We already beheld the sad spectacle of one of the nation’s most distinguished and respected legal minds beginning to crumble under the dual attacks of anti-Trump hysteria from his peer group, and the inexplicable power of social media to make wise men and women behave like idiots..here (my linking function isn’t working this morning: http://lawnewz.com/high-profile/in-dumbest-move-famous-law-prof-broke-ethics-rules-in-apparent-shot-at-trump/), when famed Harvard Law scholarLawrence Tribe breached a basic and legal ethics principle by issuing a tweet implying that Donald Trump had once asked him about a legal matter, and wouldn’t you all love to know what it was? When I mention this to lawyers in my legal ethics seminars, they literally laugh and roll their eyes. They know lawyers can’t do this: why didn’t the famous Constitutional Law prof from Harvard Law School have his well-oiled ethics alarms go off? It was because, I explain, Twitter often turns lawyers and other professionals into fools, and what brains social media hasn’t chewed up can be swallowed by anti-Trump madness.
That was before the election, and poor Tribe’s deterioration has continued. Three days after the President was sworn in, Tribe joined a group of deranged lawyers and the early stirrings of the “resistance” to sue Trump for violating the obscure Emoluments Clause, which, sane and objective authorities agree, was not intended to apply to a President who has his name on hotels, making the claim that this unprecedented situation constitutes a government official receiving prohibited payments from foreign governments. The theory is not just a stretch, but an embarrassingly partisan one that a respected Constitutional law scholar should have been mocking, not joining.
Now Tribe has really gone around the bend, and may soon be seen wandering aimlessly through Harvard Square, wearing a Red Sox cap, muttering to himself and carrying a crudely lettered sign.
On April 22, Tribe tweeted out a story from a left-wing conspiracy website called the Palmer Report, well known for feeding progressive rumors and false claims . This one stated, “Report: Trump gave $10 million in Russian money to Jason Chaffetz when he leaked FBI letter,” referring to the infamous pre-election letter sent by former FBI director James Comey to members of Congress announcing that Hillary’s e-mails had been found on Anthony Weiner’s laptop.
The “report” was a now-deleted tweet by a Twitter user named LM Garner, who describes herself in her Twitter biography as “Just a VERY angry citizen on Twitter. Opinions are my own. Sometimes prone to crazy assertions. Not a fan of this nepotistic kleptocracy”—in other words, “I am a wacko.” Garner has 257 followers and has tweeted more than 25,000 times from her account.
Never mind: the accusation suggests dire and impeachable conduct by the President AND a Republican member of Congress, so that’s enough for poor Larry. “I don’t know whether this is true,” Tribe tweeted, “But key details have been corroborated and none, to my knowledge, have been refuted. If true, it’s huge.”
“If it’s true, it’s huge” is a calling card of a conspiracy theorist.
Tribe explained to a bewildered BuzzFeed, which normally likes Trump hysteria accusations but had even its rusty ethics alarms triggered by this silliness, that he was aware of the Palmer Report’s dubious reputation. Still, he added, “When I share any story on Twitter, typically with accompanying content of my own that says something like ‘If X is true, then Y,’ I do so because a particular story seems to be potentially interesting, not with the implication that I’ve independently checked its accuracy or that I vouch for everything it asserts.”
Apparently the former Harvard legal guru, often mentioned as a SCOTUS nomination-in-waiting, no longer can discern that credible authorities circulating irresponsible gossip and rumors from partisan warriors gives their theories credibility and unwarranted distribution that spread disinformation, which is to say doing so is irresponsible and an abuse of authority.
This display is very sad, as have been similar episodes from once-respectable historians, journalists, professors, lawyers, scientists and legal ethicists since November 8 documented elsewhere on the blog. (I’ll try to add the links when I get back home and off my dying laptop.) I think a charity for the treatment of the victims of Anti-Trump Brain Loss needs to be established, with public service announcements showing a solemn spokesman standing next to Larry as he furiously sends out hysterical anti-Trump tweets. “This is the tragedy of Anti-Trump Brain Loss,” he can intone. “Once, Lawrence Tribe was a productive member of society. Today, because of the cruel ravages of ATBL, he spends his days laughing at Alec Baldwin and quoting Maxine Waters. Won’t you help Larry ATBL victims like him by sending a generous donation to the address you see on the screen?”
Pointer: Professor Jacobsen (http://legalinsurrection.com/2017/05/buzzfeed-asks-why-is-harvard-law-prof-larry-tribe-spreading-conspiracy-theories/)