Toobin and Turley apply the brakes!


Legal eagles co-headline CNN's late show:
You had to stay up late to see them. But we thought Toobin and Turley provided some needed perspective on CNN's late show last night.

Jake Tapper hosted an 11 PM special on the embattled network. That put him on the air opposite Brian Williams, who no longer mentions Al Gore's disturbing polo shirts or all the dead bodies which floated through his hotel room in New Orleans, but still manages to play the peacock concerning everything else.

Tapper provided a welcome alternative to Williams. When he threw to Toobin and Turley, his discussion with the legal eagles started off like this:
TAPPER (7/12/17): Let's dig deeper on these questions, legal and political. Jeffrey Toobin let me start with you.

Has anything that has been revealed so far that show that anyone—Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, any of them—violated any law?

TOOBIN: Not clear, and this is an unfolding investigation. It is not a crime under federal law to collude. "Collusion" is a big word, but that is not a crime.

TAPPER: More of a political term than a legal term.

TOOBIN: Right, but it is important—a lot of people talk about collusion as if it's a crime and it's not.
Toobin and others have said this before. Still, it was a welcome corrective to a night of fevered claims.

Toobin is thoroughly anti-Trump on matters of politics and policy. On questions of legality, he continued with his cool calm talk, expertly saying this:
TOOBIN (continuing directly): The only possible crime I see coming out of this particular event involving Donald Jr. is possibly a campaign finance violation where it's unlawful to solicit anything of value from a foreign government and perhaps, depending on what happened in this meeting—and frankly, I don't necessarily credit Don Jr.'s description of this meeting since he is lies about so much already—whether he solicited some sort of aid from the government.

That is a long shot. But to answer your question simply, no, I don't think there is any crime that has been uncovered specifically regarding this meeting.
We don't know if that is right. But he'd partially stopped the stampeding.

At this point, Tapper turned to Turley. Disdain for the mob only grew:
TAPPER (continuing directly): Jonathan Turley, you think that the media and some Democrats on Capitol Hill are a little breathless compared to the facts.

TURLEY: I think, instead of analysis, we're seeing rage. People are willing to take criminal codes and twist them to bag a Trump, and that is a dangerous game to play. People suggesting this might be treason, which is facially ridiculous.
Oof. Turley said the claim of treason, which had been bruited around all night, is "facially ridiculous," presumably at this point in time.

Politically, Turley isn't a Trumpist. As a legal analyst, he said he thought pundits were twisting criminal codes so they could play "bag-a-Trump."

It looks that way to us too. Below, you see the way the CNN transcript continues, though we think there may be errors here:
TAPPER: I agree with that. And to be clear, Senator Tim Kane said possibly this could be treason.

TURLEY: And that destroys his credibility and the credibility of his party.

TAPPER: Well, I think that is ridiculous.
We think it was Toobin, not Tapper, who made those two remarks. But we can't find videotape of the segment, and so we can't check to be sure.

(From watching the program last night, we think it was Toobin who made that last remark, and we think he meant that Turley's remark about the Democratic Party was ridiculous. Absent tape, though, we can't be sure. Key point: you can't assume that TV transcripts are accurate!)

Whatever! Turley finished up like this, according to the transcript:
TURLEY (continuing directly): To keep the definition of treason narrow because they don't want it to be used as a political tool, they don't want it to be used in this willy-nilly way.

I disagree with Jeff. I don't see a viable federal election claim here, and Jeff is right about that. But no court has taken information and said that is effectively a substitute for contributions and if they did, it would present a huge threat to the First Amendment. It would encompass an enormous amount of political speech. It would allow the federal government to investigate a campaign just because they're receiving information from foreign sources like NGOs individuals. I don't think a court would sign off on that, but that would be a particularly dangerous interpretation.
In that passage, Turley said there was no way the courts would treat the receipt of information as "something of value" under criminal codes. We're inclined to hope that he's right.

In the cool of the evening, the boys were throwing a damper on a lot of overheated excitement. We thought they offered a welcome corrective to a lot of cable posturing, given the point at which the known facts currently stand.

"Cable news" has really gone wild in the wake of this latest event. That said, what else is new?


  1. Information is not a contribution. Soliciting information is not soliciting an illegal contribution. Even soliciting and accepting MONEY is protected speech.

    1. Keep repeating this. It won't keep Trump safe but it may help you deal with your anxiety.

    2. Trump isn't going anywhere. You probably thought he wouldn't win the election.

    3. soliciting and accepting money from foreigners is most certainly a crime and not protected speech. Even our current Supreme Court agrees with that.

    4. You miss the point. Soliciting or accepting Information will never be defined as a crime, even by Ruth Ginsburg. Would you like it to be?

    5. 2:47, 7:14, & 9:18 - the flopsweat is strong with this troll.

    6. 2:47, 7:14, & 9:18 may be a troll, but the government is not going to charge someone with accepting "an item of value", from a foreign power when the item is negative information about a political opponent.

  2. I agree with Tobin and Turley. The only thing I would add is that Trump Jr.'s meeting gives the President a stronger motive for an obstruction of justice charge.
    Bob Gardner
    Randolph, MA

    1. Some legal experts are suggesting that there is a legal precedent, a case in which information was considered receipt of an illegal contribution. Trump Jr.'s associates have been told that collusion is not a crime but conspiracy may be. That's why they are carefully wording their own statements about what they knew, when. But Trump's son is too stupid to have set up or carried out any of this on his own. So there is necessarily a conspiracy involved and they will get these guys when their cover stories fall apart and the truth of what was discussed comes out.

      Somerby thinks no one can know what was discussed. That is incorrect. There are undoubtedly tapes, because this took place in Trump tower and they routinely taped everything there. Further, there was a Russian lawyer and her interpreter (if not several others) present besides Trump's people. They have no vested interest in protecting Trump Jr. In fact, some are speculating that they may have set him up, as a warning to the President. If the Russians weren't the ones who leaked this, then there is someone else who knows what was said -- the leaker. We do not know what form the evidence of what was discussed may take, but it may be sworn statements by someone who was present. The perjury committed by Trump Jr. and the other Trump staff will be a crime and they can be put in jail for that kind of lying. It may be difficult for them to tell the difference between their everyday lies to the people who they serve, and the lies they will tell the FBI that will put them behind bars. This will happen because habitual liars lose track of the truth. (Somerby might say that is impossible, because then it wouldn't really be a lie, but that is sophistry.)

    2. You're convicting them on "perjury" that hasn't and won't happen, based on a wish. This is delusional.

    3. They have already lied.

  3. One of Trump's many flaws is his tendency toward wild exaggeration. Sadly, Kaine and others who use the word "treason" here are following in Trump's footsteps.

    1. Trump lies. Kaine and others are not lying. They are anticipating the outcome of a process of investigation that will lead to Trump's downfall. Because Trump is a bad guy and he will be caught.

    2. Trump often makes wild guesses before he knows all the facts. Kaine is certifiable.

    3. "wild guesses"


  4. When people are saying this may be treason, they are not assuming Trump's explanation is true. They are assuming this discovery may have uncovered a meeting at which Russia described the hacked info and specified a quid pro quo for their help. They may have applied pressure to the campaign or blackmailed them. Any number of things from removal of sanctions to outright aid may have been specified, which would certainly be treason. This meeting is yet more proof of connections between the campaign and Putin's emissaries, something explicitly denied, regardless of what was discussed.

    We know the crime and we know who committed it. The task is to collect enough evidence to convict the guilty. That is what Somerby is mischaracterizing as a chase. It is only a matter of time before this conspiracy falls apart and these guys go to jail.

    I believe Somerby would be arguing that Al Capone was never a gangster because they only got him for tax evasion, after a similar chase.

  5. Meanwhile, back in VT, prosecutors are finally addressing the financial problems that made Bernie pliable to Russian manipulation in 2016. That makes his current book tour something of a farce.

    Not a word about this from Maddow or the MSM but not a word from Somerby either. This supports my contention that Somerby is not attacking liberals in general, but rather engaging in a takedown of the so-called establishment liberals on behalf of Bernie and his gang, who wish to recreate the Democratic party in their own image, with a little help from their Russian friends. Somerby has fellow traveler written all over him.

  6. Weird how to Trump supporters, there's never any evidence of wrongdoing, ever. Funny to think what their reaction would be if Hillary had done all of the things Trump has done. They would be impeaching her right now.

    1. That might be true but it doesn't establish proof of any crime committed by Trump or his campaign staff.

    2. Hilarious that you prove 5:51's point and don't even know it.

    3. Kevin Drum wrote an interesting story yesterday. Everything seems to be connecting it so many suspicious ways.

      Natalia Veselnitskaya was one of Prevezon’s lawyers. Preet Bharara was the US Attorney prosecuting the case, which was not going well for Prevezon. However, Donald Trump fired Bharara in March, and two months later the Justice Department surprised everyone by abruptly settling the case for $6 million. The settlement was so meager that one of Prevezon’s US attorneys said it was “almost an admission that they shouldn’t have brought the case.” Veselnitskaya herself crowed that it was “almost an apology from the government.”

      So: was there a deal made last year? Did Trump campaign aides—or Trump himself—agree to scuttle the case against Prevezon in return for dirt on Hillary Clinton?

      I've heard of coincidences. I just never actually seen one.

  7. Two things, one Kushner lied on his security clearance form which is most definitely a crime (it may be a hard to prosecute one but it is a crime). Two, it is hard for me to see how soliciting stolen information from a foreign government isn't breaking campaign finance laws. It clearly is a thing of value and it isn't speech in any real sense of the word.

    1. Now it's criminal to not accept nonexistent, non-stolen information?

    2. 9:13 - better trolling please.

    3. Part of the problem is proving ("proving," get it) that the information was stolen and not acquired legitimately. Secondly, if I buy a computer file from someone, I am not committing a crime if I did not cause it to be stolen. It's not the same as receiving stolen goods, no matter how much people try to make it so. So Trump's hope that the Russians would expose the "deleted" emails they were supposed to already have was not inviting them to hack Hillary's server (which had not been in use for a long) time anyway. I've been glad to see the hysteria slowly dying down with more and more people realizing that it's just a fabrication. Like the Republican accusation that Obama did not beg for them to contribute to drafting the ACA.

    4. The problem for Trump is the quid pro quo. His odd favorable treatment of an enemy state reeks of treason. It is obvious both how he benefitted and how he paid the Russians for their help. How long will people tolerate this?

    5. "... and it was at this time that a strange and peculiar butt wind was hereby produced, serving to transport my essence to a strange netherland of psuedomorphs and bumbuggers.

      No longer would the various portioned vertices of half-time apply to my interpretation of reality.

      Only now an intoxicating collection of aromas resulting from the aforementioned butt wind would be my only obstacle, testing my free will yet again."

    6. "How long will the people tolerate this?"

      For as long as the alternative is the likes of what Democrats offer up.

    7. 4:14 PM,
      Yup. As long as Trump has an "R" after his name, there is no way republicans will hold him accountable.
      BTW, remember in the 90s Republicans making believe they cared about "rule of law"?
      Good times!

  8. @913 tell that to the thousands of people who are in prison for buying fake cocaine or those in prison for going to a house to have sex with what they think is a minor.


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