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.
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.That was Bharara's full response. At that point, Tapper moved on to another question. Our own questions would be these:
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.
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?
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!