The criminalization of everything: Is Adam Schiff possibly losing his way? Is everything now being criminalized?
These questions popped into our heads as we read this news report in today's New York Times. Forget about people like Donald J. Trump and the even more heinous Donald Trump Junior, who is now wearing a beard. The report raises the possibility that Schiff may even want to lock four lawyers up.
Fandos and Haberman penned the report. They start their report like this:
FANDOS AND HABERMAN (5/15/19): The House Intelligence Committee is investigating whether lawyers tied to President Trump and his family helped obstruct the panel’s inquiry into Russian election interference by shaping false testimony, a series of previously undisclosed letters from its chairman show.Forget the part about dangling the pardon. Would it make sense to lock the lawyers up—to charge them with committing a crime—because they "helped edit false testimony," as Michael Cohen says they did? Because their editing had possibly "caus[ed] the omission of material facts?"
The line of inquiry stems from claims made by the president’s former personal lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, who told Congress earlier this year that the lawyers in question helped edit false testimony that he provided to Congress in 2017 about a Trump Tower project in Moscow. Mr. Cohen said they also dangled a potential pardon to try to ensure his loyalty.
In recent weeks, the committee sent lengthy document requests to four lawyers—Jay Sekulow, who represents the president; Alan S. Futerfas, who represents Donald Trump Jr.; Alan Garten, the top lawyer at the Trump Organization; and Abbe D. Lowell, who represents Ivanka Trump. The lawyers all took part in a joint defense agreement by the president’s allies to coordinate responses to inquiries by Congress and the Justice Department.
“Among other things, it appears that your clients may have reviewed, shaped and edited the false statement that Cohen submitted to the committee, including causing the omission of material facts,” the Intelligence Committee’s chairman, Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, wrote to lawyers representing the four men in a May 3 letter obtained by The New York Times.
The report suggests that Schiff may want to refer the four lawyers in question for criminal charges at some point. Would such an action make sense?
Presumably, this would only make sense if the lawyers knew they were helping create false testimony—if they understood the facts of the matter under review well enough to know that they were "causing the omission of material facts."
If the lawyers believed the testimony in question was accurate, based on what their clients had told them, how could they be charged with committing a crime? And remember—the principal person who knew the facts in this matter would presumably have been Michael Cohen, a person who hasn't always been known for his truthful behavior.
Would it make sense to charge lawyers with a crime if they didn't know the actual facts? As a theoretical matter, this seems like obvious question.
But as we read the Times report, Fandos and Haberman don't touch upon this obvious factor until quite late in their presentation. And even then, they only touch on this matter somewhat tangentially.
More and more, the liberal world's reaction to current affairs seems to resemble "the criminalization of everything." We don't seem to know how to speak to voters who aren't exactly like us, so we seem inclined instead to try to lock everyone on the other side up.
In this matter, Schiff may not be over-reaching at all. It may be that the lawyers in question have actually done something wrong, and that Schiff has good reason to suspect this.
That said, the desire to lock everyone up—the so-called criminalization of everything—seems to be floating around in this Times report.
Might the problem here rest with the Times itself? When we talk about locking lawyers up for having edited false testimony, this would seem to presume that they knew the testimony was false. But the Times reporters touch upon that factor quite late in their report. Along the way, it simply sounds like we've all agreed to try to lock everyone up.
Rachel Maddow has been trying to lock everyone up for at least a decade now. This impulse strikes us as terrible politics and as a sign of liberal failure. So who's out over their skis in this case? Is it Schiff, or perhaps just the Times?