Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Trump-Russia scandal: the Fusion GPS Dodge

The Republicans are starting to try out a new dodge on the Trump-Russia scandal in which the real scandal is ... Hillary Clinton and Fusion GPS.

What is Fusion GPS, you may ask? Marcy Wheeler gives us a reality-based explanation here, Be Careful How You Define Collusion: On the Veselnitskaya Bombshell and the Steele Dossier Emptywheel 07/10/2017:

Remember: A supporter of Hillary Clinton paid an opposition research firm, Fusion GPS, to hire a British spy who in turn paid money to Russians — including people even closer to the Kremlin than Veselnitskaya — for Russia-related dirt on Don Jr’s dad.

Yes, the Clinton campaign was full of adults, and so kept their Russian-paying oppo research far better removed from the key players on the campaign than Trump’s campaign, which was run by incompetents. But if obtaining dirt from Russians — even paying Russians to obtain dirt — is collusion, then a whole bunch of people colluded with Russians (and a bunch of other foreign entities, I’m sure), including whatever Republican originally paid Fusion for dirt on Trump.

Breaking: Our political process is sleazy as **** (but then, so are most of our politicians).

The claim that merely meeting with Veselnitskaya is collusion is all the more dangerous given that it invokes some weird details about the Fusion dossier. Most importantly, as Trump’s lawyer’s spox has pointed out (incoherently, at first), like whatever Clinton supporter retained the oppo research firm, Veselnitskaya also employed Fusion. An update to NYT’s Friday story laid some of this out, in the form of Mark Corallo’s more clever than you actually might think suggestion that the Democrats might have paid Fusion to set up this meeting.
Marcy notes, like just about everyone else who is talking about it and is not a partisan Republican, that Don Jr.'s emails that he himself released makes a case for collusion much stronger than anything we've seen so far in the public record.

But the Reps are obviously starting to talk up a story that the whole thing with Veselnitskaya was a Hillary false-flag operation, or something. It's preposterous. But we're talking about the Republicans here.

Rachel Maddow on her show Tuesday explained the bits of the emergin Republican narrative, Donald Trump Jr Collusion Admission Leaves Jared Kushner Exposed 07/11/2017, especially after 7:30:

On a related issue, Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware explains why he's cautious on using the word "treason" to describe the picture that is emerging, Dem Sen: Donald Trump Jr. Russian Meeting Emails Are 'Jaw-Dropping' 07/11/2017:

I'm in that camp myself, because Article 3 of the Constitution does specify a definition of treason: "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court."

Back during the Vietnam War, there was some serious discussion about whether North Vietnam or the Vietcong (National Liberation Front) counted for Article 3 purposes as an enemy. Because Congress never declared war on either of them. And as James Madison wrote in Federalist #43, the Founders were keenly aware that there was a strong temptation during political disputes to expand the definition of treason:

As treason may be committed against the United States, the authority of the United States ought to be enabled to punish it. But as new-fangled and artificial treasons have been the great engines by which violent factions, the natural offspring of free government, have usually wreaked their alternate malignity on each other, the convention have, with great judgment, opposed a barrier to this peculiar danger, by inserting a constitutional definition of the crime, fixing the proof necessary for conviction of it, and restraining the Congress, even in punishing it, from extending the consequences of guilt beyond the person of its author. [my emphasis]
George Fletcher discusses the complications of the legal definition of treason in Ambivalence about Treason North Carolina Law Review 06/01/2014

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