When President Trump told ABC's George Stephanopoulos that he would CONSIDER accepting opposition research from a foreign country and possibly not tell the FBI, he opened himself up to moral, legal and political implications. All three could be problematic for his 2020 prospects. Still, he could have an ace in his hand courtesy of Democrats and the media: their own hypocrisy. Let's take a deeper dive.
From the moral perspective, there is legitimate concern that President Trump's comments basically invite foreign governments to interfere in our elections. If the President of the United States is willing to take opposition research from other countries, that is something most Americans would be fully against and it essentially encourages nefarious foreign actors to get involved.
From the legal perspective, lawyers are split on whether accepting this kind of information from a foreign government actually constitutes a crime. Federal campaign finance law says that it's illegal for any foreign national to "directly or indirectly, make a contribution or a donation of money or other thing of value." The murky words being, "thing of value." Exchange of money is a clear violation but what about information? The legal community remains divided.
From the political perspective, the downside for President Trump is the following: at what point do those, 'on the fence voters', say enough is enough? Trump's base will stick with him. There will be no erosion there. Equally, the anti-Trump forces are locked and loaded. That leaves the middle. The folks who want to vote for Trump again but struggle with the following dilemma: they see a roaring economy and president who projects patriotic strength… they also see a president who drives them nuts with renegade tweets, daily drama and a reputation that is quickly turning from unconventional to presidential. Put another way, will these key swing voters simply say, 'enough is enough'? Will they choose presidential protocol and norms over results that they like?
Here's the good news for President Trump: he can still play the 'Hypocrisy Card.' He can admit he's just being honest about this while the Democrats are not. In case you are not aware, let's recap: During the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton and the Democrat National Committee paid the firm, Fusion GPS, to prepare a dossier of "opposition research" against Trump. Fusion GPS then brought in former British spy Christopher Steele to get the goods. He did that by reaching out to folks he knew in the Russian government. What happened with that dossier? It conveniently made its way into the hands of the FBI, which used it to obtain a warrant to spy on the Trump campaign! The mainstream media ignores all of that. Trust me, President Trump won't ignore it and that rallying cry could work to his advantage on the campaign trail, especially with those 'on the fence' voters.
So what's the end game? Will his recent comments to ABC News be part of a larger problem for President Trump down the road? Let's be honest. No one knows. But if we play the percentages and look at the last two or three years, my best guess is this won't have the impact on Donald Trump that it would have on past presidents. The reason now is the same one that got him elected in 2016: he's already branded himself as a rebellious oddity of a president, where abnormal actually plays to his political brand. Believe it or not, there's less downside for him because of that. Having said that, elections are won at the margins so, while comments like these most recent ones won't sink him unilaterally, it won't take much for Trump to pay a political price. He continues to roll the dice on his terms. He wouldn't have it any other way.
David Brody is Chief Political Analyst for CBN News