Straight denials to a question that hasn’t been settled isn’t as effective. I digress. The real news is that now there is evidence of attempted collusion.
Donald Trump Jr. released an email chain where he made it clear that a Russian lawyer, who he thought worked for the Russian government, wanted a meeting for the purpose of giving him information damaging to Hillary Clinton. This wasn’t his first story, of course. At first it was about the Russian policy of banning Americans from adopting Russian orphans. It was an odd cover. As much as we like to tell ourselves that we are good people, no one cares about Russian orphans. Or American orphans, for that matter. They can’t vote and don’t have money, so their influence is exactly nil. But as a denial, it’s ok. If the New York Times had released the emails, Jr. could have shouted “fake news!” and went back to talking about Russian orphans, but he didn’t. Maybe he didn’t want to put Putin in a bad light, as Putin was the one who endorsed the adoption ban. Whatever his reason, he confessed to a crime.
In order to be charged with conspiracy to do something, you don’t have to actually commit a crime. If you get together with a bank guard and plan to rob a bank, but then don’t because you got a flat tire on the night of the crime, you’re still guilty of conspiracy. Jr. thought he was getting damaging information from a foreign government. Whether or not he actually did (he’s claiming he didn’t) is irrelevant. The fact that he went to the meeting with his dad’s then campaign manager Manafort, and his current advisor Kushner, makes this even more damning. While Jr. might make the argument he didn’t know better, a presidential campaign manager does.
So now there’s evidence of attempted collusion. We’re all suffering from Russia fatigue, so I doubt very much this will move people’s attitudes toward Trump very much. But at this point, that isn’t particularly relevant. Now the question will be whether or not a prosecutor feels like this is worth pursuing. If so, will daddy pardon Jr.? If so, will he do so before he’s convicted? Is that constitutional? Why did Jr. release the emails? Is he stupid, or Macchiavellian? Will this finally make Fox News turn against Trump? What about Breitbart?
The one thing that I am reasonably sure about is that this will make Trump a less effective president. He needs a lot of people working to get his agenda passed. If they feel he is vulnerable to impeachment or those closest to him are charged with crimes, they won’t work too hard on that agenda. An already imperiled legislative agenda gets even less likely to become law. Republicans will have a harder time winning elections. An already slow government will slow further. Shutdowns are more likely. Our response to actual crises will get more incompetent. All in all, it’s a pretty good day to be a Trump detractor.