Baby Driver, written and directed by Edgar Wright, is a cinematic marvel. Though ostensibly a heist film from the wheel man’s perspective, it is really a soundtrack with a movie layered on top. Gunshots punctuate the percussion. Disembarkations are done in musical time as precisely as a ballerina’s twirl. Music is not a background element, but an organic component that both propels and reflects the action on screen.
If I were sitting in an editing room, trying to splice together a film about the Trump White House as it labors through this Russia investigation, what songs would I choose to punctuate the action? Here are some possibilities, though they are probably too “on the nose.”
My estimable colleague, Jeff Haymond, weighed in on the Russia investigation yesterday. He is not too worked up about Donald Trump, Jr’s meeting and the media storm that has ensued. I agree with elements of what Jeff says. We really don’t know all of what happened. We need to wait and see what else turns up before we reach a decision point. We are not to the point of impeachment, much less treason. And, of course, Democrats do not have a pristine record on election meddling, Russia, or the prudential handling of sensitive information.
Still, this meeting, and the White House’s response, communicates some important things. Russia is opposed to America’s interests. Russian actions should always be viewed not from the perspective of “how does this help us,” but “how does this help Russia?” Even when our interests and Russian interests overlap, we should be very careful. The Trump Administration simply does not view Russia in these terms. Trump’s inner-circle is either positively disposed toward, or naive about, Russia and Vladimir Putin. Either option is troubling and should be disqualifying for a presidential candidate. Russian and American values clash by definition, but seemingly not for Donald Trump or his team. That is alarming.
The Trump, Jr. meeting included Trump’s campaign manager (at the time) Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner, who by all accounts exercises a significant influence on Trump. The Trump “brain trust” decided it should meet with someone claiming to be an agent of the Russian government in order to find information about Hillary Clinton. At minimum, this constitutes evidence of a willingness to collude with Russia.
Trump’s defenders have argued collusion, even if proved, is not illegal. Frankly, I don’t care. Illegality is not the operative standard. As Andy McCarthy notes, impeachment is not consumed with the technicalities of law-breaking. Instead, as Hamilton argues in Federalist 65, impeachment is about the “misconduct of public men” and a breach of the public trust.
If clear evidence comes forward that proves Donald Trump was aware his campaign was colluding with Russia in order to win the 2016 election, does that qualify? I would say yes, but such evidence has not yet come forward. The Trump, Jr/Russia meeting proves the campaign, at the highest levels, was all too willing to go down that road.