"Lock him up" versus "move on:" We start today with a front-page report from yesterday's New York Times.
The report, by Baker and Fandos, seems accurate and well reasoned. It's the content of this accurate report that pretty much blows our weak minds.
The report concerns "the latest revelations" by special counsel Robert Mueller and by federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York. It concerns "the portrait" those officials are currently sketching.
The headline goes like this:
Prosecutors Effectively Accuse Trump of Defrauding Voters. What Does It Mean?Since claims of felonies are involved, that question needs to be answered. In the following passages, Baker and Fandos start to describe the claims those prosecutors are making—claims they're advancing with the help of tiny violins:
BAKER AND FANDOS (12/9/18): In the narrative that the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and New York prosecutors are building, Mr. Trump continued to secretly seek to do business in Russia deep into his presidential campaign even as Russian agents made more efforts to influence him. At the same time, in this account [Trump] ordered hush payments to two women to suppress stories of impropriety in violation of campaign finance law.The lawmen sawed on their violins concerning phone banks and door-to-door visits by unpaid campaign workers. Their complaint against Cohen (and Trump) was this:
The prosecutors made clear in a sentencing memo filed on Friday that they viewed efforts by Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, to squelch the stories as nothing less than a perversion of a democratic election—and by extension they effectively accused the president of defrauding voters, questioning the legitimacy of his victory.
In the memo in the case of Mr. Cohen, prosecutors from the Southern District of New York depicted Mr. Trump, identified only as “Individual-1,” as an accomplice in the hush payments. While Mr. Trump was not charged, the reference echoed Watergate, when President Richard M. Nixon was named an unindicted co-conspirator by a grand jury investigating the cover-up of the break-in at the Democratic headquarters.
“While many Americans who desired a particular outcome to the election knocked on doors, toiled at phone banks or found any number of other legal ways to make their voices heard, Cohen sought to influence the election from the shadows,” the prosecutors wrote.
“He did so by orchestrating secret and illegal payments to silence two women who otherwise would have made public their alleged extramarital affairs with Individual-1,” they continued. “In the process, Cohen deceived the voting public by hiding alleged facts that he believed would have had a substantial effect on the election.”
Through his payments to two women, Cohen "hid alleged facts that he believed would have had a substantial effect on the election.”
We agree with the lawmen in one way. It's possible that the "alleged facts" in question could have had an effect on the way voters decided to vote.
It's precisely for that reason that we have suggested that Michael Cohen receive highest national honors for what he did in this instance. (He could still be sent to jail for the tax evasion in which he engaged, and for his shady conduct in running his taxicab business.)
Why should Cohen receive highest honors? Why do we feel a bit contemptuous of the portrait painted by the high-minded prosecutors in the Southern District?
Again, you're asking good questions! As we start to answer, consider one of the "alleged facts" lying at the heart of this brain-dead sex chase.
Stephanie Clifford alleges that she had consensual sex with Donald J. Trump on exactly one occasion, back in 2006. (He says it didn't happen. That explains the word "alleged.")
Not too long after Clifford did or didn't engage in this one consensual act, she began trolling about, looking for ways to acquire cash for telling the exciting story of her exciting adventure.
Eventually, a presidential election was under way, thus raising the presumptive value of Clifford's exciting story about this exciting act. As Election Day neared in 2016, she tried to score some cash from Slate, then ended up taking $130,000 from Barrister Cohen.
Can we talk? We're among the laypeople who don't understand why Clifford isn't being charged with extortion. There may be a very good legal reason, but we don't know what it is, and the question will never be raised on our own tribe's corporate cable channels.
That said, it's hard to avoid being scornful of those high-minded prosecutors in Gotham. Apparently, they actually want American citizens to cast their votes on the basis of pointless slimy bullshit like this, rather than on the more substantial considerations our culture's elites love to downplay and avoid.
In 2016, Stephanie Clifford was saying that she had had sex, on one occasion ten years before, with Candidate Donald J. Trump. According to the Southern District, this is what we should be thinking about when we select our presidents.
In our view, it's hard to have sufficient contempt for the mindset which pimps such conclusions. To which we'll only add this key point:
It's all anthropology now!
This brings us to something which happened on yesterday's Kasie DC program. To watch the segment in question, click here, then click again on "Court filings reveal Trump as key figure in federal investigation."
Steve Kornacki was guest hosting for Kasie Hunt. At one point, breaking every rule in the book, he asked a skeptical question as he spoke with MoveOn.org's Karine Jean-Pierre:
KORNACKI (12/9/18): Let's take the Cohen campaign finance piece of this.Uh-oh! If we were supposed to "move on" when Clinton covered up an affair, why should we call out the dogs when Trump does something similar—in the case of Clifford, concerning one consensual act?
MoveOn.org—the foundation of MoveOn as an organization was twenty years ago when the president of the United States, at that time Bill Clinton, was accused of committing a felony, of lying under oath, committing perjury to cover up a politically damaging extramarital affair. And MoveOn.org came into being by saying, "You should not be impeached over this. You should not be impeached over committing a felony to cover up an affair. You should be censured and we should all move on from that."
...I'm just asking specifically about Cohen, campaign finance violations, Trump and women. Does that apply here as well?
So Kornacki surprisingly asked! And in a brilliant non-response, the wonderfully presentable Jean-Pierre spoke for roughly 50 seconds, addressing every conceivable question except the one her host had raised.
At home, we tribals weren't supposed to notice the fact that Kornacki's question had been completely avoided. As for Kornacki himself, he simply "moved on" to a different question. Such behavior is required by Partisan Cable Law.
Every scripted liberal journalist is now jumping up and down about the felony Trump is said to have committed by shutting up a bald-faced hustler who was trying to hijack a White House election. We're expected to be as excited as Charles Blow is at the start of his new column:
BLOW (12/10/18): It is very possible that the president of the United States is a criminal. And it is very possible that his criminality aided and abetted his assumption of the position. Let that sink in. It is a profound revelation.Please note: Like all good liberals, Blow now takes allegations by federal prosecutors and treats them as established facts. This is one of the things we "humans" do when we stage a stampede.
Last week, prosecutors made clear in a sentencing memo for Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, that Trump himself had directed Cohen to break campaign finance laws.
[W]e now have an actual, and one assumes provable, crime. A federal crime. And the president is its architect.
Do we now have "an actual federal crime," as Blow thunders today? It's true that Cohen has pled to a crime in this matter. But that's where Alan Dershowitz's recent statements come in.
As everyone knows, violations of campaign finance laws have rarely been prosecuted as felonies. It's also true that Al Capone was pursued on a highly convenient income tax rap.
Blow goes on and on and on, thundering about this "actual crime" and assuming the accuracy of everything any prosecutor has ever said anywhere on earth. This brings us back to the fact that Cohen has pled guilty to a felony in this matter.
Here's what Dershowitz would probably say. And no, this isn't crazy:
Cohen was seeking leniency in his sentencing. For that reason, he pled guilty to the crime the prosecutors wanted him to plead to.
The fact that Cohen pled to that crime doesn't mean that any jury would ever convict that behavior as criminal. As everyone knows (but Blow doesn't say), when John Edwards was prosecuted in a similar way, the jury refused to convict.
That said, we liberals are on a stampede, chasing convenient sex acts. In truth, we're trying to get Donald Trump locked up because we we're too lazy, uncaring and unattractive to create a winning politics.
Have 28,000 children starved to death in a U.S.-linked war in Yemen? As Rachel Maddow proves every night, we liberals don't care about that. We like to chase The Others around. Our species had always been like this.
(Are children being starved to death in your name? See Nicholas Kristof's Sunday column, "Your Tax Dollars Help Starve Children." And no, we won't see this column discussed by our favorite stars tonight. Despite our tribe's famously lofty ideals, it simply isn't done.)
At present, we're trying to reward a two-bit hustler like Clifford for trying to hijack a presidential election. Trust us:
If we keep playing the game this way, before too long our federal elections will be about nothing except the candidates' sex acts, actual or alleged. Beyond that, our system will cease to run on elections. It will run on impeachments instead, and soon it won't run at all.
Men and women will come forward talking about consensual sex acts with Candidate X, Y or Z. Some of these people will be lying and some will be telling the truth, but you can forget those starving children. We'll be entertaining ourselves to death with this excitement instead, much as we're doing today.
Our species is strongly inclined to be silly, unintelligent, fatuous, tribal and low. Within the realm of the mainstream press, we've been proving that for at least thirty years. (In 1987, top journalists literally hid in the bushes to try to catch Gary Hart.)
How silly can our species get? We give you the Dimmesdales of the Southern District, conning us good as they play their silly sad though high-minded songs on their small violins. They care about those phone bank folks, or so they may even believe.
Extra-credit assignment: Our prisons are full of innocent people. Making reference to the current excitement, compare, contrast, analyze, dice, puree, dissect and discuss.