I have written this piece for Slate. It begins:
The news of Thursday’s indictments of two associates of Rudy Giuliani’s, who according to their lawyer (and former Trump lawyer) John Dowd, assisted Giuliani “in connection with his representation of President Trump” shows that foreign interference in American elections is a feature and not a bug of the Trump campaign and presidency. And the connections to the emerging Ukraine scandal show that the corruption runs deep in this administration.
The tale told in Thursday’s unsealed indictment is complex, and it will take a while to unravel all the parts. But here’s what we know so far. Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, two Ukrainian-born American citizens, conspired with others, including a Russian citizen and businessman, to violate campaign finance laws for both personal and political gain. Among other things, Parnas and Fruman, along with their co-conspirators, funneled foreign money through a limited liability company and between each other to violate federal campaign finance laws barring foreign contributions to American campaigns and limiting how much any American citizen can give to a federal candidate for office….
This is also just the latest of the Trump connections to foreign sources to help Trump’s political goals. There was the Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 where Russians offered some dirt on Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner. There was all the pro-Trump Russian activity on social media, the leaking of the DNC emails, and the hacking into voter registration databases in the 2016 election. There is Trump publicly inviting China to dig up dirt on Biden and pressuring the Ukrainian president to do so. And now there is this.
The ban on foreign interference in American elections is justified by an interest in American self-government. We want those with the greatest stake in American democracy to be the ones who decide who will represent us in the most important offices of the land. Trump’s actions show that he doesn’t respect this idea of American self-government and surrounds himself with people who are willing to do whatever it takes to assure his political goals.
And we can thank the Supreme Court for helping to make this sorry turn of events happen.
Shortly after the Supreme Court decided Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in 2010, President Barack Obama warned in his State of the Union that the ruling could allow for foreign nations, acting through corporations and other entities, to try to influence the outcome of U.S. elections. Justice Samuel Alito, in attendance at the SOTU, mouthed that this was “not true.”
And Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, when a lower court judge, upheld the ban on foreign spending in elections but interpreted it narrowly purportedly on First Amendment grounds to allow even more foreign influence in our elections.
Whether the latest revelations from Thursday’s indictments fit into another article of impeachment is uncertain at this early point. But what is certain is that the worry that those from the Founding Fathers to Obama have had about foreign interference is well taken. When someone like Trump without American interests is at the helm, preserving American self-government is challenging indeed