President Donald Trump is conflicted. On one hand, he doesn’t want to give any credence to the idea that Russia helped him win the White House. He is very proud and would never acknowledge that he needed help with anything, never mind getting elected president of the United States. But the evidence is overwhelming and so Trump and his attorney are shifting their story about Russian assistance.
The New York Times reported that Mick Mulvaney, the White House chief of staff, told White House advisors, including Director of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen not to bring up Russian attempts to influence our elections, past or future, because Trump saw it as an effort to delegitimize his election.
As clearly outlined in the Mueller investigation and by our intelligence agencies, Russia provided resources and personnel to help Trump’s election by spreading millions of false reports on social media about Hillary Clinton. Facebook reports that they reached 126 million users and 1.4 million Twitter users. Considering that Trump won the electoral college by less than 80,000 votes total across three critical states (Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania), it would be a stretch to say that Trump would have won without the free Russian media blitz. Russia even knew what states to target because Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, gave them their internal polling data. To say that Russia’s efforts did not sway at least 80,000 votes is to say that advertisers spending millions on social media ads are wasting their money. These ads work and Russia’s marketing against Clinton worked for Trump in those states and beyond.
Trump, however, is conflicted. While he wants us to play down the significance of Russia’s assistance in his election, he also wants to blame former President Barack Obama for Russia’s interference. Obama was, after all, president at the time of the 2016 campaign. To divert attention to Mueller’s findings of the willingness of the Trump campaign to accept help from Russian agents — if not directly coordinate with them — Trump tweeted that, “Anything the Russians did concerning the 2016 Election was done while Obama was President. He was told about it and did nothing! Most importantly, the vote was not affected.”
This is an interesting and telling tweet. On one hand, according to Trump, there was Russian interference and it was all Obama’s fault. On the other hand, “the vote was not affected.” More importantly, Trump admits that Russia’s interference was real and not, as he has previously stated, “fake news.”
Calling Russian assistance and the acceptance of their help, “fake news” isn’t working any longer as noted by Trump’s tweet blaming Obama. But Trump’s lawyer has an even better answer. On national television, after confronted with the evidence outlined in the Mueller Report, Giuliani defended Trump from taking help from the Russians.
“Any candidate in the whole world in America would take information,” stated Giuliani.
Note that he no longer denies that the campaign accepted help from Russia. When asked about taking information from a foreign source, which is illegal, Giuliani asked, “Who said it’s even illegal?” and “No, no, there’s nothing wrong with taking information from Russians! It depends on where it came from.” So, according to Giuliani, Trump’s attorney, they accepted help from Russia, but “there’s nothing wrong with taking information from Russians.” Note the shift.
On the first point, the law specifically states that a campaign cannot accept “a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value” from a foreign national. Their willingness to meet with Russian agents to accept “dirt” on Clinton is just one example of their willingness to accept foreign assistance. As far as “where it came from,” the Trump campaign was well aware that the information was stolen from the Clinton campaign. They also knew this was problematic.
As you can read in the Mueller Report, Trump dictated a false story — that the meeting was about adoptions — for his son to release to the press as to the purpose of his campaign’s meeting with Russian officials offering “dirt” on Clinton. Trump then lied about his involvement with the false statement, but his lawyer and White House aide, Hope Hicks, told Mueller the truth: Trump dictated a false story about the purpose of his campaign’s meeting with Russian agents providing “dirt” on Clinton found in stolen emails.
As stated by The New York Times, “While no one in the Trump campaign was charged with crimes for these actions, clearly the American people will have to decide if they agree with Giuliani that ‘there's nothing wrong’ with Trump or any presidential campaign accepting assistance from Russians or other foreign nationals. The hope is that Americans will overwhelmingly agree that the election for President of our nation should be free from foreign interference and instead be decided solely by Americans.”