Tuesday, February 25, 2020

For the Record: Obstruction by Obfuscation

Drawing by Barry Blitt from The New Yorker, September 2018.

A little applied narratology:

I'm not sure how much people are noticing, because I'm not hearing them say it explicitly, but Judge Amy Berman Jackson clarified for us last week that Trump really is guilty of whatever it is, which may or may not be a crime:
The documentary evidence alone, she said, proved that Mr. Stone deceived the House Intelligence Committee about his efforts to obtain information from WikiLeaks about Democratic emails that had been stolen by Russian operatives who sought to influence the 2016 presidential election.
“He was not prosecuted, as some have complained, for standing up for the president. He was prosecuted for covering up for the president,” the judge said. In government inquiries, she added, “the truth still exists. The truth still matters.” Otherwise, she said, “everyone loses.”
Because that was the purpose of the lies and intimidation for which Stone is convicted and sentenced: to conceal Trump's involvement in (borrowing language from Ryan Goodman and Asha Rangappa) coordinating with, cooperating with, encouraging, and/or supporting Russia's 2016 election interference activities; and with Wikileaks' election-related activities, which the US intelligence community has concluded were used by the Russian government. It's clearer and clearer that the FBI was right to be looking at these matters, as well as Trump's own quest to hide them, in the ten cases of obstruction covered in the Mueller Report and more, which is certainly criminal whether the underlying activities were criminal or not (I think only an impeachment trial could really decide that, but the current Senate isn't capable of doing it, unlike the Senates of 1974 and 1999).

It's also clear that this idiotic inversion of the Papadopoulos story is in itself a form of obstruction, maybe not in the full legal sense (people like Junior and the guy he cites aren't blocking investigation, just creating an atmosphere in which investigators are forced to waste a lot of time justifying themselves against stupid claims like these), and so is the Giuliani-Solomon campaign against Joe Biden. It's not just election interference that Giuliani is trying to achieve, it's the obfuscation of what Trump, with the Putin regime sometimes more and sometimes less behind him, has been doing for the past five years.

Berman Jackson's stern reminder—"the truth still exists"—is recognition that the war we're in is what Peter Pomerantsev described as a war against reality, or maybe that was my phrase for it, and that's one of the most serious things about it.

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