At the end of a yet another tawdry, scandalous week, I’m seeing the same thing I see at the end of every other tawdry, scandalous week. Lots of folks on the right continue to believe that the true scandal is not that the president may be a felon or that he surrounded himself with actual felons, but rather that their conduct has been investigated at all.
While every investigation should be bounded by the law and Constitution, it’s past time to get over the obsession with the very existence of the Mueller investigation (or with the spinoff Cohen investigation in the Southern District of New York.) No one forced Donald Trump to hire the collection of crooks and grifters who orbited his campaign. As Trey Gowdy has pointed out, there would be a Mueller investigation without the Steele Dossier. And as I’ve written before, we cannot forget that at the very time when Russia was interfering with our election to help Trump, the candidate surrounded himself with advisers who possessed problematic Russian ties:
Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, had long been on the payroll of Putin allies, receiving millions of dollars in compensation for his work on behalf of Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine. One of Trump’s closest military advisers, Michael Flynn, had received tens of thousands of dollars in compensation from Kremlin-affiliated sources. One of the campaign’s foreign-policy advisers, Carter Page, had been actively recruited by Russian intelligence (to his credit, he apparently rebuffed those advances) and had long sought business relationships in Russia.
And that’s not all, not by a long shot. We also know that Kremlin-connected Russians reached out to the Trump campaign, and that key members of the campaign team were enthusiastic about receiving Russian help.
Donald Trump Jr. responded positively to a direct invitation to collude with Russia, taking a meeting with a Russian lawyer after being promised information that could hurt Hillary Clinton as part of an official Russian effort to help Trump. Trump brought Manafort and the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to the meeting.
Campaign adviser George Papadopoulos had contact with a Russian-affiliated professor who told him that the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.” He received this information months before the first WikiLeaks releases rocked the Clinton campaign, and he later lied to the FBI about it.
Trump confidante Roger Stone apparently had advance knowledge that WikiLeaks had obtained damaging emails from John Podesta and the Democratic National Committee.
There’s simply not a realistic scenario where those facts don’t trigger inquiries, and the instant the investigation began — given the quality of the people around Trump — it was inevitable that it would crack open corruption, including potentially corruption on the part of the candidate himself.
I’m certainly open to the possibility that aspects of the original FBI investigation against Trump were problematic. And if an appropriate investigation of the investigators reveals real wrongdoing, then those responsible should be punished. But I’m having a hard time believing — on a week where the tally of former Trump officials who are guilty of crimes has grown to now include his former campaign chair, deputy campaign chair, national security adviser, and personal lawyer — that I should be outraged at law enforcement and not the criminals who’ve flouted American laws.