If Trump Is Innocent in Russia Scandal, Why Does He Act Guilty?

The best way to refute allegations of collusion would be for the president to condemn Russia’s exploits. Yet he won’t.

NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg and American president Donald Trump answer questions from reporters at the White House in Washington DC, April 12
NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg and American president Donald Trump answer questions from reporters at the White House in Washington DC, April 12 (NATO)

I’d like to recommend two articles on the Trump-Russia scandal.

Acting guilty

The first one is by Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo, who argues that the president’s attitude and actions are consistent with guilt:

He has not only repeatedly insisted on his innocence, which the innocent and guilty do in equal measure, but insisted that the crime itself never actually happened.

Most recently, he questioned whether the Russians hacked and leaked Democratic Party emails; one of the Russian attacks on the 2016 election everyone but Donald Trump agrees took place.

On top of this, using his unique powers as president, he has repeatedly taken actions to end the investigation into his campaign. The most blatant example was firing the FBI director with the stated goal of relieving the pressure of the Russia probe.

And then bragging about it to the Russian foreign minister and Russian ambassador to the United States in a (leaked) Oval Office conversation.

Out of his mind

The second article is by Eric Levitz of New York magazine, who argues it is impossible to explain why Trump would contest the existence of Russian interference in the election unless he is beholden to the Kremlin, out of his mind — or both:

If Trump is not in cahoots with the Russian state, then he has every incentive to accept the consensus view that Putin’s regime interfered in the 2016 election. What better way to demonstrate the absurdity of the collusion accusations than by vigorously condemning Moscow’s exploits?

Alternative explanations

Marshall and Levitz both propose alternative explanations:

One is that Trump’s ego is so bound up to his improbable election victory that anything that throws doubt on the legitimacy of that election is a grave threat to his self-esteem and must be fought with every means possible.

The other is that he genuinely believes the Democratic Party, the Obama White House and the entire intelligence and law-enforcement apparatus of the United States conspired to fabricate evidence of Russian interference in the election in order to discredit him.

So that’s our choice: Either Trump conspired with a foreign power to influence the election or he is mad.