On Donald Trump and the rule of law, cont'd

|The Volokh Conspiracy |


Donald Trump at Trump Doral golf course in Miami on Wednesday. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

[UPDATE—7-27-16 Lots of commenters took me to task for not realizing that this was all just a lame joke. A joke?! Interesting that none of his defenders interpreted it as just a joke. . . .

The scariest part of this whole episode is not that Trump may be in cahoots with the Russians (though he might be)—or that he seems to have invited the intelligence services of a hostile foreign power to intervene (illegally) in a US election. It's that he didn't even realize, because he hasn't the faintest idea what it means to be President of the United States, that his remark would not be taken as a "joke," and that it would send shock waves around the world. Was "the wall" just a joke, too? The deportation of Muslims? The backing away from our NATO commitments? His whole candidacy is something of a joke, but (like his 'joke' about the Russians) it's not funny at all. It is terrifying.

Note to Mr. Trump: unlike a reality television show, in actual reality the things that you say, when you are a candidate for President (let alone when you are actually President, as you hope to be), actually matter, and will be taken seriously, and can have enormously serious consequences. People can be killed because of what US Presidents say. Try to act like a grown-up and be a bit more circumspect. ]

According to a story in the New York Times that just appeared, Trump has said that he actually hopes the Russian government has hacked into Hillary Clinton's private email server.

"Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing," Mr. Trump said, staring directly into the cameras. "I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press."

Surely this is the first time a major presidential candidate has actively encouraged a foreign power to conduct espionage against a political opponent who had been a high-ranking official of the U.S. government.

I know we're supposed to ignore all the crazy ramblings that this guy comes up with, but really . . . is there anything he can say that is beyond the pale? First a nasty and racially tinged attack on a sitting federal judge hearing a case in which he (Trump) is involved, then the appalling comments that Clinton is "guilty as hell" and "has to go to jail" (for crimes for which she has not even been charged, let alone tried and convicted or received any of that messy "due process" stuff), and now this. Even if this were meant as a joke, what kind of lunatic would say something like this? Encouraging unlawful activity by a foreign government against a former government official—and not just any foreign government, but one that is suspected of having recently directed the cyberattack against the Democratic National Committee's email servers?

Is it really too late for the Republicans to find someone else for this job? WHERE ARE THE SENSIBLE, SERIOUS, LEVEL-HEADED, REASONABLE REPUBLICANS, AND WHEN ARE THEY GOING TO STAND UP AND SAY "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH"? Ronald Reagan—not to mention Dwight Eisenhower, Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln and every great Republican leader this country has ever had—are turning over in their graves.