Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, July 14, 2018. You are reading the final Opinion newsletter to have been produced at the L.A. Times’ historic downtown Los Angeles building. Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.
What did candidate Donald Trump know about Russian email hacking, and when did he know it? That’s a question long asked by people who suspect President Trump is being less than honest when he insists there was “no collusion” between his campaign and the Kremlin’s meddling in the 2016 election. Now, with the latest indictments in Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation targeting 12 Russian intelligence officers in connection with the email hacking of Hillary Clinton’s campaign staffers, it’s impossible not to wonder how much Trump knew about these activities before he was elected president.
That’s the assessment of the L.A. Times’ Jon Healey, who says Friday’s indictments put Trump’s July 2016 comments asking Russian hackers to “find the 30,000 emails” that Clinton hadn’t turned over to investigators in a new light:
Emails taken from the DNC account started leaking in June 2016 at the site DCLeaks, then the following month from WikiLeaks. A hacker using the moniker Guccifer 2.0 — later linked by security experts to Russia — claimed credit for the leaks, but others did too, leaving the culprits unclear. Bear in mind that much of the discussion of the leaks centered on the DNC’s apparent favoritism for Clinton over her main rival for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). So while there were suspicions about Russia, the precise motives behind the leaks were hard to divine.
That’s the backdrop for Trump’s remarks. And now one has to wonder, just how much did he know about what Russia was actually doing?
In an editorial The Times ran shortly after Trump’s remarks, we noted the spin applied by Trump’s campaign:
“A spokesman for the Trump campaign later insisted that ‘Mr. Trump did not call on, or invite, Russia or anyone else to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails.’ Instead, Jason Miller suggested, Trump was saying the Russians already had the data because Clinton’s server wasn’t secure.”
Or maybe Trump was saying the Russians probably had the data because he knew they’d grabbed so much else from Clinton’s campaign.
Trump will ask Putin “firmly” about Russia’s election meddling. The president promised to bring up Moscow’s interference in the 2016 campaign when he meets his Russian counterpart in Finland next week — good thing his deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, strengthened Trump’s hand by announcing the indictments on Friday. Problem is, writes Michael McGough, Trump will “firmly” ask Vladimir Putin about election interference based on evidence collected by an investigation he has repeatedly dismissed as a “witch hunt.” L.A. Times
The economic apocalypse that awaited carbon-cutting California? Never happened! Not only that, but the goal set by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006, for the state to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 25% by 2020, was met in 2016. Says The Times Editorial Board: “California’s ability to reach its AB 32 target without major strife or economic sacrifice, and to do so ahead of schedule, should be a powerful rebuttal to naysayers. It’s a particularly useful lesson for the Trump administration, which contends that cutting carbon will hurt the nation’s industries and economy.” L.A. Times
Might there be an innocent man on California’s death row? At least one L.A. Times reader, for the record, doesn’t think so, but the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof hopes newly tested DNA evidence might exonerate convicted murderer Kevin Cooper — that is, if Gov. Jerry Brown allows that DNA to be tested at all. Kristof, who says he is convinced that Cooper was framed by police, admits he may be wrong, but he offers a solution for figuring out the truth: “Let’s test the evidence and find out before the state executes him.” New York Times
Donald Trump is the last thing Britain needs right now. The English are suffering high temperatures, freak wildfires and their usual quadrennial sadness over soccer, but their biggest headache arrived this week in the form of the American president. Writing from London, Will Self sums up the mood in Britain: “We feel ourselves, each time a Trump or a Bush Jr. arrives on our shores, to have been colonized by wankers, and so our national self-esteem takes a nosedive.” L.A. Times
This looks like wishful thinking now: Before the NATO summit began earlier this week, The Times Editorial Board expressed hope that Trump would not act as if he was “looking for a divorce.” If bizarrely accusing Germany of being “totally controlled” by Russia and calling a news conference to insist that America’s NATO allies bowed to his demands on greater military spending when they did no such thing don’t count as “looking for a divorce,” then Trump has an odd idea of marriage. Times readers found the president’s behavior in Belgium embarrassing.