Pelosi on Trump saying he'd accept foreign dirt: It's more evidence that he doesn't know right from wrong

Before you ask, no, this doesn’t mean she’s any closer to impeaching him. As Greg Pollowitz said earlier on Twitter today, Pelosi has now adopted her own version of Trump’s famous comment from the 2016 campaign. He could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and she still wouldn’t impeach him for it.

Depending on the day, my reaction to the claim that Trump doesn’t know right from wrong would be either “Well, yes, obviously” or “Well, yes, obviously, but that’s true of a lot of people in Washington.” (If you want to counter that it’s less a matter of them not knowing than not caring, fine.) The Trump fans who responded to last night’s unpleasantness by noting that Hillary sought dirt on him from foreign individuals via the Steele dossier are right, of course. Ed Morrissey was also right, and drew a better analogy to the collusion question at the heart of Russiagate, when he pointed out in this morning’s post that Team Hillary received some help on their Trump oppo effort from Ukrainian government officials. There’s a material difference, I think, between pressing foreign randos on what they know about your opponent and accepting dirt that’s volunteered by a foreign government. A foreign government will have a political agenda in offering information, may be more willing to lie in the name of advancing that agenda, and will certainly have more sophisticated means of fabricating information than the average person will. Use their oppo and you’re handing a possibly/probably unethical foreign regime influence over the outcome of an American election.

And you’ll owe them for it.

That’s why the Hillary/Ukraine relationship is more troubling than the Hillary/Steele one. Although you don’t need a 2016 analogue if you’re looking to let Trump off the hook for his comments in the ABC interview. Is it really true that Team Biden would instantly call the FBI if Chinese officials reached out to say that Trump spent decades laundering money for the Russian government and they’ve obtained the paperwork that proves it? Some Biden aides might want to, but others would inevitably argue that if evidence exists proving that the president is corrupt, they have a patriotic duty to see that that evidence is laid before voters. It’s not just a matter of electoral advantage, it’s a matter of making sure that someone who’s compromised doesn’t assume the presidency and find him- or herself subject to blackmail.

Which is precisely what Team Trump would say about their interest in hearing out the Russian lawyer at that meeting in Trump Tower in 2016.

David Frum makes another point to distinguish oppo research, which is what the Steele dossier was, from the sort of dirt that the Trump campaign was interested in three years ago. One was the product of a crime committed against Americans, the other was not.

Frum’s kidding himself if he thinks “nobody” would have objected to Team Trump putting people on the ground in Russia to sniff around about Uranium One, but never mind that. It’s true that the campaign gleefully promoted the hacked DNC/Podesta emails that were released through Wikileaks, but that wasn’t what was offered to Don Jr before the Trump Tower meeting. Rob Goldstone told Junior that it involved “official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia.” POTUS told Stephanopoulos last night that “maybe” he’d go to the FBI “if I thought there was something wrong” with dirt on an opponent offered by foreigners. Trump being Trump, he wouldn’t, but that was his concession that it’d be shifty to use illegally obtained information — never mind that he cheerled for publication of the hacked emails in 2016.

If China hacked Trump’s financial records and put them on the Internet next year, would *no* Democrat ever so much as reference them? C’mon.

Hair-splitting about the dossier, the help Hillary got from Ukraine, and the hacked emails misses the core point, though, which is that the president shouldn’t be on television winking at foreigners that he might take dirt on his opponent from them in 2020. He’s incentivizing foreign interference in the next election. NBC reported just a few days ago that officials from at least 22 different countries have spent money at Trump properties since he became president, never mind the implications that may have for the Emoluments Clause. Diplomats have been flocking to the Trump Hotel in Washington since before he was inaugurated. Everyone understands the value of doing a favor for this president, financial or otherwise. So here he is on ABC telling the world he’s amenable to favors in the form of oppo on Democrats seemingly without much care about what forms that oppo might take. It’s a green light to hack. The argument for electing him instead of Clinton in 2016 was that Hillary was an amoral reptile who embodied the swamp and America needed to be better than that to be great again. The argument for defending Trump now on what he said to Stephanopoulos is “Well, he’s really no worse than Hillary.” Congratulations.

Exit question via Marco Rubio: If the Chinese government sends proof of Trump’s criminal activity to the New York Times instead of to the Biden campaign, will the Times call the FBI? If the concern here is about letting a hostile power influence a presidential election with dirt obtained through scurrilous means, laundering oppo through the media will do the job just as well as handing it off to a candidate will. So, again, will the Times call the FBI?