Of course Trump has obstructed justice

It’s all in public, damnit.  Dave Leonhardt lays out the case.

Given last week’s news — that Trump has already tried to fire Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating the Trump campaign — it’s time to put together the same sort of list for Trump. Of course, this list is based only on publicly available information. Mueller, no doubt, knows more.

1. During a dinner at the White House on Jan. 27, 2017, Trump asked for a pledge of “loyalty” from James Comey, then the F.B.I. director, who was overseeing the investigation of the Trump campaign.

2. On Feb. 14, Trump directed several other officials to leave the Oval Office so he could speak privately with Comey. He then told Comey to “let this go,” referring to the investigation of Michael Flynn, who had resigned the previous day as Trump’s national security adviser.

3. On March 22, Trump directed several other officials to leave a White House briefing so he could speak privately with Daniel Coats, the director of national intelligence, and Mike Pompeo, the C.I.A. director. Trump asked them to persuade Comey to back off investigating Flynn.

4. In March and April, Trump told Comey in phone calls that he wanted Comey to lift the ”cloud” of the investigation.

5. On May 9, Trump fired Comey as F.B.I. director. On May 10, Trump told Russian officials that the firing had “taken off” the “great pressure” of the Russia investigation. On May 11, he told NBC News that the firing was because of “this Russia thing.”

6. On May 17, shortly after hearing that the Justice Department had appointed Mueller to take over the Russia investigation, Trump berated Jeff Sessions, the attorney general. The appointment had caused the administration again to lose control over the investigation, and Trump accused Sessions of “disloyalty.”

7. In June, Trump explored several options to retake control. At one point, he ordered the firing of Mueller, before the White House counsel resisted.

8. On July 8, aboard Air Force One, Trump helped draft a false public statement for his son, Donald Trump Jr. The statement claimed that a 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer was about adoption policy. Trump Jr. later acknowledged that the meeting was to discuss damaging information the Russian government had about Hillary Clinton.

9. On July 26, in a tweet, Trump called for the firing of Andrew McCabe, the F.B.I.’s deputy director, a potential corroborating witness for Comey’s conversations with Trump. The tweet was part of Trump’s efforts, discussed with White House aides, to discredit F.B.I. officials.

10. Throughout, Trump (and this quotation comes from the Nixon article of impeachment) “made false or misleading public statements for the purpose of deceiving the people of the United States.” Among other things, Trump repeatedly made untruthful statements about American intelligence agencies’ conclusions regarding Russia’s role in the 2016 election.

Obstruction of justice depends on a person’s intent — what legal experts often call “corrupt intent.” This list is so damning because it reveals Trump’s intent.

He has inserted himself into the details of a criminal investigation in ways that previous presidents rarely if ever did. (They left individual investigations to the attorney general.) And he has done so in ways that show he understands he’s doing something wrong. He has cleared the room before trying to influence the investigation. He directed his son to lie, and he himself has lied.

This is a clear and damning case.  And that’s without what Mueller knows that we don’t.  Of course, the Congressional GOP has already shown they don’t give a damn about this.  As I’ve said before and will say again, it’s all about November 2018 for this to matter politically.  But let’s not pretend that there’s not clear evidence of malfeasance a the heart of Trump’s presidency.

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Both sides!

Interesting piece from Erik Wemple with Jeffrey Toobin apologizing for his part in the false equivalnce of Trump and HRC scandals.  So much of modern political journalism’s pathologies is captured in this “but, both sides!” without any larger context or sense of proportion.  Wemple:

So long as President Trump continues disgracing the Oval Office, thoughtful people will probe their own role in helping him get there.

Such appeared to be the motivation behind a mea culpa issued by CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin on comedian Larry Wilmore’s “Black on the Air” podcast. In a discussion of presidential politics, Wilmore argued that Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee in 2016, was the victim of a “coordinated attack” coming from Republicans. “Benghazi was … the expression of that attack. In fact, what’s his name, was it [former Rep. Jason] Chaffetz who actually kind of agreed that that’s what they were doing, was weakening her as a candidate.” (Wilmore may have been referring to Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who said in 2015, ““Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping.”)

“And I hold myself somewhat responsible for that,” continued Toobin, a steady presence on CNN since 2002. “I think there was a lot of false equivalence in the 2016 campaign. That every time we said something, pointed out something about Donald Trump — whether it was his business interests, or grab ’em by the p–––y, we felt like, ‘Oh, we gotta, like, talk about — we gotta say something bad about Hillary.’ And I think it led to a sense of false equivalence that was misleading, and I regret my role in doing that.”

Those comments drive at one of the great media brain-busters of all time. On the one hand, media organizations in the run-up to November 2016 exposed and covered the hard-to-count scandals and outrages that Trump had generated over decades as a self-absorbed real-estate mogul: the thousands of lawsuits, the mistreatment of women, the ambient lies, the racism, the stiffing of contractors, Trump University, the false promises of charity and much, much more. On the other hand, those same media organizations pounded away at Hillary Clinton’s email story. And many of them — CNN prominently included — gave Trump generous helpings of airtime for the rallies early in his campaign.

A study by Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy found that in the campaign’s final months, the media’s aggregate coverage performed pretty much as Toobin described to Wilmore. “When journalists can’t, or won’t, distinguish between allegations directed at the Trump Foundation and those directed at the Clinton Foundation, there’s something seriously amiss. And false equivalencies are developing on a grand scale as a result of relentlessly negative news. If everything and everyone is portrayed negatively, there’s a leveling effect that opens the door to charlatans,” wrote Thomas Patterson in the Shorenstein study. [emphasis mine]

To some degree, I think this is a result of Republicans effectively “working the refs” all these years.  Given all the accusations of “liberal media bias!” a simple way for reporters to prove to themselves otherwise is to always have a “but, both sides” take.  I still remember back in the 2000 campaign when GWB would lie/distort things by orders of magnitude and Al Gore is off by a few millions dollars in some giant budget item and it was all about “both sides” lying to the public about the policy.  Of course, reporting that actually does a service to the public lets the public know when one side is lying shamelessly, while the other is engaged in fairly typical political spin by putting the best face on things.  Alas, it’s also easier to simply report “both sides” than know an issue well enough to render a reasoned judgment.  This does happen (and increasingly with Trump, due to the shamelessness and extent of his lies), but not damn well near enough.

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