2016 Elections

No One Else Would Take the Russian Meeting

The argument that this was business-as-usual for any campaign? Forget it.

Department of Not-Normal Meetings.

Photographer: David Becker

Apparently Donald Trump and his apologists are really determined to defend the Donald Jr./Manafort/Kushner meeting to get dirt on Hillary Clinton from Russia as perfectly normal opposition research. Trump put it this way:

Honestly, in a world of politics, most people are going to take that meeting. If somebody called and said, hey — and you’re a Democrat — and by the way, they have taken them — hey, I have really some information on Donald Trump. You’re running against Donald Trump. Can I see you? I mean, how many people are not going to take the meeting?

And the answer is: No one is going to take that meeting. 

This is worth a little piling on. Richard Moss at the Monkey Cage has some historical perspective on campaigns saying "no." Ann O'Leary, who led Hillary Clinton's transition team, says she "told staff not to meet with a Canadian gov't official." The Washington Examiner's David Drucker reports the same thing. A Republican opposition researcher considers the Russia meeting "so far beyond the pale, that it’s kind of almost silly to compare it to some of these other gray area opposition research efforts, because there is nothing gray about it." Tracy Sefl, a Democrat, explains why she wouldn't have done it when she did opposition research. Peggy Noonan quotes a Republican opposition researcher: "Hell no. You don't go there."

Of course not. (And, no, the Ukrainian connection to someone connected to the Democratic National Committee which produced information which may have wound up with the Clinton campaign, while perhaps a real violation, is hardly the same as having a campaign's top people meet with a foreign national to get dirt, much less someone from a nation basically hostile to the United States). 

But this is actually pretty simple. If it really was perfectly normal, then surely there must be some loyal Republican opposition researchers or former high campaign officials out there who must have sat through similar meetings. Can Trump's supporters produce three of them to testify about it? Two? Anyone? 

I didn't think so. And you can be certain that if such examples were out there, Trump or the Trump-friendly media would have been all over them by now. We're not hearing from them because they don't exist.

There's plenty of argument available about how significant this meeting was, and plenty we still don't know about how extensively the Trump campaign worked with Russia. But the argument that this meeting was business-as-usual for any campaign? Forget it. Anyone who tries to sell you that is just displaying contempt for your intelligence. 

1. Brandon Valeriano, Ryan C. Maness and Benjamin Jensen at the Monkey Cage on cyberwarfare.

2. NBC's Rebecca Choate on the blame for all those unfilled desks in the executive branch. Bottom line: Democrats in the Senate are foot-dragging and have slowed confirmations, but most of the problem is Trump's fault. 

3. Good catch by Kevin Drum, who notes that Trump is promising less and less for his border wall. It's down to "700 to 900 miles," which is basically about how much current fencing (and wall) is in place. I'll repeat what I expect: Trump will wind up building just enough of a fancy wall to look impressive on TV -- maybe a couple hundred yards, maybe less -- and he'll hold a bit ceremony in which he'll pretend that the rest of the already-existing barriers are his achievement. 

4. I'm not sure I agree with my View colleague Megan McArdle's suggestions for a bipartisan health care bill, but I do agree with her analysis of what Republicans want -- and some of the factors that would go into any compromise. 

5. Kaiser has a full comparison of Obamacare and the Republicans proposal(s)

6. Does Ted Cruz even understand what his own amendment would do? Jennifer Haberkorn and Paul Demko at Politico report that insurance experts don't think so

7. And Mike Allen at Axios reminds everyone not to accept the Trump administration as normal

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

    To contact the author of this story:
    Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net

    To contact the editor responsible for this story:
    Mike Nizza at mnizza3@bloomberg.net

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