Friday, June 14, 2019

Don't Call It Treason

Circumstances change so quickly in the Trump era that by the time something is published, it's almost out-of-date.  Scholars at Stanford University have issued a report citing methods which could be used to protect the democratic process and on Tuesday the Washington Post editorial board wrote

Measures also could be taken to hamper Russia’s efforts to manipulate the American public online. Foreign states and individuals should be barred from purchasing online advertisements intended to influence the electorate, even when they are not expressly advocating for or against a candidate. Something like the Honest Ads Act is also necessary to require that platforms reveal who paid for political ads that do run — using the names of responsible individuals, rather than only opaque organizations. Social media sites should establish an official body to coordinate with each other and the government about threats, which might require a law lowering the barriers to sharing information.

All this is only a start, and it represents but a handful of those 45 recommendations the Stanford report authors have to offer, yet it is still bounds beyond what the government has managed so far. The United States has not given Russia or any other would-be meddler any real reason to stop meddling. It would help, of course, to have a president willing to admit the problem instead of papering it over with the chief perpetrator. It is a dereliction of duty for Congress and the administration not to take up on a most urgent basis the defense of the nation’s democratic process.

The President is no longer "papering it over." The very next day we learned that President Trump, asked by ABC News' George Stephanopoulos whether he'd take information offered to him about a campaign opponent by a foreign nation, had stated

It's not an interference, they have information -- I think I'd take it. If I thought there was something wrong, I'd go maybe to the FBI -- if I thought there was something wrong. But when somebody comes up with oppo research, right, they come up with oppo research, 'oh let's call the FBI.' The FBI doesn't have enough agents to take care of it. When you go and talk, honestly, to congressman, they all do it, they always have, and that's the way it is. It's called oppo research.

It's not "papering over" when a candidate practically begs a foreign power for dirt on a political candidate. Similarly, Congress cannot be cited for "dereliction of duty." On Thursday, Republican senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee stated “All of us know, if you were to ever be contacted by a foreign entity, your first call is the FBI. I don’t care if it’s Russia, Norway, China, whomever."
If it is Donald Trump receiving the information, however, the above is inoperable. Then she

blocked an effort to pass a bill requiring political campaigns to report to the FBI any offers of foreign assistance.

After President Donald Trump said he would welcome information from a foreign government about his opponents in the 2020 election, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) tried to pass the bill on the Senate floor via unanimous consent. Blackburn prevented unanimous consent by raising an objection to the measure....

It’s already illegal for electoral campaigns to knowingly accept help from a foreign entity or power. Warner’s bill would also mandate that campaigns report such an offer of foreign assistance to federal authorities.

Blackburn objected to the legislation, however, arguing that it would pose an “overbroad” burden on campaigns. The senator claimed that it would apply to campaign workers on “so many different levels” ― from vendors to door knockers to phone bankers. And she said she worried about how the bill would affect Dreamers ― undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children ― who sign up to volunteer for political campaigns.

Blackburn added that, of course, “no one wants foreign interference of any type” in U.S. elections.

Warner responded by calling his colleague’s reading of the bill “not accurate.”

“The only thing that would have to be reported is if the agent of a foreign government or national offered something that was already prohibited,” he said.

Can you imagine a GOP politician lying?  Donald Trump has set the standard and it's going to be impossible for a member of his party to catch up. That applies even to Marsha Blackburn, who has a questionable history, having probably met with Alexander Torshin and other Russian nationals in her home state, and not to discuss the Tennessee Titans defensive line.

It's time for The Washington Post or other news outlets to recognize that "fair" no longer is balanced or accurate. One party in Washington condones foreign interference in American elections.  One politician in Washington, supported wholeheartedly by his party, asked Russians to interfere with the last presidential election and on Wednesday invited them to do so again.

It's not as if the Republican officials are committing treason. They are not giving aid and comfort to an enemy, because Russia is not a declared enemy of the USA. But they've decided that they cannot, as the USA currently is constituted and increasingly will be constituted, win free and fair elections. They are not traitors, merely proxies for Russia.

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