A report from Mother Jones explains why the Watergate era saying of “it’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up” that causes problems may not be applicable to the current Donald Trump/Russia fiasco.
First, a recap of the timeline of this scandal after the election:
1) Just days after the election, Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said: “there were contacts” between the Trump team and the Kremlin. He also said, “Obviously, we know most of the people from his entourage.” Trump’s spokeswoman Hope Hicks immediately said the campaign had “no contact with Russian officials” before the election.
2) ON January 11, 2017 at a press conference, a reporter asked Trump, “Can you stand here today, once and for all, and say that no one connected to you or your campaign had any contact with Russia leading up to or during the presidential campaign?” Trump wouldn’t respond. However, after the press conference Trump was leaving and did offer a quick “no.”
3) On Face the Nation, January 15th John Dickerson asked Mike Pence, “Did any adviser or anybody in the Trump campaign have any contact with the Russians who were trying to meddle in the election?” Pence said, “Of course not. And I think to suggest that is to give credence to some of these bizarre rumors that have swirled around the candidacy.”
4) At a White House briefing on February 14th, ABC News’ Jonathan Karl asked press secretary Sean Spicer if any Trump associates were in contact with the Russian government prior to the election. Spicer said, “There’s nothing that would conclude me that anything different has changed with respect to that time period.” He was basically saying, “no”.
Of course, you know by now that is all baloney. Trump and his team clearly had frequent and significant contact with Russian intelligence. There is overwhelming evidence of this.
The Two Main Reasons Trump Can’t Come Clean…
How can Trump and his crew concede that they were hobnobbing with a foreign government that was waging political warfare against the United States? The “full and complete debrief” that Cillizza advocates would require Trump to acknowledge that he and his team have covered up these contacts and explain why. This “full and complete debrief” could well show that Trump’s camp cozied up to a repressive government that was seeking to destabilize US politics to help Trump. It could reveal that Trump associates directly or indirectly encouraged Putin’s attack on the 2016 election.
Trump would lose all legitimacy as president were he to admit that anything of this sort transpired. There are some deeds that cannot be acknowledged. Expecting Trump and his lieutenants to confess that his campaign or business associates were networking with the Kremlin or Russian intelligence is not realistic—especially after their months of denial. (Trump also for months refused to accept the US intelligence assessment that Russia was behind the hacking and leaking aimed at Democratic targets, and when he finally bent on this point, he downplayed Moscow’s meddling in the election.) Trump cannot continue to present himself as the triumphant winner of a fair election if it turns out his own people were palling around with Moscow.
If there is one thing that Donald Trump could not do, it would be the one thing that he thinks would make him lose legitimacy as president. Of course, many of us believe he has no legitimacy in the first place.