January 30, 2019


The Peculiar Logic of the Trump-Russia Scandal Deniers (Jonathan Chait, 1/30/19, New York)

Six Trump campaign associates so far have been indicted for or pleaded guilty to a wide array of federal crimes. And this is before some of the best-known episodes in the Russia scandal, like the Trump Tower meeting and the president's efforts to dictate false statements about it, have faced any legal sanction. Yet even as the legal net has widened, a devoted band of defenders has promoted an energetic defense of the president that has never wavered in its conviction of his essential innocence in the Russia matter.

The Wall Street Journal's Kimberly Strassel, the Washington Examiner's Byron York, the Federalist's Mollie Hemingway, and the National Review's Andrew McCarthy have confidently explained that every new indictment or revelation of malfeasance does not seriously indict the president or is not a revelation at all. These analysts represent the best and the brightest of the Trumpian vanguard, sitting atop an extensive food chain of talk-show hosts and rage-tweeters.

Their method for dismissing every incremental advance in the investigation is the same. First, they examine every new charge in isolation, ignoring the broader pattern of behavior in which it is contained. Then they assume the most innocent possible interpretation for each isolated fact, further assuming that no other incriminating evidence will emerge. It is not clear whether they have decided to act like lawyers for Trump, presenting the most plausible defense they can muster, or if they simply trust he would never do something like collude with Russia, and are working backward from their heartfelt presumption of innocence. Either way, they have developed a method that allows them to acknowledge every new piece of incriminating evidence without in any way altering their confidence that the investigation is going nowhere.

Posted by at January 30, 2019 4:09 PM