Donald Trump’s increasingly blatant guilt in the Russia scandal has split Republican opinion. On the one side, a handful of critics, largely those predisposed in advance to distrust him, have questioned the president’s motives. On the other hand, the base remains so invested in the president’s innocence that less than half of all Republicans believe even the incriminating facts Trump has already confessed. Straddling the precarious middling ground between lunatic denial and recognizing the obvious are such organs as The Wall Street Journal editorial page.
The Journal’s editorial page has tried to nudge the administration more closely into compliance with normal Executive branch practices, without applying the sort of pressure that would force any such action. Today’s editorial is a perfect example of this balancing act. The Journal pleads with Trump to increase his transparency, arguing that it would advance his own best interests to make public any secret contacts.
Nowhere in the editorial does the Journal consider the possibility that Trump and his inner circle have lied systematically about the contacts with Russia because they have something to hide. “Whatever short-term political damage this might cause couldn’t be worse than the death by a thousand cuts of selective leaks, often out of context, from political opponents in Congress or the special counsel’s office,” the editorial asserts. But what if the truth is really bad? The Journal does not say.
“If there really is nothing to the Russia collusion allegations,” the editorial posits, “transparency will prove it.” That is true! But what if, as now appears overwhelmingly probable, there isn’t nothing to the Russia collusion allegation? Well, the editorial doesn’t say. It just moves on to other questions.
There are concrete ways to force Trump to engage in transparency. The most obvious is to urge House Republicans to drop their blockade of a Democratic proposal to compel the release of Trump’s tax returns. The Journal doesn’t recommend this, or mention the issue at all. The cause of transparency is left to Trump’s own goodwill. “He and his family,” the editorial laments, “seem oblivious to the brutal realities of Washington politics.” The poor naïfs, hiding their Russia connections for no apparent reason.