There’s long been a tendency to roll your eyes whenever Donald Trump breaks a rule of politics. After all, he spent four years doing it as president – and democracy is (mostly) still standing. And he’s not in office anymore, so what he says on any given subject is less important than it was two years ago.
That attitude, I should note, is totally understandable as a mental health coping tactic. It’s also deeply misguided. Trump remains the single most powerful figure in the Republican Party and is widely seen as a heavy favorite for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination if he decides to run.
All of which brings me to something Trump said in an interview with the conservative TV show JustTheNews published Tuesday.
“I would think [Russian President Vladimir] Putin would know the answer to that,” Trump said, while pushing an unproven claim about Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Russia. “I think he should release it. I think we should know that answer.”
Which, just in case you missed it, amounts to this: Trump is openly asking an adversarial world power to help him dig up dirt on the son of the current President of the United States.
This, of course, isn’t the first time that Trump has asked Russia for help in digging dirt on his political opponents.
In July 2016, Trump said this of emails sent by Hillary Clinton during her time as secretary of state: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing, I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” (Around that same time, an indictment from the Department of Justice stated that Russian intelligence operatives attempted to gain access to Clinton’s accounts.)
Now, imagine for just a minute, if any other politician did anything remotely like this: Asking on more than one occasion for an adversary to help find damaging information about a political opponent. (And let’s not forget this important context: We know Russia actively meddled in the 2016 election to help Trump and hurt Clinton.)
Such a request by a Democrat about a Republican president would bring cascades of condemnations, with some within the GOP likely suggesting that the request was unpatriotic, right? Right.
But Trump has so moved the goalposts of acceptable conduct as it relates to what he says and does that the chances of his appeal to Russia to find dirt on Hunter Biden barely makes a ripple in the political world.
This is both wrong and dangerous. Trump’s four years in office, culminating with the US Capitol riot on January 6, 2021, reveal that simply rolling your eyes – or as so many Republicans have done (and continue to do), sticking your head in the sand – has real-world consequences.
And those consequences mean that you can’t just say: “That’s just Trump being Trump.” Because “Trump being Trump” has gotten us to where we are right now, which is a very dangerous place.