Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The Shutdown Isn't Painless Anymore - Effects Ripple Through Economy

After 32 days of the longest partial government shutdown in US history, effects are starting to cascade throughout the US economy. Many parts of the government are operating on a limited basis or closed entirely and about 800,000 federal workers have been affected. About half of these workers have been furloughed and the other half, which ironically includes the Border Patrol and Coast Guard, are being forced to work without pay.  

The Wall Street Journal today provided a rundown of how the shutdown is affecting the economy. While many conservatives are happy about the shutdown on the theory that the government is too large and much of it needs to shut down permanently, the reality is that shutdowns and hurt businesses cost taxpayers more money than keeping the government open. Here are a few examples of why this is so:
  • ·        Partial closure of the Securities and Exchange Commission means that IPOs are delayed.
  • ·        Business loans from the Small Business Administration are not being approved.
  • ·        Approval of mergers by the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department has been slowed.
  • ·        The Food and Drug Administration has cut back inspections of food processing facilities. Unpaid inspectors are have resumed inspections of high-risk products such as fruits, vegetables, seafood, and dairy products.
  • ·        Businesses cannot obtain approval for new alcoholic beverages from the FDA.
  • ·        The FDA will run out of money for pharmaceutical approvals in early February, potentially delaying new cancer treatments.
  • ·        Generation of new tax identification numbers has been delayed by the IRS, which is holding up some business deals. The IRS is understaffed during the shutdown, making it difficult for tax preparers to be able to determine if paperwork has been received.  
  • ·        The Consumer Product Safety Commission is not supporting companies issuing product recalls. The CPSC typically assists in spreading the word about the recall and monitoring its progress. Companies that issue recalls without the CPSC could be forced to repeat the process again later.
  • ·        Lockheed Martin said that government furloughs may delay the approvals needed for satellite launches.
  • ·        The National Transportation Safety Board has suspended all investigations into aviation and rail accidents.
  • ·        Government contractors involved in highway and bridge construction are not getting the money to complete their work. Some defense contractors are also not being paid.
  • ·        Airline revenues are expected to fall based on government travel cancellations. The shutdown has reportedly cost Delta Air Lines $25 million already.

Just this morning, the shutdown affected me as well. In my job as a professional pilot, I have to get a flight physical from an FAA-designated Aviation Medical Examiner. Normally, this is not a problem, but last year I had skin cancer. The stage 1 melanoma was completely removed and seemed to meet FAA guidelines for office issuance of a medical certificate, but the AME had some additional questions. Unfortunately, the FAA’s aeromedical offices at their headquarters in Oklahoma City were closed and the workers furloughed due to the shutdown. Currently, the issue is unresolved and if the AME cannot be satisfied by the end of this month, I may be going without paychecks myself and my company will be without the services of one of its pilots.

Far from being painless, the White House Council of Economic Advisors admitted last week that the shutdown was more than twice as expensive as had been estimated. President Trump’s economic team originally forecast that the shutdown would reduce economic growth by 0.1 percentage points every two weeks. The new estimate is that economic growth will slow by 0.13 points each week.

Barron’s wrote last week that the shutdown had already cost more than the entire price tag for President Trump’s wall. More than $5 billion of taxpayer money may as well have been set on fire or flushed down some colossal government toilet because a large part of it will go to pay back wages for furloughed government employees and services that the taxpayers will never receive.

Through it all, both President Trump and Speaker Nancy Pelosi are standing firm. The president made a pitch to Democrats over the weekend, offering a three-year extension of DACA in exchange for wall funding. Democrats refused the deal.

As the US economy slows, the leaders of both parties seem to be engaged in a game of budgetary chicken, although the situation could also be likened to an economic suicide pact. The economic effects of the shutdown are combining with President Trump’s tariff war to overcome the positive effects of the tax reform. Forbes predicted that if the shutdown lasts into February and March, it is possible that the Trump Administration could find itself saddled with a negative growth rate for the first quarter. This would be the first quarter of negative growth since 2014 and a far cry from President Trump’s promise of six percent growth.

Originally published on The Resurgent


Monday, January 21, 2019

Martin Luther King’s Ultimate Victory

As we remember the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. today, we can celebrate the vast changes that our country has undergone in the years since his murder in Memphis in 1968. Despite racial incidents in recent years, such as the 2017 Charlottesville riots and the several race riots under President Obama, many of us who are under the age of 50 really have very little concept of just how far America has come in just a few short decades.

I realize that many Americans still feel that the United States is filled with racism and bigotry but that it has merely been driven underground. I don’t mean to disregard their experience and concerns, but driving racism underground is progress in a country where racism used to not only be above ground but institutionalized as both African slavery and later as Jim Crow laws.

On the other hand, many white Americans, myself included, not only are not aware of what many minority members go through on a daily basis, we cannot fully comprehend how they feel when racism rears its ugly head. Many conservatives scoff at the idea of modern racism, but when Republican stalwarts like Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) say that racism still exists, it is harder to ignore.

As a child of the early 70s, I just missed the civil rights era. As a native Georgian, I was closer to the struggle for racial equality in terms of geography than in time. I grew up about 20 miles from the bridge on Ga. Hwy. 172 that crosses over the Broad River near Athens where one of the most infamous incidents of the civil rights struggle occurred. Later, as a college student at the University of Georgia, I would drive across the bridge and past the historical marker that memorialized the murder of Lt. Col. Lemuel Penn, a decorated black veteran of WWII who made the mistake of driving past a trio of Klansmen in Athens.

Seven years before I was born, the racists followed the car driven by Penn and two other army officers, catching up to them about 20 miles outside of Athens. The Klansmen fired shotguns into Penn’s car and it careened into a bridge abutment. One of the blasts killed Lt. Col. Penn. After the colonel’s murderers were arrested, an all-white jury in Madison County found them not guilty. In the first case of its kind, Penn’s murderers were retried under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on federal charges of violating Penn’s civil rights by murdering him. Two were found guilty and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

What a difference a decade makes. When I started elementary school, I went to a rural school where over the half the class was black. I didn’t know until a long time afterward that if I had been a few years older I would have been in a segregated classroom of white kids. I remember my black schoolmates from those days fondly. Black and white got along well. We didn’t know that we shouldn’t.

But things weren’t totally colorblind. The races usually remained separate outside of school. I remember being taught that we should be friendly and respectful to people of other races, but that we shouldn’t date or marry them because of cultural differences.

In my job as a pilot, I’ve had the opportunity to travel the country and visit many other places where the struggle for civil rights took place. I’ve sat at a replica of the whites-only lunch counter in Wichita where activists staged a sit-in in 1958. I’ve visited the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham where KKK terrorists planted a bomb in 1963 that killed four young black girls who were going to Sunday School. I’ve stood on the National Mall where Rev. King delivered his “I Have A Dream Speech,” telling America that he foresaw a day when “little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”

Fast forward 40 years to when I had my own children. I am proud to say that the new generation has fulfilled Rev. King’s dream. I thought of King’s words when my daughter’s best friend was a little black girl who came to play at our house. My daughter went to visit her friend’s home as well. Likewise, one of my son’s good friends was a boy of Mexican descent whose parents barely spoke English. I think that my children are almost literally colorblind when it comes to race because when I ask them to describe their friends, they seldom mention skin color.

My children are probably less prejudiced than I was at their ages, but I’ve changed as well. I realized years ago that racism was inconsistent with my Bible which teaches me that all are equal in Christ. If people can’t stand to be around people of other races on earth, what will they do in Heaven where believers all colors and creeds will spend eternity together? It is sadly ironic that the most segregated time in America is Sunday morning.

When it comes to love and marriage, I teach my children, as Rev. King said, to prioritize the content of the character over the color of skin. I would prefer that my children marry good, respectable, loving people of other races than “white trash.” As U2 sang, “I believe in the kingdom come when all the colors will bleed into one.”

It is disturbing that a number of Republicans seem to be turning their backs on the “proposition that all men are created equal.” Most recently the ironically-named Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) defended white nationalism and white supremacy and was rightfully censured by his colleagues. President Trump called the participants in the Charlottesville riots “very fine people” even though they were alt-right white nationalists. The discussion of race riots, police killings of black men, and illegal immigration often has racial overtones, such as the fake pictures of Trayvon Martin that circulated on the internet and the false claims about an illegal immigrant crime wave. I recently had a conversation on Twitter with a conservative Christian Trump supporter who denied that the Bible condemned white supremacy. [DT1] [DT2] 

One of the most disturbing racial problems in recent years is the conservative response to the killing of Philando Castile, a concealed carry permit holder who was shot and killed by a police officer in Minnesota in 2016. Gun activists and the NRA were largely silent despite the disturbing nature of Castile’s death. At the time, many were quick to dismiss Castile, a school cafeteria manager, as a drug dealer or gang member. I have to ask myself if the reaction would have been the same if Castile had been white. If I’m honest, I have to say “no.”

Things aren’t perfect in America, but they have improved by an astronomical degree since Martin Luther King’s time. Whatever you think of King, a flawed man with human failings (but not a communist), the bottom line is that King was responsible for the largely peaceful transition from an American racial caste system to one of the most racially equal societies on the planet, at least in terms of the law.

But two centuries of racial oppression are not easily undone. While my generation did not see segregation ourselves, I have no doubt that black kids grew up hearing stories from their parents and grandparents about the bad old days of segregation just like I grew up hearing about my ancestors who fought for the Confederacy. It should be understandable that some blacks are still sensitive about slavery and segregation.  

It isn’t necessary to be politically correct to be respectful of other races. Being politically incorrect does not mean being impolite or bigoted. The condemnation of Steve King is a step in the right direction for a party that is hemorrhaging minority voters, but ultimately the Republicans should condemn the bigots in their midst because it is the right thing to do, not because it will help them at the polls.

Republicans will claim King as one of their own today, but the modern GOP shouldn’t defend itself by pointing to the actions of past Republicans such as Abraham Lincoln or the 1960s Republicans who helped to pass the Voting Rights Act. Instead, they should recall the words of President Reagan who addressed those “who still adhere to senseless racism and religious prejudice” in 1981.

“To those individuals who persist in such hateful behavior,” Reagan said, “if I were speaking to them instead of to you, I would say to them, 'You are the ones who are out of step with our society. You are the ones who willfully violate the meaning of the dream that is America. And this country, because of what it stands for, will not stand for your conduct.’”

Racism today is so socially unacceptable that even most racists won’t admit that they are racists. That is Martin Luther King’s ultimate victory.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Why Trump’s DACA Offer Failed And What He Should Do Next

President Donald Trump has proposed a compromise offer to end the shutdown impasse and Democrats seem to have rejected it out of hand. While Trump’s deal has been lauded by many Republicans, in reality, it is not as magnanimous as it seems. Even though Trump’s offer is a step in the right direction, it is completely understandable why Democrats have rejected the offer.

Trump’s offer includes $5.7 billion for a wall that would not stretch the full length of the border but be placed in strategic locations. Construction would include the 115 miles now under construction or under contract, and 230 more miles this year. In exchange, the president offered Democrats three years of relief for 700,000 DACA participants. This would include the ability to get work permits, Social Security numbers and protection from deportation.

While the border barrier part of the offer seems fair, the DACA portion is problematic. Essentially what Trump is saying is that if you give me everything I want, I’ll give you something slightly better than the status quo for three years and, at that point, we are back to square one. Trump gets something permanent and the Democrats get something temporary.

A big part of the problem is that Speaker Pelosi knows that Congress is unlikely to fix the immigration problem three years from now. Congress has neglected to act on illegal immigration since 2007, largely because Republicans oppose anything that can be termed “amnesty,” which in their view means “anything other than deportation of all illegals.”

If President Trump wins the 2020 election and Republicans retain control of the Senate, a DACA fix would be dead on arrival. Some radical Republicans oppose a pathway to legalization under any circumstance as much as radical Democrats oppose a wall under any circumstances.

Prospects for a standalone DACA deal look bleak even if Democrats have a good year in 2020. If they win the Senate but not the White House, President Trump can veto the bill. If Democrats win both the presidency and the Senate, Republicans will most likely retain enough votes to filibuster a Democrat immigration bill.

For years now, I have held the opinion that the only way to solve the problem of illegal immigration is with a comprehensive reform bill. Both sides want different things and neither has enough votes to pass their own priorities. Both sides do have enough votes to block the other, however, so the result is a stalemate. There are only two possible solutions: Either wait until your party controls the presidency, the House, and has a supermajority in the Senate or else meet in the middle with a compromise.

President Trump is on the right track with his offer, but there are several elements that a successful bill must include. To minimize the effect of the law of unintended consequences as well as to get the necessary votes to pass, a compromise bill must contain:
·        Border security with triggers to make sure that a secure border is in place before the pathway to legalization. Security should go beyond a wall in select areas and include sensors to detect tunnels as well as an increased Border Patrol presence.
·        In exchange, Democrats get a pathway to legalization, not just for DACA participants, but for illegals who reside in the US and hold productive jobs with no record of serious or violent crimes. (Yes, illegal immigration is a crime, but it’s a crime in the same way that speeding is a crime. Improper entry by an alien is a civil infraction punishable by a $50 fine.) Legalization should be on a case-by-case basis with priority toward illegals who benefit their community and the US economy.
·        In exchange for leniency, penalties need to be severe enough to deter future illegal immigrants. Illegal immigration should be a felony punishable by prison time followed by mandatory deportation.
·        E-verify should be implemented to require businesses to hire legal immigrants only. Penalties should be stiff for those who knowingly violate the law.
·        In exchange for stronger penalties, the US needs to revamp current immigration law to make it easier for migrants to legally enter the country to work for US employers and then return home. There should be a guest worker program to avoid a labor shortage when the flow of illegal migrants is cut off.
·        The immigration process for permanent immigrants also needs to be reformed. Currently, the US educates foreign students in our colleges and then denies them green cards to work for our companies. This makes no sense and is actually encouraging companies to move outside the US. Decades-long waits for legal immigration encourage illegal immigration and need to be fixed.
·        Finally, visa overstays make up two-thirds of new illegal aliens. A system to track foreigners here on visas needs to be put into place.

Even with such a sweet deal, Democrats might not take President Trump up on his offer. After two years of name-calling and goading the opposition party, Trump may have so poisoned the well that no deal is possible. However, if Democrats turn down a total and fair reform of the immigration system, they will have to answer to their own base.

Ironically, Donald Trump might be the president who could deliver Republican votes for comprehensive immigration reform. In the same way that only Nixon could go to China, Trump’s hardline reputation on immigration and his devoted following from his base could inspire Republicans to support a comprehensive bill where they would desert most traditional Republicans. However, there is a significant risk for Trump that his base would fracture over what they perceive as amnesty. Anne Coulter is Exhibit A for this possibility.

Despite the risks for Trump, he obviously needs to sweeten the pot to bring Democrats on board. Doing so will require significant and permanent concessions from the GOP. That is the only way that a wall is going to happen.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Saturday, January 19, 2019

This Republican Governor May Be The First To Challenge Trump In 2020

President Trump might not be in imminent danger of impeachment after the implosion of the BuzzFeed report but there are still plenty of reasons that he might not be the best candidate to carry the Republican banner in 2020. Although Trump is currently an almost prohibitive favorite to win the Republican nomination two years from now, the news cycle in the Age of Trump moves quickly and by primary time it may be apparent to many Republicans that another choice is preferable. The problem is that unless other candidates start preparing now, there will be no one ready to take up the mantle if the Trump presidency implodes.

This week we saw the first signs that a Republican challenger might be willing to risk President Trump’s ire with a 2020 campaign. The prospective candidate is Larry Hogan, the Republican governor of Maryland.

Hogan is rated as America’s second-most popular governor with a 67 percent approval rating. Only Massachusetts’ Charlie Baker, another blue state Republican, is rated higher. Hogan has been firing warning shots at President Trump. Politico reports that Hogan has been meeting with prominent Never Trump Republicans, implicitly attacking Trump in speeches, and is planning a trip to Iowa in March.

As an example, when Hogan delivered his second inaugural address last Wednesday, he didn’t mention Trump by name but did attack the “debilitating politics” of Washington. He also noted that his father, Rep. Lawrence Hogan, was the first Republican congressman to support the removal of Richard Nixon, saying, “Despite tremendous political pressure, he put aside partisanship and answered the demands of his conscience to do what he thought was the right thing for the nation that he loved.”

Baltimore Magazine describes Hogan as a fiscal conservative who ascended to power by attacks on Gov Martin O’Malley, who non-Marylanders might remember as one of the Democratic candidates in 2016 who was not Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. Hogan dubbed his predecessor “Owe Malley” for his tax and fee increases and singled out his storm water management fee for ridicule as the “Rain Tax.”

Hogan took office in 2015 and his tax and regulatory reforms have boosted the Maryland economy. That accounts for part of his popularity. Another factor in his popularity is his strategy of avoiding social issues that polarize voters.  Although a pro-life Catholic, Hogan says he considers abortion and same-sex marriage to be settled issues.

Many Republicans will also have a problem with Hogan’s stance on guns. O’Malley passed new gun control laws after the Sandy Hook massacre and Hogan kept his campaign promise not to touch those laws. Additionally, he has supported a “red flag” law that would allow judges to force gun owners to temporarily surrender their weapons if there is proof that they are a danger to themselves or others. While these positions would not be popular with Republicans on the national level, they have worked well in heavily Democratic Maryland.

Another factor in Hogan’s popularity is his triumph over cancer. Several months into his first term, not long after ordering the National Guard into Baltimore during the riots following the death of Freddie Gray at the hands of police, Hogan was diagnosed with an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He stayed on the job even as he underwent treatment, and his courage and good humor as he faced the disease helped to make him a household name in Maryland. His bald head is a remnant of his chemotherapy.

So far, Hogan has not made any explicit move toward formalizing a 2020 candidacy, but the Trump campaign is taking notice. It would be difficult to escape the national party’s attention since Hogan’s center of power in Baltimore is less than 50 miles from Washington, D.C. As a result, Hogan is playing it cagey with his aides denying that he has any interest in running for president.

It remains to be seen whether Hogan or any other Republicans will step up to challenge Donald Trump for the 2020 nomination. Right now the Republican hopefuls are walking a tightrope between the president’s overwhelming popularity within the GOP and the looming possibility that Trump will be too unpopular to win the general election.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Friday, January 18, 2019

Master Troll Trump Leaves Pelosi's Luggage In Capitol Hallway

Whatever else you can say about Donald Trump, the man is a master troll and an expert at getting under people’s skin. Mr. Trump may not know much about the intricacies of policy, but he does know how to add insult to injury. He did exactly that this morning when the luggage from Speaker Pelosi’s canceled congressional junket was unceremoniously returned to the speaker’s office in Congress.

The Washington Free Beacon published a photo of a luggage cart marked “military liason [sic]” that was tagged “CODEL Pelosi.” The cart is sitting unattended in a hallway that is apparently outside her congressional office.  The Beacon reports that the photo was forwarded to them by an unnamed “snap-happy tipster.”

At least eight bags are piled on the luggage cart ranging from medium size rollaboard suitcases to small, soft-sided bags. The Beacon notes drily, “It's unclear whether all the luggage belonged to Pelosi.”

The personal tit-for-tat amid the larger showdown began when Pelosi notified President Trump on Wednesday that the annual State of the Union address should be postponed until after the government was reopened. The president held his return fire until Thursday afternoon, about an hour before Pelosi’s delegation was scheduled to depart for a trip to meet with NATO commanders in Brussels, Belgium and then continue to Afghanistan to visit US troops. Politico reports that the delegation was actually on board the bus when they learned that the trip was off.

Just prior to the departure of the Air Force bus taking Pelosi and her entourage to Joint Base Andrews to board a military flight to Europe, the Trump Administration posted a letter to Twitter that notified Pelosi that the trip had been “postponed” until after the shutdown.

“Obviously, if you would like to make your journey by flying commercial, that would certainly be your prerogative,” said the letter signed by President Trump, who himself took a military flight to Iraq shortly after the shutdown began.  

While President Trump’s base is celebrating Pelosi’s embarrassing comeuppance, I have to wonder if the childish behavior of leaders on both sides of the aisle is good for the country. Of course, it is not. I suspect that most voters look at both Pelosi and Trump with embarrassment themselves. Ultimately, the hardball tactics of both leaders serve only to further deepen and cement our national divide.

On a tactical level, angering and embarrassing Speaker Pelosi is unlikely to achieve Trump’s goal of funding a wall for the southern border. Making people angry makes it less likely that they will give in to your requests.

There are two aphorisms that may be applicable for President Trump and the current budget confrontation. It may be too late for the first, the notion that “It’s easier to catch flies with honey than vinegar.” The second is still very apropos, however, and that is the warning that “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”

Meanwhile, Day 27 of the shutdown passed and it seems that the country is further away than ever from having a functional government.

Originally pubished on The Resurgent

BuzzFeed: Trump Directed Cohen To Commit Perjury

Last night, BuzzFeed dropped a bombshell that two law enforcement sources report that the federal government has evidence that President Trump directed his former lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress. The sources also report that Trump directed Cohen to set up a personal meeting with Vladimir Putin regarding the Moscow Trump Tower deal during the campaign, even as he denied having business dealings with Russia.

The allegations center around the Moscow Trump Tower. In previous court filings associated with Michael Cohen’s guilty plea, Special Counsel Mueller has noted that Cohen falsely claimed the project was ended in January 2016 in an attempt to “minimize links between the Moscow Project and Individual 1 in hopes of limiting the ongoing Russia investigations.” Individual 1 is understood to be Donald Trump. Evidence has shown that Trump’s dealings with Russia on the Moscow project lasted until June 2016, well into the campaign.

Buzzfeed says that the two sources told them that investigators have evidence that Trump personally directed Cohen to lie and make claims that the Trump Tower negotiations ended much earlier than they did in an effort to cover up Trump’s contacts with Russia during the 2016 campaign. Per the report, the evidence against Trump includes the testimony  of “multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents.”

Donald Trump is well known for his casual relationship with the truth. Yesterday we noted the evolution in Team Trump’s denials of the Russian collusion story. The Trump Administration line has gone from blanket denials to carefully parsed statements that no laws were broken by the president after the blanket denials were shown to be false. Thus far, however, there has been no direct link between Donald Trump and Russian contacts.

While previous allegations about Donald Trump’s involvement fell short of criminal activity, if there is evidence that the president directed Cohen to lie about the Moscow deal, it would implicate Trump in a felony. Micheal Cohen pled guilty last November to a charge of making false statements to Congress. The charge was brought by the Special Counsel’s office and it was reported at the time that Cohen was cooperating with Mueller. If President Trump directed Cohen to lie under oath, he would be guilty of suborning perjury.

The big question is whether the Buzzfeed report is accurate and the government has evidence that Donald Trump instructed Cohen to lie to Congress. Mueller has not shown his cards yet, but we do know that the FBI raided Cohen’s office in April 2018. Three months later, several recordings of Trump and Cohen meeting together emerged. The recordings apparently were made by Cohen and were part of the material seized by the FBI. If Cohen was in possession of emails, text messages, or other written communications from Trump directing him to break the law in an effort to cover up his dealings with Russia, those communications are almost certainly in the possession of the FBI as well.

However, as Erick Erickson pointed out this morning, BuzzFeed is a less than credible outlet. So far, no other outlets have corroborated the story and  John Santucci, senior editorial producer for ABC News, tweeted that he is unaware of the Mueller team interviewing anyone within the Trump Organization. Some BuzzFeed reporting, such as the pee tape story, has not been supported by evidence while other stories, such as the revelation that the Moscow Trump Tower dealings continued during the election, have ultimately been proven true.

Many conservative pundits note that if the allegations against Trump are proven true, it dramatically increases the chances of impeachment. Suborning perjury is a charge that even most Republicans would be hard-pressed to overlook.

At the very least, the story will give new life to the numerous investigations into the Trump campaign’s dealings with Russia and make it harder for the president to claim that collusion is “fake news.” As we grow close to Groundhog Day, the Russia investigation will continue to dog President Trump and we can expect more than another six weeks of investigations and hearings.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Giuliani Open To Possibility That Members Of Trump Campaign Could Have Colluded With Russia

In what may be one of the largest reversals of the Trump Administration, President Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, admitted that it is possible that there was collusion between some members of the Trump campaign and the Russian government. While Giuliani denies that his position on collusion has changed, eight months ago he called the idea of Russian collusion “fake news.” Mr. Giuliani continues to deny that Donald Trump colluded with Russia in any way that broke the law.

Giuliani’s most recent comments came in an interview with CNN on Wednesday when he told Chris Cuomo, “I never said there was no collusion between the campaign. Or between people in the campaign. I have no idea.”

“I said the President of the United States,” Giuliani added. “There is not a single bit of evidence the President of the United States committed the only crime you can commit here, conspiring with the Russians to hack the DNC.”

When Cuomo asked if sharing polling data with the Russians would have constituted collusion, Giuliani answered, “Donald Trump wasn't giving polling data to anyone. He did not know about it until it was revealed a few weeks ago in an article.”

The Trump campaign’s position on collusion has evolved over the past few years. Initially, Team Trump issued specific denials that any collusion occurred between members of the campaign and the Russians, but those denials have been walked back and limited in subsequent public statements after numerous contacts were revealed. In November 2016, Hope Hicks responded to statement by Vladimir Putin’s spokesman that claimed that Russian experts had been in contact with Trump’s campaign staff by saying, “It never happened. There was no communication between the campaign and any foreign entity during the campaign.”

In February 2017, President Trump said, I have nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with does.” He added, “How many times do I have to answer this question? Russia is a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia.”

At the same time, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “This is a nonstory because to the best of our knowledge, no contacts took place, so it’s hard to make a comment on something that never happened.”

In March 2017, Donald Trump, Jr. said, “Did I meet with people that were Russian? I’m sure, I’m sure I did. But none that were set up. None that I can think of at the moment. And certainly, none that I was representing the campaign in any way, shape or form.”

Yet in July 2017, details of a pre-planned meeting at Trump Tower with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya in June 2016 were leaked. Initially, Trump, Jr. claimed that the meeting was about adoption and said that “ it was not a campaign issue at that time and there was no follow-up.”

The next day that claim evolved as well when Trump, Jr. admitted, “The woman [Veselnitskaya] stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Mrs. Clinton. Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information.”

In May 2018, Rudy Giuliani appeared on The Sean Hannity Show and said, “Russian collusion is total fake news.” He added, “Mueller owes us a report saying Russian collusion means nothing. It didn’t happen.”

Since the interview with Hannity, Giuliani’s claim has evolved as well. In July 2018, he echoed similar claims from other Trump Administration officials, telling CNN that “collusion is not a crime.” While it’s true that there is no legal definition of “collusion,” specific charges that could relate to collusion include conspiracy, fraud, or receiving stolen information such as the hacked data from the DNC.

While it isn’t clear that anyone in the Trump campaign committed a crime, it is clear that the once-strong denials of any contact at all between Russians and the campaign have been proven false and the denials from Team Trump are getting weaker. The Trump Administration and the president’s lawyers continue to deny that Donald Trump had any contacts with the Russians, but the new evolution on collusion by Mr. Giuliani leaves open the possibility that other members of the Trump campaign could have had illegal contacts with the Russian government, either with or without the president’s knowledge.

The continual evolution on Russia along with the evidence that early statements were not true provides ample reason that the Mueller investigation should be continued. It’s possible that no laws were broken and it is also possible that the president was unaware if there was illegal activity on his behalf by members of his campaign. However, the constant evolution of the story being told by Team Trump makes the president look like he has something to hide, even if he does not. The bottom line is that the American people have the right to know if members of the Trump campaign conspired with the Russian government.  

Originally published on The Resurgent