Donald Trump walks with Rudolph Giuliani through the new Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC, on Sept. 16, 2016.Mike Segar / Reuters file
Instead of denying the facts, Trump’s defense appears to be: Yes, we did it, but there was nothing wrong with it.
The “there was nothing wrong with it” defense does triple duty: It gives Trump’s surrogates something to argue, it muddies the water and confuses people with its sheer audacity, and — most important — it pushes the United States one step closer to becoming what the Hungarian scholar Bálint Magyar calls a “mafia state” to describe the kind of autocracies we see springing up in the former Soviet Union.
The defense also gives Senate Republicans little cover to hide behind. The GOP will soon be called on to tell the American people whether it agrees that it’s OK to use the levers of government to benefit Trump personally.
After all, Giuliani openly admits that he was in Ukraine to dig up information to support Trump’s harebrained theories that the real election interference in 2016 came from Ukraine. He also admits he was trying to find evidence that the Bidens were behaving corruptly and that the hacked DNC “server” is being hidden in Ukraine.
Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post nails it when she says that Trump and Giuliani “cannot grasp that there is a difference” between conducting U.S. foreign policy for national security reasons and conducting foreign policy to benefit Trump personally.
We’ve been talking about Trump and Giuliani running a “shadow” foreign policy alongside (and often in conflict with) the official State Department foreign policy. But Masha Gessen, relying on Magyar’s work, explains that we are “using the wrong language” to describe what Giuliani was doing in Ukraine. A president, who is the chief foreign policy official in the nation, cannot, by definition, run a shadow foreign policy. What the president can do, however, is destroy the institutions that traditionally conduct foreign policy, in this case, the State Department, staffed by career diplomats.