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Other View: Why Trump's defenders can no longer excuse Russian connections

On Monday, the New York Times published a jaw-dropping story alleging that a 2016 meeting between a Russian attorney and Donald Trump’s son-in-law had been arranged to discuss dirt on Hillary Clinton that a Kremlin-connected lawyer might be willing to provide to the Trump campaign. Donald Trump Jr. had been informed via email that this compromising information was part of a Russian government operation to help his father win the presidency.

Facing an accusation like that, Donald Trump Jr. obviously didn’t want to sit around while the Times dribbled out information bolstering the speculation that the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia. He confirmed it himself, tweeting out the email chain. His response to being informed that Russia was trying to engineer the outcome of an American election, with efforts that included providing damaging information about Clinton? “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.” Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, was copied on the email.

Is this illegal? Does getting opposition research from a foreign power count as an in-kind campaign contribution from a foreign national, one that might leave Jr. and Kushner vulnerable to criminal prosecution? I have no idea; I am not a lawyer. But it hardly ceases to be a problem if this somehow manages to squeak through some hole in our federal election laws. What they did is so obviously wrong that a 10-year-old child would know better.

Social media indicates that there are some people out there still trying to defend the Trump camp’s relationship with Russia, so it bears spelling out why this is wrong.

Donald Trump is an American who ran for office under a slogan of patriotic pride and love of country. People who love their country do not help rival powers intervene in their country’s elections, even if that intervention might have the lovely side effect of getting them elected. Americans running for American office must pick sides: the will of American voters or the influence of a foreign power. (Hint: You choose your fellow Americans.)

What happened at the meeting could ultimately be irrelevant. The sin to which Donald Trump Jr. has already confessed is egregious enough. A decent person would not give an audience to a foreign power promising to help tear down the opposition. A decent person certainly would not contemplate and suggest timing of any document release — which moves this revelation beyond merely “taking a meeting you shouldn’t have” and into the territory of “a presidential campaign actively coordinating with foreign agents.”

Even Trump supporters seem to be having trouble mustering much of a defense. There was a lot of irrelevant sputtering on social media Tuesday morning. Others mounted standard complaints about leaks and sly implication.

We are now past the point of anonymous sources and innuendo. Donald Trump Jr. showed us the primary sources, pleading guilty in the court of public opinion.

The president’s supporters have already retreated to what now looks to be their last rhetorical stand: to say that this isn’t collusion, but just politics. They get creative and postulate that this isn’t unlike what Clinton’s campaign would have done.

Here’s the reality: Once you are given the details of a Russian attempt to change the outcome of an American election, there is only one patriotic thing you can do, and that is to get on the phone to the FBI and say, “I have some very disturbing news.” End of story.

But no, no, Trump’s supporters continued to insist; it’s not really collusion with a potential enemy of the U.S. They submitted close parsings of the legal definition of collusion and claimed that any other usage of this common word was wrong. They suggested that in fact Donald Trump Jr. was doing his moral duty to find evidence of criminal behavior by Clinton, though they could not explain why, if he was so concerned about her possible criminality, he did not get the relevant authorities involved.

These dogs won’t hunt. And the fact that this is where supporters have ended up after mere hours of social media badinage tells you just how weak the defense is. As a general rule, at the point where you are pretending to have a shaky command of ordinary English words, you are losing the argument. Just ask Bill Clinton how convincing anyone found his creative interpretations of the verb “to be.”

After months of suggesting that all the fears of Russian scheming to interfere in our elections were just so much hype and hysteria from a hopelessly biased media, the Trump family has now confirmed that they were not only aware of these efforts but were hoping to help. It seems wildly implausible that news of both the Russian efforts, and his own campaign’s fellow-traveling, failed to reach Donald Trump Sr.

Whether Russian efforts made a difference in the vote tally, they should certainly make a difference in America’s view of its president.

Letter: Jerome shouldn't partner with ICE

Jerome County is considering entering into a contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), wherein the federal government would lease 50 beds in the Jerome County jail.

If you are uneasy about this overreach by the federal government, know that the commissioners intend to allow the government to conduct what is described as a "public relations campaign." The federal government will use tax-payer money to sell their side of the issue. The citizens of the county who oppose the contract do not have the money or professional marketing access anywhere near equal to those of the federal government. By allowing this campaign, the county commissioners will be able to dodge individual responsibility by pointing to “the will of the constituents” which will have been engineered by the government’s ad-men. It is shocking that the commissioners would even consider this marketing scheme.

The Jerome County Commissioners express concern over the possible impact to the dairy industry. On Monday, July 3, Commissioner Morley said, ”Nothing should ever interfere with that.” No mention was made of any concern for the welfare, security and social and mental health of the members of Jerome’s Hispanic community whose labor makes the dairy industry possible in Jerome. When the county cozies up to ICE it is likely to have a chilling affect on the dairy related labor force. Once word drifts through the Hispanic workforce that ICE has a freer hand in Jerome County, many are likely to want to settle in a friendlier community.

Once ICE is allowed to function more fully within the county, there will be no way to control its activity.

The right thing to do here is to refuse to enter into any contract that gives the federal government control over any part of the Jerome County jail.

Michael Johnson, Jerome

Our View: Idaho stands its ground against feds

Idahoans have long been skeptical of federal government overreach, sometimes to the point of seeing the metaphorical black helicopters.

Now, those helicopters appear to be materializing for real and trying to land here in Idaho.

We’re talking about the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity – the task force set up by President Donald Trump to study voter fraud. The president has claimed, with no evidence, that voter fraud was widespread in the November election. In fact, reports of voter fraud or so rare, they’re practically nonexistent.

American elections in general and Idaho elections in particular are among the most honest, above-board and efficient in the world.

Never mind that in Washington, though. The commission has asked all 50 states to provide data on voters that goes well beyond basic voter information that’s public record in most states. The Trump administration wants to know parts of your Social Security number. It wants your date of birth. It wants your driver’s license. It wants your party affiliation. Presumably, so all this information can be placed in a massive federal database to expose “vulnerabilities” in the system.

Trudging over a voter’s rights in a search for fraud that just doesn’t exist is a total waste of time and a violation of your privacy, an attack on our state’s rights and an alarming example of federal overreach.

Thankfully, most states are telling the federal government to go stick it, including Idaho. Secretary of State Lawerence Denney said he plans to provide the feds with only the information that’s already available to the public under Idaho’s public records laws — the same information anyone can already obtain under state law.

Denney outlined in a statement what that includes:

“The Statewide List of Registered Electors (voter roll) is a publicly available document under Idaho Statute 34-437A(3) that includes the First, Middle, Last, Street Address, Mailing Address, county, gender, age (not DOB), telephone number if provided (optional), and party affiliation (if declared) of all currently registered electors in the state. It also includes a record of which elections that currently registered elector participated in, but does NOT include any of their voting decisions.”

On Tuesday, the state announced it was holding off providing any information, as requested by the administration, until a judge rules on a lawsuit over the feds’ request for data. Meanwhile, Idaho Democrats have filed their own suit attempting to block the state from sharing the information.

Regardless of what happens in the lawsuits, kudos to Denney for not complying with the most intrusive requests of the administration, including your exact date of birth and your actual voter registration card.

Here, Denney, a Republican, is putting his responsibilities as secretary of state — and you, the voter — ahead of his party. He and others in the GOP doing the same should be congratulated.