Ruminations on the Russian lawyer!


What if Vlad had been blackmailing Don?
At the risk of beating a bucking bronco, we want to take a look at Pareet Bharara's first Q-and-A with Jake Tapper on Sunday's State of the Union.

We offer a few basic frameworks:

For ourselves, we think our system is built on elections, not on impeachments. On balance, we're not in favor of the "criminalization of politics."

As a general matter, we're not in favor of the rise of the carceral state. Watching a legion of former federal prosecutors on "cable news" in the past two years, we've been struck by their skill at finding tortured legal rationales for locking disfavored parties up.

Also this:

As far as we know, accurate information is accurate information, no matter where it comes from. We aren't talking about stolen information, for which different rules may apply.

With those frameworks in mind, here's that first Q-and-A. In our view, guests who offer "answers" like this should be frog-marched away:
TAPPER (4/21/19): Preet, I want to get your reaction to—well, there was a whole lot in that Giuliani interview.


Let's start with when I asked him to respond to Senator Mitt Romney criticizing the president's team for being willing to accept help from Russians during the campaign, including the stolen documents.

And again, we should underline insufficient evidence of any criminal conspiracy by Mueller was found by about the Trump campaign.

Anyway, when asked about that, Mayor Giuliani said, quote, "There's nothing wrong" with taking information from the Russians. What's your reaction?

BHARARA: ...On the question of whether or not it's OK to take information from the Russians, I appreciate that Rudy Giuliani's role in this is to defend the president, I guess at all costs, no matter what argument he can put forth, whether it makes sense or not—[I think] that he should pause and think about what he's saying, not just as an advocate for a president who he claims was exonerated in a report that he's nonetheless attacking vociferously.

The idea that it is OK, separate and apart from it being a criminal offense—that we should be telling future candidates in the run-up to an election in 2020 that if an adversary, a foreign adversary, is offering information against a political opponent, that it's OK and right and proper and American and patriotic, it seems he's saying, to take that information, that's OK, that's an extraordinary statement.

And I would hope he would retract it.
That was Bharara's full response. At that point, Tapper moved on to another question. Our own questions would be these:

Do you see Bharara making any attempt to explain his position? To explain why it wouldn't be "proper and American" to take accurate information from "a foreign adversary," however that fuzzy term might be defined?

Sad! He seemed to say that it wouldn't be patriotic. He also seemed to say that Giuliani's stated position didn't "make sense."

But he made no attempt to explain these heartfelt claims. Instead, he just offered dogma. Many of our prosecutors have come to reason in this way.

This is the way the lock-them-up crowd has always functioned. Since Giuliani and Tapper had mainly discussed the Russian lawyer, we'll once again ask you to consider some questions we've asked in the past:

Suppose the Russian lawyer had hired the National Press Club and given a speech in which she stated some accurate information about Hillary Clinton, with documentation. Should patriotic Americans have ignored that accurate information, based on the person who revealed it?

Suppose the Russian lawyer had written an op-ed column with some accurate information about Clinton. Should patriotic Americans ignore that information too?

Also this:

Suppose the Russian lawyer had reported, with documentation, that Candidate Trump was being bribed or blackmailed by Vladimir Putin. Should patriotic Americans have pretended that they hadn't heard?

Bharara played the patriotism card and the deference-to-prosecutorial-authority card. He didn't play the "here's the explanation for what I'm saying" card!

He seemed to feel no need to explain his views; Tapper seemed to think this made perfect sense. For ourselves, we think it's proper, American and patriotic for big shots to explain their tribally pleasing views.

A debate may begin, at some point, about the proper flow of information during a political campaign. Should patriotic Americans expect the Bharara types to explain the things they say, or should such tribunes feel free to propagandize and issue dogma suitable for repetition?

It seems to us that accurate information is accurate information, no matter the source. We're amused, yet not amused, by an instinct which clogs the work of the rational animal—the instinctive avoidance of information, an instinct which dominates vast amounts of our mainstream press corps' work.

Bharara's non-answer answer was an example of memorized dogma. Meanwhile, what's wrong with accurate information? We're just asking for clarity's sake, but please consider this:

As Giuliani noted on Sunday, the Post and the Times reported all sorts of stolen information about Candidate Clinton, including utterly pointless email "information" designed to entertain their readers while ridiculing the candidate. (CNN did the same.) Should these utterly heinous dopes start making high-minded rules for themselves before they start looking for ways to lock everybody else up?

Should our journalists consider healing themselves? Given the way we rational animals works, don't hold your breath waiting for that!


  1. "For ourselves, we think our system is built on elections, not on impeachments."

    Bob, dear Bob. The American two-party system - any two-party system, I presume - is based, first and foremost, on demonizing the opponent.

    Most people who bother to vote don't do it because they like the fake 'party' they vote for. They vote against the other fake 'party'. Against the traitors. The haters. The murderers. The evil bastards. There's nothing - nothing, I tell you - these bastards wouldn't do in pursuit of their goal of hurting the innocent hard-working Americans.

    It's the system of voting for the lesser of two evils. Is this a revelation to you, Bob?

    Well, except that those who vote against the liberal zombie cult tend to feel that liberal zombies are stupid, rather than evil. But it's changing.

  2. Unfortunately, Bharara is partisan, who is a big Trump critic. Tapper is a better-than-average TV reporter, but he also leans toward the Demcrats. So they have a double standard. As others have already pointed out, information in the Steele dossier came from Russian sources. Nobody has suggested that it not be used, for that reason. Indeed, if it had been true, it would have given Americans important information about Trump.

    1. It isn't fair to call Bharara partisan. He was non-partisan when he worked as an Assistant AG. He was called directly by Trump and asked to stay in his position, then Trump fired him (along with the rest of the Asst AGs, as is customary). Bharara was investigating Trump's business activities but that doesn't make him partisan. Now he engages in other political activities that are critical of Trump, but he didn't do that before he lost his non-partisan job working for the People of the State of New York and of the USA as an officer of the court. Those people are explicitly NOT partisan and it is a major insult to call them that, including Bharara, who was treated shabbily by Trump.

      If you think Hillary and the Democrats didn't suggest that the info stolen from Podesta shouldn't be used, you are very wrong. The info in the Steele dossier did not come from "Russian sources" but from people who knew and worked with Trump, including his business associates. Because many of those people are Russian, some of the info did come from Russian people, but not from Putin or the Russian government or agencies of that government. The Russian government didn't lead Steele around by the nose, the way they tried to do with Trump's people. Because the Steele dossier included publicly available information and interviews with Trump associates, none of it was illicitly obtained. It wasn't stolen the way Podesta's emails were hacked. This isn't tit for tat. There is no equivalence.

      Steele gave his dossier to the FBI because he was concerned about the amount and kind of wrongdoing he uncovered and its impact on the election and on our country. We know what happened after that.

    2. David, the lying sack of shit treasonous bastard, has difficulty distinguishing between US allies and enemies. He is also an amateur logician.

    3. All perfectly reasoned, 8:20.
      David, however will continue to support Trump's treason, because Trump gives David the sweet, sugary shot of bigotry David craves.
      Unlike David, not all Conservatives are bigots. Some, like Mao, tolerate Trump's bigotry because Trump is in the pockets of the Establishment.

  3. 1. Steele, a former MI-6 investigator now working for a research firm, asked people questions about Trump and compiled their answers into a report supplied to a Republican candidate who authorized it, and then later to the DNC after Trump won the nomination.

    2. Agents of the Russian government (Putin) offered putative dirt on Clinton to the Trump campaign in order to manipulate the outcome of the US election (to help Trump win and defeat Clinton).

    Does Somerby really not understand that foreign agents are not permitted to interfere with and manipulate the outcome of a US election? Does he not understand that Americans who help a foreign power do that are committing treason?

    Somerby is fixated on the fact that information was being supplied in both cases, by "foreigners". He ignores the motives, the involvement of the Russian government, the willingness of Trump's people to work with agents of Putin, and the illegality of what Trump's campaign did compared to the routineness of opposition research by campaigns.

    More blatantly, Somerby parrots conservative arguments as if he were thinking of them himself and performing some sort of logical analysis when he is just propagandizing on behalf of conservatives.

    1. Steele came on board with Fusion GPS via their contract with the Clinton Campaign.

      The conservative Washington Free Beacon site had left by then.

    2. Steele isn't the point. Fusion GPS began compiling their opposition research on Trump for a Republican primary candidate, not Clinton. Clinton didn't pay for the report directly -- she paid the DNC who paid Fusion GPS for the completed report, including Steele's input. Fusion GPS had no contract with the Clinton Campaign.

    3. An inaccurate account of Steele's GPS tenure was point label #1.

      Which Republican primary candidate paid Fusion GPS?

    4. Speculation is that it was John McCain but no one has fessed up. My account is not inaccurate. Conservatives like to bully people into accepting their fantasy versions of things.

    5. John McCain didn't fund the Fusion GPS Steele Dossier. The info was given to him and he took it to the FBI and shared it with several media members.

    6. This is the Trump, Lindsey Graham, Fox News version of things -- blame McCain. NBC and the Wall Street Journal reported that Steele approached his own contacts within the FBI with the dossier information because he saw that no one he had given the report to was doing anything about it.

      Why would McCain share the report with the media if Hillary was the one who paid for it? Why wouldn't Hillary have shared it? The problem with these stories that the right makes up is that they don't make sense. But Trump hates McCain (probably for voting against ACA repeal), so he has to be the bad guy.

    7. Hillary Clinton wouldn't have directly shared the dossier with the media because she was Trump's direct opposition and the oppos research aspect of the dossier would not have been something the campaign wanted to highlight with the FBI or the media.

      McCain was informed about the dossier at a conference of Nova Scotia by retired British diplomat, Sir Andrew Wood. McCain was accompanied by David Kramer, his friend and director at the McCain Institute.

      McCain later sent Kramer to meet with Steele.

      Lindsey Graham didn't "blame McCain". He encouraged his friend to hand over the dossier to the FBI. McCain did, while Kramer met with media.

      John McCain did not commission the Steele dossier as was stated above.

  4. Context seems relevant. Hard to argue against "information" from any source being made public, if true. But in context, Bharara was opining on the taking of stolen emails (that were more embarrassing than compromising) from agents of a hostile foreign power, not stating a general principle - if he had been doing the latter, he would have used more careful language. I will agree with Somerby that the arguments should be made explicitly and with greater competence. I won't agree that in substance Bharara is making a weak claim. The best argument for impeachment is that the matter is already becoming trivialized and misrepresented. Hearings will at least delay the inevitable amnesia/dementia that seems to attach to failings by Republican Presidents.

    1. Can information from any source be made public? What if someone steals medical information from their job in a doctor's office and reveals it in a manner that harms the patient, in direct violation of HIPAA laws? Is it OK to do that, just because the info is "true"?

      Would it be OK for the Democrats to run ads saying that Trump has herpes, obtained by someone who works for a doctor, just because the info were true? I don't think so. Theft and misuse of info can be a crime. I think it was in the case of Podesta's emails and it should have been prosecuted, with press refusing to print any of it. If such boundaries are not respected, no citizen has recourse in an information age and we can all be harmed.

    2. Um,no. But again, context. Wasn't stating a general principle. Talking about the case at hand. Trying not to be too wordy. I put quotes around "information" as a sort of shorthand. Sorry if I was unclear.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. Generally, what happens is the media does the dirty work for campaigns.

      They use them as the conduits for oppo research and for often-illegal leaks.

      It's interesting that the Obama Administration explicitly says that it was monitoring the opposition political campaign for meetings with Russian figures. They specifically said they were "preserving" [leaking] information on this.

      Democratic pols were being told of Flynn's and Sessions' conversations with Russian ambassador Kislyak (picked up in routine NSA monitoring).

      The FBI was surveilling Carter Page and George Papadopoulas, which means they can monitor them, the people they speak with, and the people those people speak with.

      However, no one told Trump. He wasn't being surveiled, we're told, but no involved him.

      Two years later there's no conclusive proof of collusion. Multiple firings at the DNC after embarrassing emails are released. Firings, retirings, demotions at the FBI and with Ohr at the DOJ.

      Candidate Trump, as politically savvy as a bar bouncer, makes biscuit-eating dumb quips about Russia releasing emails they've stolen, and this is the ethical dilemma.

      Alright. I doubt Pres. Trump will glean a shred of insight from this, and I doubt the media, politicians, and most of the country will either. We don't have that sort of leadership, anywhere, anymore.

    5. @6:07 IANAL but, I believe that if information was obtained illegally, and that information is provided to a third party, it is not a crime for that third party to disseminate the information. (This assumes that the third party was not involved in the illegal acquisition of the info.) Thus, media are not breaking the law when they report info that was illegally leaked. They do this all the time.

    6. possession of stolen property is a crime and you don't get to keep the stuff. Why should info be any different?

    7. It's different because of Freedom of Speech, @8:05

    8. Would it be OK for the Democrats to run ads saying that Trump has herpes, obtained by someone who works for a doctor, just because the info were true?

      Depends on your definition of OK. I doubt it would be illegal. I think HIPAA liability is limited to so-called “covered entities,” like health-care providers.

      Theft and misuse of info can be a crime.

      For the thief, sure. For a party uninvolved with the theft, I’m having a hard time coming up with an example of secondary criminal liability.

      Perhaps you have an enlightening example.

    9. The Podesta emails showed the barf-inducing corruption and nepotism of Democrats, further solidifying the theory that both parties only pretend to work in the interest of their constituents and instead work in the interest of power, specifically banks and Silicon Valley, in these emails.

      Would you people like me to provide some examples?

    10. But they were illegally obtained (i.e. stolen) and misleading to the extent that similarly "private" evidence of equal or greater corruption and nepotism by Republicans was not disclosed to balance the picture available to voters. That's why the illegality mattered and the "legal" collusion by the Trump campaign is rightly a "high crime" . Contrary to Cecilia (who is otherwise enlightening), collusion has been overwhelmingly demonstrated in plain sight for a long time. Mueller's report defined conspiracy so as to exclude liability by Trump a priori (Intel operations being designed to avoid direct links in favor of cut-outs). And besides, the Russians didn't need Trump's knowing help. He's the poster child for useful idiots.

    11. 8:39,

      Hello, Ivan. Greetings and salutations from America.

      Let me see if I have your theory correct. You're saying us Americans should just stay home and not vote cause it doesn't matter who wins. There's no difference between the Democratic Party and the fascists lawless undemocratic (small d) pack of wolves otherwise known as the Republican party? Do I have that straight?

      Interesting theory.

    12. "But they were illegally obtained (i.e. stolen)"

      This is also called 'whistleblowing', my dear.

      Obtaining the proof of wrongdoing and disclosing it, in the interests of the public.

      Same as what Bradley Manning did in 2010, for which she is regarded as a hero by many.

      As for your whataboutery about the alleged corruption of the Rs, by that logic no corruption could ever be exposed.

    13. You can hold your nose and vote for a Democrat if you want but in many major ways, yes, there is no difference.

      For example, there is no difference in terms of doing anything about health care prices, there's no difference in terms of the military budget and feeding the military industrial complex welfare queens, they are the same in terms of record deficits, they both have done nothing about student loan gouging, the divide between the rich and the poor, job insecurity and loss due to automation.

      But my main point is exactly what I stated. The Podesta emails showed the barf-inducing corruption and nepotism of Democrats, further solidifying the theory that both parties only pretend to work in the interest of their constituents and instead work in the interest of power, specifically banks and Silicon Valley, in these emails.

    14. Identifying a disclosure as whistle blowing is an equitable judgment made in view of circumstances that mitigate the illegality by furthering a public good by the only means available. i wouldn't call it whistle blowing if I stole someone's private information and disclosed it in order to embarrass them. Perhaps Mao would.

    15. "i wouldn't call it whistle blowing if I stole someone's private information and disclosed it in order to embarrass them"

      I wouldn't call it whistle blowing either. Luckily for us, that is not what happen in the case being discussed.

      Various incidents of corruption were disclosed, from the DNC working to derail Sanders' campaign, to the DNC colluding with establishment media to perform sham public presentations.

      Secret Clinton speeches to banksters were published.

      DNC honchos resigned, and that organization was reduced to arguing in court that they are merely a private corporation that is not legally obliged to follow its own rules.

      So much for your "integrity of the vote"...

    16. Read the Mueller Report, folks. Every word. Then try to make believe the Republican Party is just a political party, and not a criminal enterprise that would sell out the country (cheap) for political power.
      I wish all of you the best of luck in the world. You'll need it.

    17. Can you cut and paste some examples from the report here that support what you were saying?

    18. I am always very much fascinated to see how "concerned" the fascist anarchist wing of the elites were for poor poor Bernard. Poor, poor Bernard, he only lost nearly every large state primary and won 4 million fewer votes, yet the corrupt Democratic Party Convention still gave the nomination to "that woman". Poor poor, Mao, crying in his hanky for poor poor Bernard.

    19. Calm down, Hillary.

    20. Sanders “lost” those states because hundreds of superdelegates had pledged their votes long before the primaries and caucuses began. By including those prearranged votes, running media tallies reinforced the inevitability of a Clinton win and the common perception that the Democratic primary was “rigged”.

    21. It's not a perception. They were taken to court, and they admitted it.

      Their defense is that the "Democratic party" is a private corporation, and therefore its managers can nominate whomever they want.

      Primaries are just the circus for the plebs.

    22. Bullshit, Ivan.

      People voted for Secretary Clinton because they preferred her and she was clearly the more prepared. Bernard had one job to do, win big somewhere when in mattered. He failed. She kicked his ass. It wasn't even close. Bernard damaged her tremendously by not conceding after California, his last hope for a Hail Mary upset.

      Throw away the SDs, she still beat his ass handily. What people and Russian trolls such as yourself never admit is that the Democratic Party, unlike the repubs, did not have winner take all primaries. Therefore, by the end of May it was mathematically highly improbable that Bernard could ever catch up.

    23. By the way, Ivan, you get extra credit for placing the word LOST in quotation marks. Bwahahahaha!!!!

    24. Ok sounds good. I voted for her but felt like Sanders could have beat Trump when it was all over with and she had lost the big game. I kmow, I know, it wasn't her fault!! She was a victim. ;)

    25. 5:49,
      You have to admit that the NY Times spending 2016 pretending they cared that Republicans were pretending to care about her private server didn't help.

    26. 1257 Yes, they don't give that job away, the big job, the top spot. you have to fight for it and yes, they will be coming at you from all angles.

  5. Now that everything Rachel Maddow has been on about for two years is shown to be racist, Bob wants results and he wants them NOW. Yes Bob, Trump is moved and his European followers have too. We will note that you think, as ever, it is all salt crust grill and Volkswagen buses.

    Se tu segui tua stella my good man, Se tu segui tua stella!!!!

    1. I love how this pathetic loser doesn't even wait for me to weigh in. Bob's attacks on Maddow are too boring and ridiculous to read anymore. He's just not a serious person on the subject of Maddow. Fake Greg seems to be something like a religious nutcase on "Special Victims Unit." Probably obsessed with Maddow too.

  6. If China broke into Trump’s computer and stole his tax returns, would Preet say the Democrats should refuse to look at them and use them against Trump? If they show criminal conduct, should they ignore them because the information was “stolen” by a “hostile power”? Would Rachel Maddow dutifully avoid looking at the stolen information and refuse to report on them?

    1. If China did that, I have no doubt Bharara would say precisely what you (tellingly) cannot conceive: the fruits of the poison tree should be refused.

  7. "Suppose the Russian lawyer had written an op-ed column with some accurate information about Clinton. Should patriotic Americans ignore that information too?"

    Just ignore? No, it's much worse than that, Bob.

    When (in the most likely scenario) American patriot Seth Rich sent DNC emails to Wikileaks, where the emails were published. They revealed massive, enormous corruption of your liberal zombie cult and its allies in establishment media.

    And then, almost immediately, this horrendous cascade of slime was blocked, completely silenced, and forgotten; drown out by zombie chants ORANGE MAN BAD.

    ...and incidentally, you, Bob, pretty much follow the same script...


      If you multiply the number of Right-wingers who accuse Seth Rich of leaking the DNC emails to Wikileaks by the number of Right-wingers who have a problem with treason against the United States of America, you come up with the number zero.

  8. “For ourselves, we think our system is built on elections, not on impeachments.”

    Our system includes impeachment. It is available to the elected representatives of the people.

    But aside from that, since Somerby likes to posit so many hypotheticals (none of which describe Veselnitskaya’s actions, nor indeed the Russian military intelligence agency and other interested Russian parties), here’s a hypothetical: what if the corrupt president bribes or orders the owners of the voting machines to ensure he “wins” the election? Then, Somerby’s belief in voting is rendered naive. In that case, I would argue, impeachment may be the only recourse. It should occur to him, also, that this is precisely the concern with election 2016: foreign actors were attempting to disrupt and potentially corrupt the election results. Somerby focuses only on the Trump Tower meeting, and refuses to see the larger pattern of the Trump campaign coordinating with Russia to disrupt the election. And these efforts are by no means a thing of the past.

  9. Impeachment is now necessary precisely to protect the integrity of the vote. Trump's culpable behavior is not a discreet event in the past. It is ongoing, accelerating, and compounding. Elections are not a suicide pact. Impeachment is a necessary correlative function of the Democratic immune system.

    1. "Impeachment is now necessary precisely to protect the integrity of the vote."

      Ah, impeach the president - because he was elected? Makes sense.

      I LOVE the dembot logic. Cary on, please.

    2. If he committed "high crimes" to get elected, and persists in them to get reelected, yes.

    3. Two things:
      1. You have the right to an opinion. And
      2. Your personal opinion in this matter is completely inconsequential.

    4. This is a media criticism site.
      Where's the reporting on the Right-winger who doesn't support treason against the United States of America? Can they not track him or her down?

    5. "Ah, impeach the president - because he was elected? Makes sense.
      I LOVE the dembot logic. Cary (sic) on, please."

      It's jealousy. They acted the same way towards Saddam Hussein in late 2001.

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