Ethics Observations On Reactions To The Mueller Report, Continued: Quotes

1. The most revealing quote is the New York Times headline I’m looking at, approximately the same size as the one announcing that the Titanic had sunk: “Mueller Report Lays Out Russian Contacts And Trump’s Frantic Effort To Foil Inquiry.” What it reveals is that the New York Times has no interest in objective reporting on this matter, and is still in the mode it announced during the campaign: it sees its job as not to report the news, but to take down Donald Trump. The headline, as well as the cherry-picked excerpts from the 400 page report, are calculated to mislead the public and impede the President’s ability to govern. “Contacts” are not collusion or conspiracy, as the report itself showed. Meeting with Russians is neither illegal nor unusual. “Frantic” is a subjective characterization that does not belong in a headline, and “foil” is misleading. The President wanted the investigation to end, as it made doing his job difficult (as it was intended to do), and he wanted to “foil” its illicit (and obvious) objective of carrying out the Democratic Party’s and the mainstream media’s attempted coup.

The Times, the Post and the rest know that most citizens won’t read the report and couldn’t understand it if they tried, so they are pushing the same false and misleading narrative, an abuse of the news media’s critical role, to see if, somehow, they can still take “get” Donald Trump.

2. Andrew McCarthy, who has been an invaluable analyst throughout this fiasco, clarified the “obstruction of justice” controversy yesterday, and William Barr’s comments on them. McCarthy’s quote:

The attorney general stated that the special counsel evaluated ten incidents with an eye toward whether they amounted to an obstruction offense. Barr elaborated that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein disagreed with Mueller on whether these incidents even could have amounted to obstruction as a matter of law…. Barr was not saying that Mueller found one or more of these incidents to constitute obstruction; Mueller was saying that the incidents involved actions that could theoretically have amounted to obstruction.

A concrete example may make this easier to grasp: the firing of FBI director James Comey. Before a prosecutor considered evidence regarding that incident, there would be a preliminary question: Could the president’s dismissal of an FBI director amount to an obstruction offense as a matter of law? If prosecutors were to decide that, even if the evidence showed corrupt intent on the part of the president, a president’s firing of the FBI director cannot constitutionally amount to an obstruction crime, then the prosecutors would not bother to investigate and make an assessment of the evidence.

What Barr is saying is that he and Mueller did not agree, with respect to all ten incidents, on whether the incident could legally amount to obstruction. What the attorney general therefore did was assume, for argument’s sake, that Mueller was correct on the law (i.e., that the incident could theoretically amount to obstruction), and then move on to the second phase of the analysis: Assuming this could be an obstruction offense as a matter of law, could we prove obstruction as a matter of fact? This requires an assessment of whether the evidence of each element of an obstruction offense – most significantly, corrupt intent – could be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. That is why Barr laid out the facts that the president could have shut down the investigation but did not; that he could have asserted executive privilege to withhold information from the investigation, but instead made numerous witnesses and well over a million documents available to the special counsel; and that – reportedly according to Mueller – the president sincerely felt frustrated that the investigation was unfairly undermining his presidency. The point is that these facts so cut against the idea of corruptly impeding an investigation that it is inconceivable the prosecutor could prove an obstruction case beyond a reasonable doubt.

What you keep reading and hearing the bitter-enders say is that Trump wanted to obstruct the investigation,  but his staff stopped him. Well, wanting to do something isn’t a crime or even unethical, and staffs and advisors saying “no” is what good staffs and advisors do. Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The Charlottesville Riots

  • Is there a clear, complete, objective account of what happened in Charlottesville? I can’t find one. I have read about “clashes” between protesters and “counter-protesters,” who we are told outnumbered the white nationalist group protesting the removal of General Lee’s statue by about 2-1. What does that mean? Was the white nationalist rally peaceful, regardless of the racist slogans they were hurling? Were the counter-protesters just shouting back, or more physical? I see references to the “fray.” What fray? The key word seems to be that the white nationalists “sparked’ violence by marching. Do we now say that the civil rights marchers in Selma sparked the violence, and not the counter-protest racists. or is the theory that which ever group has the less popular position “sparks” the violence?

My suspicions are that the vagueness of the news media reports is a deliberate effort by the news media to avoid assigning any responsibility to Antifa thugs for the escalation into violence.

  • Obviously the automobile driven into the anti-white nationalist, counter protest crowd was a criminal act. Since this was done by the racists, it became the focus of all news reports, as if this was the only violence.

Was it? Somehow I doubt that.

  • Again, a counter-protest group “incites violence” as much as a protest group. The reaction from the news media and the political pundits appears to ignore the basic fact that Americans have the right to demonstrate and express their support for repugnant ideas as well as ideas most of us approve of. This was settled (I thought) with National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie, 432 U.S. 43 (1977).

Apparently not.

  • President Trump’s statement regarding the riot was this:

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides. On many sides. It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. This has been going on for a long, long time…We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one!”

The immediate reaction by the newsmedia was that the statement asserted a false equivalency. CNN’s Chris Cillizza wrote,

“Both sides don’t scream racist and anti-Semitic things at people with whom they disagree. They don’t base a belief system on the superiority of one race over others. They don’t get into fistfights with people who don’t see things their way. They don’t create chaos and leave a trail of injured behind them. Arguing that “both sides do it” deeply misunderstands the hate and intolerance at the core of this “Unite the Right” rally. These people are bigots. They are hate-filled. This is not just a protest where things, unfortunately, got violent. Violence sits at the heart of their warped belief system.”

Both sides do “do it,” however, and when “it” is violence and refusal to allow a group with opposing views make their statements, there is no high ground. The starting point from the left is “the white nationalists are wrong, so they don’t deserve the same rights we do.” Yes, they do, and among those rights is the opportunity to protest whatever they choose without being attacked. “These people are bigots.” So what? They have the right to express their views. “They are hate-filled.” And the counter-protesters were not “hate-filled”? Or was the President supposed to distinguish that as good hate? Continue reading