Donald Trump’s legal defense gets even stranger

One week after Donald Trump tried and failed to hire former Bill Clinton impeachment attorney Emmet Flood, he’s now eyeing a new target. Not surprisingly, Trump is looking at hiring an attorney who is best known for having said positive things about him on Fox News. What is somewhat surprising is the strange Trump-Russia legal strategy that the attorney in question has been promoting.

Trump is on the verge of hiring attorney Joe diGenova to join his Trump-Russia legal team, according to a New York Times report this morning (link). The theory that diGenova has been pushing on Fox News: Trump was framed by everyone from the FBI to the Department of Justice to Hillary Clinton. But the “I was framed” defense has several problems that could end up coming back to haunt Trump if he does indeed formally commit to this strategy.

The ouster of a president for criminal reasons is largely a political process, the court of public opinion matters here. In that regard, the “I was framed” defense comes with two distinct problems. First, it’s an admission that you know you look guilty. You only have to resort to claiming you were framed if you know the evidence strongly points to the crime having been committed. It’s unclear if Trump now realizes he looks guilty, or if he simply doesn’t understand that claiming he was framed is a de facto admission that he looks guilty.


Second, if you want to make the case that you were framed, you have to reasonably sell one of two theories: that someone else committed the crime and went to great lengths to make it appear you did it, or that the crime never took place and someone went to great lengths to make it appear you committed a crime that didn’t exist. This means Donald Trump would have to demonstrate that Hillary Clinton and the U.S. intel community had motive for conspiring together against him. Considering the FBI’s treatment of Clinton during the election, this is absurd on its face.

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