Donald Trump; Jeanine Pirro (AP/Evan Vucci/Andy Kropa)

Here's the evolution of Donald Trump's Russia defense

From "Russia talk is FAKE NEWS" to "most politicians would have" done it, Trump's Russia defense has evolved a lot


Jeremy Binckes
July 17, 2017 6:20PM (UTC)

President Donald Trump, his White House and the team of surrogates and pro-Trump media members have gone to great pains to try and keep up with the drips coming out that are backing up the theory that the Trump campaign met with Russian sources to, at the very least, get information about Hillary Clinton as part of a disinformation campaign.

On Monday, Trump defended son Donald Trump Jr. from reports that he met with Russian sources in order to find out what information they had on Clinton, saying that "most politicians" would have "gone to a meeting like the one" his son attended. Notably, the president seemed to imply that his son was a politician.

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This defense of his son is a drastic shift from his previous line. As the New York Times put it just last week: "The original statement, drafted aboard Air Force One by advisers and then approved by Mr. Trump, said only that the Russian lawyer had discussed adoption policy during the meeting, without mentioning that the meeting had been offered as a chance to provide information about Mrs. Clinton’s dealings with Russia." It was also a seismic shift from his position — since at least January — that was that there was absolutely no connection with any Russians whatsoever.

Meanwhile, former Trump campaign director Michael Caputo went from "no contact" to "so what?" in two days, which should qualify as a record somewhere.

"I had no contact with Russians and I never heard of anyone in the Trump campaign talking with Russians," he said Friday after meeting with the House Intelligence Committee. On Monday, Caputo reiterated his points from Friday, saying that talk of collusion was "a fishing expedition." But Caputo also tried to deflect from the allegations, saying, "we both get involved in foreign elections in our own way to try and tilt them in our favor."

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And, when it comes to pro-Trump media, Fox News' Jeanine Pirro, who praised Trump for standing up to "fake news hogwash," is also trying to change her story. In May, she told "Fox & Friends" that Trump "has got to understand he is in treacherous waters now. You're talking about every step as potentially being evidence to impeach him in some way."

But this weekend, Pirro defended the president in a different way.

"There is no law that says a campaign cannot accept information from a foreign government," Pirro said, ignoring that there is a law — the Federal Election Campaign Act — which prevents foreign nationals from "contributing, donating or spending funds in connection with any federal, state, or local election in the United States, either directly or indirectly," and bars Americans from "solicit[ing], receiv[ing] or accept[ing] contributions or donations from them."

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When Trump was interviewed by Pirro in May, he told the Fox News host, "There is no collusion. We had nothing to do with Russia." One would think that Pirro would have been slightly upset that something he told her to her face would later turn out to be completely false. But, two months after he told Pirro something completely untrue, the former prosecutor laid out the line of defense that Trump himself would take Monday: Any politician who cared about getting elected would do exactly what the Trump campaign did.

As someone who’s run for office five times, if the devil called me and said he wanted to set up a meeting to give me opposition research on my opponent I’d be on the first trolley to hell to get it. And any politician who tells you otherwise is a bald-faced liar.

 

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Jeremy Binckes

Jeremy Binckes is the senior news editor at Salon.com.

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