Accused of corruption, Trump claims to be on an anti-corruption crusade

Updated

By any fair measure, Donald Trump has been at the center of so many corruption scandals, he’s generally seen as among the most corrupt presidents in American history. It’s therefore a bit ironic to hear the Republican make a spirited case that his efforts to coerce foreign governments to help his re-election campaign are really just an extension of a sincere anti-corruption crusade.

It’s clear Trump has settled on this as his principal talking point, as evidenced by this morning’s tweet.

“As President I have an obligation to end CORRUPTION, even if that means requesting the help of a foreign country or countries. It is done all the time. This has NOTHING to do with politics or a political campaign against the Bidens. This does have to do with their corruption!”

During a brief Q&A with reporters this morning, the Republican stuck to the phrasing with almost comical repetition, as if he’d been led to believe the words are a magical elixir that will make his scandals go away.

The pitch is so fanciful, it’s almost insulting. Americans are genuinely supposed to believe that Trump and his GOP cohorts, indifferent to Joe Biden’s work in Ukraine for several years, suddenly decided the former vice president is guilty of serious wrongdoing, evidence be damned. Trump and his allies came to this realization quite suddenly, and it occurred to them – coincidentally, of course – right around the time polls showed Biden leading the president in national polling by double digits.

The Republican, according to the White House’s preferred narrative, isn’t concerned at all with Biden’s 2020 bid. Heaven forbid. Trump, his own corruption notwithstanding, simply feels an obligation to root out corruption wherever he finds it. By this reasoning, our beleaguered president is actually something akin to a hero, putting electoral considerations aside in a quest for good government around the globe.

If members of Team Trump believe such a laughable story is going to derail the impeachment process, they’re likely to be disappointed.

In fact, the house of cards seemed to collapse quite suddenly this morning, when a White House reporter had the good sense to ask a question the president didn’t see coming.

CNBC’s Eamon Javers asked Trump if he’s ever sought a corruption investigation from foreign leaders targeting someone who isn’t one of his political opponents.

“You know, we would have to look,” the president said, apparently unable to think of a comparable example.

Let me save the White House staff some trouble: international corruption has never been a subject of interest to Trump. As the Washington Post reported on Monday, “A search through Trump’s past comments on corruption shows he has rarely raised concerns about corruption in foreign countries – except when it suited his political purposes.”

Imagine that.