TRIBAL FICTIONS: Purity of heart is to know one thing!


Creating a front-page report:
"Purity of heart is to will one thing." A well-known writer said that.

In modern upper-end journalism, front-page reporting often consists in having been told one thing. The journalists must then add filler to that one thing until they've burned 1500 words.

So it goes, above the fold, on the front page of today's New York Times.

Last night, the Times report was discussed all over "cable news." Hard-copy headline included, the report starts off like this:
SCHMIDT, LAFRANIERE AND HABERMAN (11/2/8/18): Manafort Lawyer Briefs Trump Team on Inquiry

A lawyer for Paul Manafort,
the president’s onetime campaign chairman, repeatedly briefed President Trump’s lawyers on his client’s discussions with federal investigators after Mr. Manafort agreed to cooperate with the special counsel, according to one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers and two other people familiar with the conversations.

The arrangement was highly unusual and inflamed tensions with the special counsel’s office when prosecutors discovered it after Mr. Manafort began cooperating two months ago, the people said. Some legal experts speculated that it was a bid by Mr. Manafort for a presidential pardon even as he worked with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, in hopes of a lighter sentence.
Purity of journalistic transmission is to have been told one thing! In that opening paragraph, the Times reporters report the one lone thing they've been told:
Manafort's lawyer briefed Trump's lawyers about Manafort's discussions with Mueller even after Manafort agreed to cooperate with Mueller.
That seems to be the one lone thing the three reporters were told. They were told this by "one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers and two other people familiar with the conversations."

(The Trump lawyer to whom they refer turns out to be Rudy Giuliani. The other two people are never identified further. This leads to several attributions which are comically vague, including "the people said" and "according to the people.")

At any rate, how strange! Manafort's lawyer kept briefing Trump's lawyers about his conversations with Mueller! That does seem like a significant fact—but the Times reporters seem to know nothing else.

Example: When did Mueller's team learn about this peculiar practice? Apparently, the three reporters don't know.

Throughout their 1500 words, the Times reporters never say when the Mueller team found out. For that reason, they're already repeating themselves in the second paragraph of their report, saying, for the second time, that Manafort's cooperation deal began "two months ago."

Prosecutors discovered that Manafort was doing this "after he began cooperating two months ago?" When else could they have learned it?

This repetition is utterly pointless—but it may give readers the false impression that they've been told when the Mueller team found out. In fact, the reporters never say when, or how, Mueller's team learned that Manafort was blabbing to Trump. There's no sign that they know.

Purity of heart is to repeat the one thing you've been told! In this morning's report, the reporters transmit the one thing they know in their first paragraph. It's largely filler from there.

How empty can the calories get as the reporters dispense the filler? As they continue, they offer this absurd "example" of a "valuable insight" Giuliani supposedly gained from this surprising arrangement:
SCHMIDT, LAFRANIERE AND HABERMAN (continuing directly): Rudolph W. Giuliani, one of the president’s personal lawyers, acknowledged the arrangement on Tuesday and defended it as a source of valuable insights into the special counsel’s inquiry and where it was headed. Such information could help shape a legal defense strategy, and it also appeared to give Mr. Trump and his legal advisers ammunition in their public relations campaign against Mr. Mueller’s office.

For example, Mr. Giuliani said, Mr. Manafort’s lawyer Kevin M. Downing told him that prosecutors hammered away at whether the president knew about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting where Russians promised to deliver damaging information on Hillary Clinton to his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr. The president has long denied knowing about the meeting in advance. “He wants Manafort to incriminate Trump,” Mr. Giuliani declared of Mr. Mueller.
That marshmallow fluff appears today, above the fold, on the front page of the Times! In that utterly ludicrous passage, the reporters quote Giuliani describing one of the "valuable insights" he supposedly gained from Manafort's blabbing.

That said, what valuable insight did Trump's lawyers gain? They gained this valuable insight:
Mueller wants to know if Trump knew about that famous Trump Tower meeting!
According to the Times reporters, that's one of the "valuable insights" Trump's lawyers were able to gain! That said, could anything be less significant than that silly "example?"

Wouldn't every American, from preschool up, already have assumed that Mueller was trying to learn if Trump knew about that meeting? After all, pundits have discussed little else over the past year.

Everybody would have assumed that Mueller was chasing that point. But in today's Times, we're asked to believe that Giuliani regarded it as a "valuable insight" when Manafort's lawyer told them, at some in the last two months, that Manafort had asked about this!

We'd rank that with the "valuable insight" that Mueller is working indoors.

This ludicrous filler is being employed by paragraph 4 of this "story." And as they continue, the scribes keep fudging the existence of the basic facts they don't seem to know:
SCHMIDT, LAFRANIERE AND HABERMAN (continuing directly): While Mr. Downing’s discussions with the president’s team violated no laws, they helped contribute to a deteriorating relationship between lawyers for Mr. Manafort and Mr. Mueller’s prosecutors, who accused Mr. Manafort of holding out on them despite his pledge to assist them in any matter they deemed relevant, according to the people. That conflict spilled into public view on Monday when the prosecutors took the rare step of declaring that Mr. Manafort had breached his plea agreement by lying to them about a variety of subjects.
"According to the people," Manafort's blabbing to Trump "helped contribute to a deteriorating relationship between" Manafort and Mueller.

That said, we aren't told when this deterioration started, or how Mueller's team learned about the Trump-Manafort discussions. Did Manafort convey any important facts to Trump? The scribes don't seem to know that either.

Soon, we're handed another prime example of pseudo-reporting. In paragraphs 7-9, the three reporters say this:
SCHMIDT, LAFRANIERE AND HABERMAN: Mr. Giuliani, who has taken an aggressive posture against the Russia investigation since Mr. Trump hired him in April, seized on Mr. Downing’s information to unleash lines of attack onto the special counsel.

In asserting that investigators were unnecessarily targeting Mr. Trump, Mr. Giuliani accused the prosecutor overseeing the Manafort investigation, Andrew Weissmann, of keeping Mr. Manafort in solitary confinement simply in the hopes of forcing him to give false testimony about the president.

But detention officials decide whether inmates serve in solitary confinement, according to law enforcement officials, and allies of Mr. Manafort have said he is there for his own safety.
We're told that Giuliani used Manafort's information to launch lines of attack against Mueller. But does that passage make any real sense? we'd have to say it doesn't.

Did Giuliani need Manafort's lawyer to tell him that Manafort was being held in solitary confinement? Of course he didn't!

Presumably, Giuliani would have attacked the Mueller team in the manner described if he'd never heard a word from Manafort. At any rate, the reporters never say that this negative interpretation of Weissmann's motives was somehow conveyed by Manafort's lawyer. This passage seems to describe another "valuable insight" which was really no "insight" at all.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with knowing just one thing. That said, the Times has created a virtual art form in the past year, an art form in which they take some single thing they've been told and turn it into a lengthy front-page report.

In today's example, the three reporters have been told exactly one thing; everything else is filler. They never acknowledge the things they don't know. The things they don't know include these:
1) When did Mueller's team find out?
2) How did Mueller's team find out?
3) Was anything important conveyed to Trump?
4) Did Mueller's agreement with Manafort prohibit this sort of thing?
5) If it didn't, why not? Did Mueller's team make a mistake?
Someone got on the phone and told the reporters one thing. The reporters went to work, adding plenty of filler.

Subscribers to the New York Times are asked to swallow this sort of thing whole. Cable stars scan the report, then start to "speculate." That's a journalistically shaky term—a term which dominates the second paragraph of today's report.

Today's report conveys one fact. It's followed by mountains of filler.

Some of the filler is utterly daft. Borrowing from Professor Harari, this may be the way we "apes" roll.

Still coming: Maddow misstates about Don McGahn; Don Lemon launches a probe


  1. Thanks for reading (so we don't have to) and dissecting goebbelsian establishment media-sewer for us, Bob.

    ...but do you really have to quote so much of that shit?

  2. The Times says, "The arrangement was highly unusual." Why is that a big deal? The Times does NOT not say that comparing notes was illegal or unethical or dishonest or immoral. I even wonder whether it was unusual. If two people are being prosecuted or persecuted by a Special Prosecutor, would it not seem natural that they would talk to each other?

    1. It's better than you think. The Special Prosecutor let Manafort lie to them, and Manafort told Trump's team the lies he was telling the SP. Trump's team (with or with out the input of Putin) used those lies to fill out Trump's open book test just provided to the SP. Only after they got Trump's open book test, did the SP charge Manafort with lying. Trump just answered the SP's open book test with lies Manafort told them.
      Let the fun begin!

    2. Tell us more about your fantasies, dear dembot.

    3. I would add that the Times has no basis for their assertion that it's "highly unusual" when lawyers for two different targets of a prosecutor's investigation compare notes. The Times made this assertion as if it were fact, but they had no evidence that their assertion was accurate. When President Trump makes statements without evidence that his statements are true, the media say's he's lying. By that standard, the Times was lying when they asserted that this kind of contact is "highly unusual".

    4. Oh, David. The reporters queried a number of professionals, former prosecutors, who said that this essentially never happens. But what do they know, right?

    5. Anon 6:13 PM -- I just skimmed the Times article and failed to find where it said what you said it did. Did I miss something? Is what you said in the dead tree version? Or is your allegation merely something you imagine to be true or wish to be true?

    6. I have two fantasies; 1) me riding a unicorn, and 2) that you and DinC are something more than just trolls.

    7. I’ll help poor David out, this one time, since he is unable to navigate his browser through a Times story:

      “Mr. Manafort must have wanted to keep a line open to the president in hope of a pardon, said Barbara McQuade, a former United States attorney who now teaches law at University of Michigan. “I’m not able to think of another reason,” she said.”

      “If Mr. Manafort wanted to stay on the prosecutors’ good side, “it would make no sense for him to continue to share information with other subjects of the investigation,” said Chuck Rosenberg, a former United States attorney and senior F.B.I. official. He added: “He is either all in or all out with respect to cooperation. Typically, there is no middle ground.”

      “law enforcement experts said it was still highly unusual for Mr. Manafort’s lawyers to keep up such contacts once their client had pledged to help the prosecutors in hope of a lighter punishment for his crimes.”

      I won’t expect thanks. David’s edification is enough for me.

    8. Speaking of fantasies, I'd love to know what David in Cal's imaginary black friends think of Trump nominating the guy who defended North Carolina's Voter ID Law, which targeted African Americans "with almost surgical provision", to the district court.

    9. "Nothing to see here" says amoral Dave.
      It is admired, we must say in fairness, that such
      things do often occur among Mob Lawyers, which,
      let's face it.....

    10. David in Cal - it was a a breach of Manafort's cooperation agreement with the DOJ.

    11. I've heard about the unfrozen caveman lawyer, but the creature above appears to be even more amazing: the dembot lawyer!

  3. Why waste so much space on the stupidity and incompetence that have so long been characteristic of the Ochs-Sulzberger rag. Time for some attention to that much better regarded rag, the Guardian, which has spewed out a provably false slander, "sourced" to "Ecuadorian Intelligence," against Wikileaks and Julian Assange. At most as soon as that multi-million-pound libel suit will have been filed in London.

    1. The Guardian is better regarded? In which circles, may I ask?

      It's a liberal globalist/imperialist rag, just as repulsive as the nyt. And the notorious russophobe Luke Harding, who wrote the slanderous piece you mentioned, is just as beyond the pale as any goebbelsian nyt hack...

  4. “Prosecutors discovered that Manafort was doing this "after he began cooperating two months ago?" When else could they have learned it? “

    Is Somerby really this stupid, or is he just pretending to be so that his rubes get a laugh?

    There was already a joint defense agreement in place prior to Manafort’s plea deal. The unusual thing is that it continued after that.

    Or, as the report states:
    “when one defendant decides to cooperate with the government in a plea deal, that defense lawyer typically pulls out rather than antagonize the prosecutors who can influence the client’s sentence.”

    Leave it to Somerby to miss the entire point of the story, and then to mock the reporters for his own stupidity.

  5. Since the reporters got the main fact right, the story hardly qualifies as “fiction.”

  6. The New York times (and EVERYBODY else), should stop printing or reporting anything Rudy Giuliani says. What's the value of repeating the utterances of a lifetime prevaricator?

    1. Now, now. Tsk, tsk. We don’t know that Giuliani prevaricates. Perhaps he believes what he says. Perhaps he is mentally ill. What would Somerby say? Why do you hate The Others?

  7. Remember that time Rudy Giuliani said something in good faith?
    Me neither.

    1. How dare you mind-read. You don’t know Giuliani’s motivations. None of us can.

      Mind reading is is only allowed when Somerby does it, silly.

    2. For Somerby’s defense of Giuliani, look here:

      Giuliani’s plain and purely good faith meaning was perfectly clear!

    3. Isn't Giuliani's point clear though? If you read past the point in the transcript where it was edited, Chuck Todd says "You're right."

      Doesn't that validate the complaint that the time spent on his edited sound bite fed a taste we all have for outrageousness but in the end was an inconsequential irrelevancy that was actually, Fox-news-like, based on content that was edited to give an baldly inaccurate impression of what was being conveyed?

  8. Well, part of the stretched story here is likely
    due to the tight ship Mueller runs as far as leaking.
    How's that hit piece coming, Bob?

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