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Media hysteria over Trump comments on opposition research from foreigners is totally disingenuous

Danielle Ryan
Danielle Ryan
is an Irish freelance writer based in Dublin. Her work has appeared in Salon, The Nation, Rethinking Russia, teleSUR, RBTH, The Calvert Journal and others. Follow her on Twitter @DanielleRyanJ
Media hysteria over Trump comments on opposition research from foreigners is totally disingenuous
Relentless Russiagaters and media pundits are working themselves into a tizzy over Donald Trump's admission that he would take information on his 2020 opponent from a foreign citizen — but the outrage is fake and disingenuous.

Trump told ABC News reporter George Stephanopoulos on Wednesday that he would want to hear information offered to him by a foreigner about his election opponent and said that gathering opposition research is common practice.

"Somebody comes up and says hey, I have information on your opponent. Do you call the FBI?” Trump asked Stephanopoulos, who predictably responded: "If it's coming from Russia, you do."

The boot-licking Stephanopoulos then told Trump that the “FBI director says” the bureau should be called in those situations. Trump responded plainly: “The FBI director is wrong.” He then argued that there is “nothing wrong with listening” and said if somebody called him from another country — Norway, for example — claiming to have information on his opponent, he would “want to hear it.” Asked by the pious Stephanopoulos if he was okay with “that kind of interference” in US elections, Trump said it’s “not an interference, they have information – I think I'd take it.”

Democrats have entered full-on meltdown mode over the remarks. Trump has been accused of endorsing “treasonous behavior” and being “un-American, unpatriotic, and unbelievable.” But he is 100 percent correct. Shocking as this may be to his opponents, the fact that Trump is awful in myriad other ways does not preclude him from being right occasionally. 

In the cut-throat world of American politics, no one in their right mind could possibly believe that most (if not all) candidates, would turn down an opportunity to bury their opponent, just because the damaging information happened to come from a foreign citizen. The idea that they would is quite simply laughable.

Stephanopoulos and his dishonest ilk know this full well, but their desperation to have Trump impeached over imaginary, Russia-related crimes knows no bounds and seems to have robbed them of a significant portion of their brain function over the last three years.

Time for a pop quiz: If a Russian citizen told George Stephanopoulos that he has documented proof that Trump did ‘X, Y or Z’ bad thing, would George Stephanopoulos: A.) immediately run to the FBI, or B.) instantly report the information on ABC and do fact-checking later?

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Bonus question: If Stephanopoulos took the information, rigorously verified it and only then reported it on ABC, would Stephanopoulos be, A.) committing treason, or B.) doing his job? Technically, that kind of thing could really ‘influence an election’ and ‘sow discord’ etc., so maybe this kind of journalism should be outlawed, too — just to be on the safe side.

If we are talking about opposition research, we are really going to need to talk about the infamous dossier compiled by Christopher Streele. Yes, the one with all the unverified claims about pee-tapes and whatnot. That was a piece of opposition research, even if it happened to be packed full of nonsense.

One easy way to tell that the latest outrage at Trump is entirely faked, is to consider the media’s reaction to Hillary Clinton’s campaign part-financing that dossier — and by “reaction” I mean to say, their total lack of reaction.

Recall that Americans were told to believe in the credibility of the Steele dossier because the British ex-spy had “top-level” sources within Russian officialdom. This means the information Clinton’s oppo-researcher gathered on Trump — her opponent — came from a “foreign government.” Did Clinton engage in treasonous behavior by paying for such research? Following the logic mainstream reporters are currently promoting, she must have.

Journalists would do well to remember that not only did Clinton obtain allegedly compromising information on Trump from a foreign government, her camp then attempted to delegitimize the results of the election using that very unverified information. Journalists probably won’t want to go there, however, since they were leading that charge themselves.

Some Russiagaters on Twitter have hilariously attempted to argue that receiving information from a foreign source is only an issue if a citizen from a “hostile” country is the one doing the offering. Steele, they say, is fine because he is British — and Brits are good.

One wonders, will that be written into any new laws that spring from this manufactured crisis? Obtaining damaging information on your opponent is only okay if the information comes from an ally? Who is to say the next Christopher Steele couldn’t be compromised by Russia or China? How would the recipient know? What if the informant was an American with dual citizenship? It’s a minefield.

Current US law defines it as illegal for a foreign national to make a financial contribution "or other thing of value" in connection with an election. In his report on disproven "collusion" between the Trump campaign and Russia, Robert Mueller wrote that “no judicial decision has treated the voluntary provision of uncompensated opposition research or similar information as a thing of value that could amount to a contribution under campaign-finance law.”

He then went on to say that he did not bring charges against members of the Trump team in relation to the 2016 Trump tower meeting (in which a Russian citizen promised to deliver dirt on Clinton) because the First Amendment could "pose constraints" on a prosecution. It appears then, that it is not illegal (yet) to receive a piece of information about one's political opponent from a person who just so happens to be a citizen of a foreign country.

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Media outrage over “foreign interference” and “influence” in American elections has and will always be utterly dishonest; not only because these liars habitually pick and choose which countries are allowed to do the influencing — but because there is no country more well-versed in the art of foreign interference than the United States itself.

It’s not as if there is a shortage of avenues from which the Democrats and the media could legitimately attack Trump in 2020. They could highlight his gifting of tax-cuts to the rich, while attempting to redefine“poverty.” They could aggressively question his administration’s persecution of Julian Assange. They could criticize his war-mongering against Iran and attempted coups in Venezuela.

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Of course, it would be quite difficult for them to turn their attention to those issues, since they have been fully supportive of most of them. In fact, it seems to be his boorish personality they hate more than anything. So, unable to focus their attention on what actually matters, it looks like we’re in for another few years of manufactured drama over fake Russia-related conspiracies.

A final question for outraged Russiagaters and journalists: If Joe Biden becomes the Democratic nominee in 2020 and a Russian citizen — government official otherwise —provides a crucial piece of information which could clinch the election for him and lead to Trump’s downfall, would you really care?

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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