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Friday, June 09, 2017

Illogical arguments for dummies

by digby

Joe Conason did a nice job of breaking down the Republican arguments in defense of Trump in the Comey matter. An excerpt:

Senator James Risch (R-ID) made the most amusing attempt to exculpate Trump. According to Risch, Trump couldn’t be charged with a crime for telling Comey that he “hoped” the FBI director would “let Flynn go,” rather than prosecute the ex-national security adviser.

“Do you know of any case where a person has been charged for obstruction of justice, or for that matter any other criminal offense, where they said or thought they hoped for an outcome?” demanded Risch. Unable to name a case offhand, Comey patiently explained, “I took it as a direction. This is the President of the United States with me alone saying, ‘I hope this’. I took it as this is what he wants me to do. I didn’t obey that but that’s the way I took it.”

But in fact, defendants who expressed that kind of “hope,” under such highly suspicious circumstances, have not only been charged with obstructing justice but convicted of that same crime.

Just last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld the conviction of a Dallas police officer on four federal obstruction counts. He was found guilty of trying to suppress evidence that he had exchanged law enforcement intelligence with a prostitute for sexual favors. When the FBI was closing in, the crooked cop had told the young lady in a recorded conversation: “I’m just hoping you haven’t told anyone anything.” The appeals court opinion said that such circumstantial evidence was sufficient to prove that the cop had “acted with the intent to impede that investigation.” (As an attorney, Risch should have been able to look up this and similar cases before posing his silly question.)

With equally compelling logic, the Republicans hinted that Comey should have arrested Trump for obstruction of justice in the Oval Office — as Attorney General Jeff Sessions loitered outside, after being invited to leave so Trump could make his pitch to Comey. Having failed to do so, they argued, Comey must not have thought that Trump did anything wrong.

Of course, the FBI director made careful notes of those improper conversations and reported them to his subordinates and other Justice Department officials because he knew Trump’s pressure on him was improper at best. Still, as Comey admitted, he might well have pushed back harder. But it is ridiculous for the Republicans to suggest that because he didn’t instantly report Trump’s improper conduct as a potentially impeachable offense, to either the Attorney General or the Congress or both, then the president must be innocent.

This argument is raging on cable today and I'm going to guess it will continue to rage for quite some time. Republicans are going right down this rabbit hole and it's going to hard to climb back out.

The smart move is for all of them, including the president, to say that the investigation is in the hands of Prosecutor Mueller and they don't think it's wise to comment while that's going on. That's what Bush did during the Scooter Libby scandal and it was very effective. But this is Trump and his clown car and they cannot keep their mouths shut about anything.