Megan McArdle is astonishingly stupid

I’ve never had any respect for her; as someone who understands economics considerably better than she does, reading her articles have always been painful. But this is a new nadir for the woman:

On Monday, the New York Times published a jaw-dropping story, alleging that a 2016 meeting between a Russian attorney and Donald Trump’s son and son-in-law had been arranged to discuss dirt on Hillary Clinton that a Kremlin-connected lawyer might be willing to provide to the Trump campaign. Donald Trump Jr. had been informed via email that this compromising information was part of a Russian government operation to help his father win the presidency.

Facing an accusation like that, Donald Trump Jr. obviously didn’t want to sit around while the Times dribbled out information bolstering the speculation that the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia. He rushed to confirm it himself, tweeting out the email chain. His response to being informed that Russia was trying to engineer the outcome of an American election, with efforts that included providing damaging information about Clinton? “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.” Son-in-law Jared Kushner was cc’d on the email.

Is this illegal? Does getting oppo research from a foreign power count as an in-kind campaign contribution from a foreign national, one that might leave Jr. and Kushner vulnerable to criminal prosecution? I have no idea, because as we say on the interwebs, I am not a lawyer. Regardless of whether these actions turn out to be legal, it hardly ceases to be a problem if this somehow manages to squeak through some hole in our federal election laws. What they did is so obviously wrong that a 10-year-old child would know better.

Social media indicates that there are some people out there still trying to defend the Trump camp’s relationship with Russia, so it bears spelling out why this is, as the ethicists and public relations pros say, “not OK.”

Donald Trump is an American. He is an American who ran for office under a slogan of patriotic pride and love of country. People who love their country do not help rival powers intervene in their country’s elections, even if that intervention might have the lovely side effect of getting them elected. Countries gonna country, and spies gonna spy. But Americans running for American office must pick sides: the will of American voters or the influence of a foreign power. Hint: You choose your fellow Americans.

What happened at the meeting could ultimately be irrelevant. The sin to which Donald Trump Jr. has already confessed is egregious enough. A decent person would not give an audience to a foreign power promising to help tear down the opposition. A decent person certainly would not contemplate and suggest timing of any document release — which moves this revelation beyond merely “taking a meeting you shouldn’t have” and into the territory of “a presidential campaign actively coordinating with foreign agents.”

Even Trump supporters seem to be having trouble mustering much of a defense. There was a lot of irrelevant sputtering on social media this morning. One Trump apologist asked me: What about Aipac? (Unfortunately, Twitter offered no way to transmit my response: an astonished, incomprehending stare.) Others mounted standard complaints about leaks and sly implication. We are now past the point of anonymous sources and innuendo. Donald Trump Jr. showed us the primary sources, pleading guilty in the court of public opinion.

The president’s supporters have already retreated to what now looks to be their last rhetorical stand: to say that this isn’t collusion, but just politics. They get creative and postulate that this isn’t unlike what Clinton’s campaign would have done.

Here’s the reality: Once you are given the details of a Russian attempt to change the outcome of an American election, there is only one patriotic thing you can do, and that is to get on the phone to the FBI and say “I have some very disturbing news.” End of story.

Translation: Donald Trump Jr. is not a politician, did not do anything illegal, and did nothing more than what is generally known as “opposition research”. The source is totally irrelevant, as should be obvious considering the large number of US-Israeli dual nationals who would otherwise be entirely barred from any involvement in the U.S. political process.

And to claim that “Trump’s Defeated Defenders Can Only Whimper” is even more ridiculously stupid than the illogical argument she is making in the article itself. We’re not whimpering, we’re laughing at the desperation of the Never-Trumpers. Besides, we all know where tracking down the origins of this story is going to lead.

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