A child walks past a graffiti depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on the walls of a bar in the old town in Vilnius, Lithuania, May 14, 2016.
Photo by Mindaugas Kulbis/AP

How not to defend Russia’s alleged pro-Trump espionage

In recent weeks, as Republican skepticism towards U.S. intelligence has faded, and even the most rabid Donald Trump supporters began to accept Russia’s espionage operation to help the GOP candidate, Republicans have come up with a variety of creative defenses.

Some want to blame Democrats for having their documents stolen. Others have argued that the ends justify the means, and since the stolen materials were of interest, it doesn’t matter if a foreign adversary subverted American democracy.

And while the flaws in such arguments should be obvious, this new one, by way of the Dallas Morning News, is easily the worst to date.
Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Midland, is comparing the use of Mexican entertainers to energize Democratic voters to the email hacking that officials say was orchestrated by Vladimir Putin’s government.

“Harry Reid and the Democrats brought in Mexican soap opera stars, singers and entertainers who had immense influence in those communities into Las Vegas, to entertain, get out the vote and so forth,” Conaway told The Dallas Morning News this week. “Those are foreign actors, foreign people, influencing the vote in Nevada. You don’t hear the Democrats screaming and saying one word about that.”
When the local paper asked if he sees Mexican entertainers on the campaign trail and Russian agents engaged in cyber-espionage as are roughly the same thing, Conaway said, “Sure it is, it’s foreign influence.”

The comments have drawn some strong rebukes from Nevada Democrats and prominent Latino advocates, and for good reason. Unless Conaway was trying to pull an elaborate joke on the Dallas Morning News, his comparison is bizarre, even by the standards of congressional Republicans in 2017.

In fact, a Washington Post report noted that many of the Mexicans the congressman referred to are, in reality, Americans.

But Conaway’s strange rhetoric raises a point Republicans might find informative.

Conway said he’s concerned about Democrats bringing in “Mexican soap-opera stars, singers, and entertainers” to help with campaign efforts. But let’s imagine a hypothetical that did not happen.

Let’s say Mexican entertainers were concerned about the results of the American presidential campaign, so they started stealing materials from the RNC. Concerned about the potential impact of a Trump presidency, Mexicans also broke into Paul Manafort’s email account, sought out embarrassing disclosures, and then used American media outlets to help disseminate propaganda and help elect Hillary Clinton.

What do you suppose Mike Conaway and his colleagues would say about Clinton’s victory under these circumstances?