Freedom of speech and press doesn’t amount to electoral collusion

We support full freedom of expression and oppose government censorship, regulation or control of communications media and technology.

The Donald Trump administration has been under investigation since May by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller to determine whether the Trump presidential campaign actively colluded with Russia in 2016. The indictments so far against former Trump associates Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, Richard Gates, and George Papadopoulos, as well as Alex van der Zwaan and more than a dozen Russian nationals, have nothing to do with collusion and everything to do with obstruction of justice. Flynn, Papadopoulos, and Van der Zwaan have been charged with lying to the FBI. If Mueller were trying to build a case of collusion against Trump, it would be a terrible strategy to gain the cooperation of witnesses by charging them with lying and thereby destroying their credibility.

Obstruction of justice is a crime far easier to prove than collusion. Interfering with the legal investigatory process amounts to obstruction even if the investigation focuses on an underlying crime that may have never happened — in this case, collusion. Given the undisciplined nature of the Trump White House and campaign, Mueller will undoubtedly manage to find an obstruction charge that could lead to impeachment, particularly if the 2018 elections turn the House and Senate over to the Democrats.

The collusion charges originally centered on the premise that the Trump campaign was getting “dirt” on the Clinton campaign from Russian sources, with an implied quid pro quo that a Trump presidency would be friendlier to Russian interests. The Russians did their part by talking with Trump campaign officials, airing RT television programs, and conducting social media campaigns that were negative about the Hillary Clinton campaign and supportive at various times of the Trump campaign, the Bernie Sanders campaign, and the Green Party’s Jill Stein campaign.

In plain language, the Russians were engaging in both speech and press. Libertarians would ask why freedom of speech and of the press should be illegal if practiced by a foreign entity.

“The latest hypocritical argument from American media: Russia ‘interfered with’ the 2016 elections by leaking facts about the Clinton campaign,” said Libertarian Vice Chair Arvin Vohra. “At the same time, the press appears entirely ignorant of the exponentially larger levels at which the U.S. government interferes politically, economically, and militarily with the politics of many foreign nations.”

The list of foreign interventions is long and involved, including during the eight years the supposedly liberal Democrat Barack Obama served as commander in chief, with the approval of the formerly antiwar left.

“The U.S. government props up regimes throughout the Middle East, literally using the military to support one side of political disputes,” Vohra said. “At other times, it enforces its political will through trade sanctions that create food and medicine shortages. Right now, the U.S. government is literally involved in a ‘civil’ war in Syria. It has engaged in continual drone strikes in Pakistan. It seems entirely unable to respect the sovereignty of any nation. The U.S. government needs to get out of the political affairs of other nations before it has any business pointing fingers at anyone else. Complaining about Russia’s ‘interference’ is laughably hypocritical.”

Democrats today imagine Russians hiding under the beds and Republicans are crying foul. In the McCarthy era, Republicans were finding commies under the bed and Democrats were crying foul. In both cases, the party crying foul was correct. The antidote to propaganda and “fake news” is not censorship, but truthful news — a process of exposure, dialogue, argument, and correction. Sunshine is the best disinfectant.

The FBI can lie to us with impunity, as can nearly any government official, so the fact that people can be indicted, tried, and caged for “crimes” like lying to the FBI serves as evidence that we have too many laws, not too much lawbreaking.

Although the Trump presidency is rife with failure, it does have a laudable policy of repealing two regulations for every new one. Libertarians would take that a step further and repeal two laws for every new law passed. That’s one reason we are running more than 2,000 candidates for federal, state, and local office this year.