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COMMENTARY

The Briefing: Who to trust — Rosenstein or Guccifer 2.0?

WASHINGTON — The American people got a civics lesson late last week, and it went as follows:

When we confront foreign interference in American elections, it is important for us to avoid thinking politically as Republicans or Democrats and instead to think patriotically as Americans. Our response must not depend on who was victimized. The Internet allows foreign adversaries to attack America in new and unexpected ways. Free and fair elections are hard-fought and contentious. There will always be adversaries who work to exacerbate domestic differences and try to confuse, divide and conquer us. So long as we are united in our commitment to the values enshrined in the Constitution, they will not succeed.

Once upon a time, there would have been nothing controversial about that statement. But that was back in the good old days when Americans worried more about foreign adversaries than about the American political party they don't like – which, frankly, is really what we ought to do again.

Instead, some Republicans demonize the Republican who delivered that patriotic statement – Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein – more than they demonize "Guccifer 2.0."

Rosenstein indicted Guccifer 2.0, sort of, on Friday. You can't really indict a pseudonyn, but you can indict the 12 Russians who created it, and that's just what Rosenstein did. He said those 12 Russian intelligence agents used Guccifer 2.0 and another pseudo-source, "DC Leaks," to spread the emails they got by hacking into Democratic email accounts, all in hopes of damaging Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.

"The blame for election interference belongs to the criminals who committed election interference," Rosenstein said. "We need to work together to hold the perpetrators accountable, and keep moving forward to preserve our values, protect against future interference, and defend America."

But that's not what the leaders of the hard-right, pro-Trump House Freedom Caucus, Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, have in mind. Instead, they want to impeach Rosenstein, all because he has not given lawmakers every snippet of information they want about what they call the FBI's biased investigation of the Trump campaign.

"If he believes being asked to do his job is ‘extortion,’ then Rod Rosenstein should step aside and allow us to find a new deputy attorney general — preferably one who is interested in transparency," Meadows harrumphed on Twitter back in May. And Jordan laced into Rosenstein at a hearing last month, saying essentially the same thing.

Their response to Rosenstein's indictments of those Russian spies? None, zero, nothing.

President Trump has, of course, been attacking Rosenstein, too. And he didn't have any harsh words for Guccifer 2.0, either, instead blaming then-President Barack Obama for not doing anything about the Russian hacking.

What's more, longtime Trump associate Roger Stone did more than avert his eyes upon hearing of Guccifer 2.0. Back in 2016, Stone actually communicated with Guccifer 2.0.

On Aug. 15, 2016, and Sept. 9, 2016, Guccifer "wrote a person who was in regular contact with senior members" of the Trump campaign, Rosenstein's indictment said. And Stone, appearing on CNN Friday night, said: "I think I am probably the person referred to."

In other words, a Trump acolyte was actually happy to communicate with a foreign agent who reportedly had dirt on Hillary Clinton. A Trump acolyte put his trust in Guccifer.

Which should come as no surprise. After all, only weeks earlier, Trump himself put his trust in the Russians, encouraging them to hack Clinton's emails.

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said.

And hours later, the Russian agents made their first attempt to break into Clinton's private email servers.

Perhaps this is all coincidence. Perhaps Republicans are going easy on Guccifer while raging on Rosenstein for patriotic reasons that, at this point, seem largely unseen.

Then again, perhaps not.

Perhaps there's the art of a deal here, a deal with Guccifer – or the nation that created him.

Happening today

President Trump concludes his European summit with his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. ... House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.,, speaks at a Center for American Progress Action Fund forum titled ''Strengthening American Democracy: Anti-Corruption and Pro-Voter Solutions to Make the Government Work for People." ... Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., hosts a forum to discuss ''the enormous disparity between the wealth of corporate executives and the wages and treatment of the companies' workers. ... Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speak at an Atlantic Council forum titled, ''Pulling at the Strings: The Kremlin's Interference in Elections." ... Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred speaks on the state of the game at a National Press Club luncheon.

Good reads

At the Washington Post, Amanda Erickson contends that it's Vladimir Putin who really knows the art of the deal. ... The New York Times tells us that President Trump has a huge head start for getting re-elected in 2020. ... The National Review recounts how German Chancellor Angela Merkel's open-border policy sowed the seeds for political trouble. ... The New Yorker asks if Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is about to pull the Democratic Party to the left. ... And at the Boston Globe, Neil Swidey asks the question: Would Democrats be better off if Bill Clinton had never been elected president?

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