Jacob G. Hornberger |
There is so much I just don’t get about the anti-Russia brouhaha that has the Washington establishment, the mainstream press, the leftist movement, and even some conservatives all roiled up. To me, it looks like one giant political carnival that serves no other purpose than to give these people something new to get all upset about.
Yesterday, I received an email from a top-level leftist organization breathlessly seeking a donation from me so that it can pressure Congress into appointing an independent prosecutor to look into what is now being called Russia-gate.
I wrote back with some pointed questions. I didn’t expect an answer and I haven’t received one. I suppose they just wanted my money, no questions asked.
People are saying that Russia interfered with or meddled in America’s 2016 presidential election and that Donald Trump colluded with Russia to win the election.
But what does that mean? No one ever says. Does it mean that Russia contacted American voters with robo calls? Did it donate money to Trump’s campaign? Did it strategize with Trump and his campaign team? Did it offer campaign advice to Trump and his team?
Most important, would any of that be illegal under U.S. law?
The only thing I’ve seen in the press is that Russia supposedly hacked into an email account and disclosed to the public some communications that Clinton wanted kept secret from American voters. The notion, I think, is that when people read those communications, they decided not to vote for Clinton.
I can see understand that hacking into an email account would be illegal. But there is a simple remedy for that — a criminal indictment. To my knowledge, no indictment has been issued against Russian officials for illegally hacking into the Clinton campaign’s email accounts. Why not? Could the reason be that the FBI and Justice Department have failed to come up with evidence that would even rise to the low level of “probable cause” that Russia engaged in such conduct, much less the required burden of proof in a criminal case — “beyond a reasonable doubt”?
Did Russia really interfere with the US election?
When they say that Russia meddled or interfered with the U.S. election and that Trump colluded with Russia to win the election, they are apparently talking about something more than illegally hacking into an email account, like maybe Trump talked to Putin or other Russian officials about how to defeat Clinton.
Is it illegal to do such a thing? It might well be, I really don’t know. But every time I read an article about the brouhaha in the mainstream press, I look for some allegation of illegality and I haven’t found one yet. If there isn’t any evidence that Russia and Trump have done something illegal, as compared with politically unpopular, then what’s all that brouhaha about appointing an independent prosecutor all about? Isn’t the purpose of an independent prosecutor to go after someone who is alleged to have committed a crime rather than a politically unpopular act?
Let’s assume that Trump regularly consulted with Russian officials about how to win the campaign. Let’s assume that Russian officials gave Trump political advice because they didn’t want Clinton elected.
Is that really against the law? If so, does the law apply to other governments or just the Russian government? If Trump consulted with French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen on how to win his election, would that have been illegal? Or with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair?
Who cares who a presidential candidate consults with in the process of trying to win an election? And why should the FBI, which is purportedly about investigating criminal offenses and not political strategies, care?
When Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt promised voters that they would keep America out of war and then broke their promises to embroil America in two deadly and destructive world wars, was that illegal?
Maybe the brouhaha is about promises that Trump might have made to the Russians, such as bringing an end to the new Cold War that the U.S. national security establishment has ignited, or promising to dismantle NATO, which was the root cause of the crisis in Ukraine and the Crimea, or promising to lift the vicious sanctions against Russia, or promising to rein in the Pentagon and the CIA, which have a vested interest in keeping the Cold War going, or promising to reduce the Pentagon’s and CIA’s forever wars along with their ever-increasing budgets, or simply promising to establish peaceful and friendly relations with Russia, just as President Kennedy was doing at the time he was assassinated.
So what? Presidential candidates make promises to people all the time. Since when are campaign promises an illegal act? If a presidential candidate says, “Vote for me and I promise to reduce your taxes,” is he violating the law? When Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt promised voters that they would keep America out of war and then broke their promises to embroil America in two deadly and destructive world wars, was that illegal?
Defense Intelligence Director Flynn supposedly lied to Trump about talking to the Russian ambassador to the United States and got fired. I fully understand that lying is not good a thing. But was it a crime to talk to the Russia ambassador? I don’t think so. If it was, don’t you know that Flynn would have been indicted by now? And why should it be a crime to talk to any ambassador, including Russia’s ambassador? I don’t even think it was a crime when Flynn lied to Trump about the matter. It certainly was a crime when the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper Jr. lied to Congress about the NSA’s secret surveillance of the American people. Yet, he was never indicted and very few people in Washington got all bent out of shape that he avoided any punishment.
And am I the only person who feels a bit creeped out that Flynn’s lie got outed because of secret recordings of the Russian ambassador’s telephone conversations? What business does the U.S. government have in listening in on and recording anyone’s telephone conversations? I’ve always thought that that’s the sort of thing communist or totalitarian regimes do.
Finally, there is a judicial doctrine called “the clean hands” doctrine. It holds that when a party comes into court seeking equitable relief, it must have “clean hands.” If it has unclean hands, it will be denied relief and thrown out of court.
I realize that we are dealing with the court of public opinion rather than a judicial court, but why shouldn’t the same principle apply? What I find absolutely fascinating about the entire anti-Russia brouhaha is that the complainers hardly ever call for an end to U.S. meddling in foreign elections or foreign political affairs.
If it’s bad for Russia to be meddling in U.S. elections, then why isn’t it considered bad for the CIA and the Pentagon to be meddling in foreign elections and foreign political affairs, including those in Ukraine?
But the US does the same…
If it’s bad for Russia to be meddling in U.S. elections, then why isn’t it considered bad for the CIA and the Pentagon to be meddling in foreign elections and foreign political affairs, including those in Ukraine? And that includes clearly illegal acts on the part of the CIA and Pentagon — i.e., things like assassination, coups, bribery, kidnapping, and even invasions.
When they complain about Russia’s supposed interference with the U.S. presidential election, U.S. officials never vow to stop their own interference with elections and political affairs in foreign countries? What gives with that? That’s coming into the court of public opinion with unclean hands and refusing to vow to clean those hands. Why should anyone pay attention to someone seeking relief who has unclean hands and vowing not to clean them?
Finally, there are some who are lamenting that so much time and attention are being devoted to the anti-Russia brouhaha. Not me! I think it’s great! The more time these people spend on this meaningless circus is less time they have to devote to enacting more measures that will destroy our liberty and well-being, such as Trump’s wars on trade and immigration, the construction of his Berlin Wall along the U.S-Mexico border, and his plans to ramp up the drug war.
Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. This article was first published in The Future of Freedom Foundation and is republished here with permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.