Nothing’s wrong with Donald Trump pursuing a hotel deal in Moscow while running for president, Sen. Rand Paul said on "Meet the Press" this past weekend.
"Now, if you are asking and saying, ‘I will give you something in exchange for letting us build a hotel,’ that would be wrong. But I haven’t heard any evidence of that," Paul said as part of his argument about overreaching prosecutors. "Just trying to build a hotel somewhere, I can’t image how that would be criminal."
It may not be criminal, but Trump’s actions were, at the least, disrespectful to voters and dangerous for this country.
Before we get more convictions of and plea deals for shady Trump associates, it’s worth taking a look at this hotel project and what it says about the man known as "Individual 1" in court filings about campaign-finance violations to hide payoffs to his mistresses.
It’s well documented that Trump had wanted to build a project in Moscow since the late 1980s, with several efforts falling through. Suddenly, when running for the highest office in this country, he gets some encouragement from top officials in the Kremlin.
So, Trump begins negotiation with a country that our intelligence agencies had already exposed as having actively sought to undermine our democracy and get him elected. The hotel deal reportedly including a free $50-million penthouse for Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Meanwhile, Trump went out of his way to lie about having any business interests there or even any interest in doing business there.
He lied about it at his political rallies. He lied about it at press conferences. He lied about it in sit-down interviews. He lied about it in tweet after tweet.
And the more he lied, the more he compromised himself to Putin, who could expose him at any time. In that situation, Trump’s only easiest response was deference, which made not just him but America look weak.
The Moscow deal died, reportedly because of the realities of running for president. But for the Russians, it had already served its purpose.
The ongoing investigation into Russian interference in our elections likely will continue to uncover more serious criminal violations by Trump associates and possibly even family members.
But Trump’s handling of the hotel deal ought to be against the law, because it shows so clearly that his desire for personal wealth was more important than principled leadership of this country.
What he was willing to give up was America’s standing in the world and our foreign policy stance against Russian aggression.
And Paul — who gets outraged so often over so many things — should not try to excuse this fraud, just so he can attack the prosecutors who exposed it.