It’s neither slander nor libel, Danish and Trump
Paul Danish recently speculated that President Trump might be able to successfully bring slander or libel claims against various media outlets for claiming he colluded with Russia during his election campaign (Re: “After Mueller — How Trump might get even,” The Danish Plan, March 28, 2019).
Most media comments on the topic have not so much asserted that Trump personally conspired with Russia, but described how his and his campaign’s actions create an appearance of collusion. Nothing in the Mueller report summary undercuts that conclusion.
Of course, as Trump’s lawyers have repeatedly pointed out, “collusion” is not a specific legal term. Thus, whether collusion did or did not occur is vague, and perhaps misdirects the inquiry. Criminal conspiracy, of course, raises a very high bar that would require that Trump explicitly agreed with Russia to take specific illegal actions to influence the election outcome. The fact that Donald Trump Jr. did accept a meeting with a Russian agent offering negative information about the Clinton campaign would by itself sufficiently prevail over use of slander or libel in the word “collusion.” Trump Sr.’s instruction that Don lie to claim the meeting was arranged to discuss orphans further shows awareness that the truth would imply guilt — that admitting his campaign tried to obtain “dirt” from Russian agents would make the campaign look bad. The Trump campaign did seek assistance from Russian agents to influence the outcome of the election. Is that not “collusion” in the minds of most Americans?
The fact that both Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort proved to be covert paid lobbyists of foreign governments certainly seems consistent with a campaign which would “collude.”
Trump’s subsequent refusal to significantly criticize Putin after various Russian foreign aggressions and human rights violations, and his meeting with Putin without other Americans present, also implies “collusion.” Trump’s continuing denial that Russia illegally supported his election via hacking and disinformation, a fact which the Mueller investigation conclusively proved long ago, suggests “collusion.”
However, discussion of collusion ignores the actual crime most consistent with Trump’s conduct, “receiving stolen property.” If I stand at the door of a bank and someone runs out firing a gun behind them, and throws me a bag of money which I try to keep, most would agree I appear to be guilty of receiving stolen property. If I argue (without factual basis, and disputing responsible police findings) that there was no robbery, I look even guiltier. The fact I may not have conspired to commit a robbery beforehand would not be a defense.
Accepting an election so clearly marred by Russian influence seems a similar acceptance of an ill-gotten gain. Accepting a thrown election is not technically a crime, because an election result is not property, among other reasons. However, the moral transgression seems the same (and the term “treason” does fairly come to mind). By constantly denying that Russian hackers tried or succeeded in throwing the election his way, Trump still seeks to retain the benefit of Russian illegal actions, logically encouraging further similar crimes.
Trump’s shamelessness in claiming vindication in the face of this history is nauseating. One suspects that some of this history may be discussed more thoroughly in the full Mueller report.
Speaking of shamelessness, did anyone else gag at Trump accusing Democrats of being anti-Semitic? This from someone who described white nationalists in Charlottesville, many of whom were recorded chanting “Jews will not replace us,” as “some very fine people”?
If Mr. Danish or Mr. Trump considers these comments to be slanderous or libelous, either may feel free to bring legal action. “The truth shall set ye free.”
It’s time for Sworn to Refuse
With the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report last week, the world learned, unsurprised, that Donald Trump made repeated efforts to deceive the public and obstruct justice during and since the 2015-16 presidential campaign. But what was surprising, and very important, was our discovery that, on multiple occasions, when the chief executive of the federal government directed obstruction be carried out, a good number of his staffers either directly refused or consciously neglected to carry out his orders. White House counsel Don McGahn even threatened to resign rather than play the role of go-between to fire Mueller. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported, “In the end, the Mueller investigation found that top aides to the President had saved Mr. Trump from possible legal jeopardy, mainly by ignoring his demands on the Russia investigation.”
Imagine if Donald Trump and his administration were aware that throughout this nation government employees at the federal, state, county and municipal levels were fully informed, encouraged and supported in their right and responsibility to refuse any order or directive the fulfillment of which would cause them to violate their oath of office. Imagine if all government supervisors shared that awareness. Imagine if ordinary citizens reached out to government employees they know personally to remind them of that right and responsibility to resist oath-breaking activity. It’s quite likely there would be far less government law-breaking, rights-violating and other misrule happening in, and perpetrated by, America.
Sworn to Refuse, a Boulder-based organization, has been imagining this possible future since 2017, and is working hard to make it reality as soon as possible. The task is enormous and urgent, and success won’t be achieved without contributions from countless people around the country. Our main mission now is getting the word out, and for that, we need your involvement and support. Please contact us via email@example.com to discuss what roles you can play in this project to defend our democracy and rule of law.