Saturday, February 03, 2018
The case against the FBI that's being assembled by Trump and his minions is not designed to convince dispassionate observers. It's only supposed to give the thinnest of cover to true believers -- and at least 34 senators -- to do what they are predisposed to do anyway, i.e., protect the president at all costs.
The Nunes memo is a modern-day version of the jury nullification that O.J. Simpson's legal team sought to inspire. (I'm grateful to Eric Felten of the Weekly Standard for the analogy.) Johnnie Cochran and company spun an elaborate conspiracy theory about how the Los Angeles Police Department supposedly framed their client. They were helped by minor procedural errors in the handling of evidence and by previous racist remarks from one of the detectives, just as Trump is helped by minor FBI missteps such as the Strzok texts and the alleged failure to alert a judge about Steele's Democratic Party funding.
It was never clear why the LAPD would be eager to frame a local celebrity for murder, just as it's not clear why the FBI -- full of white, middle-age, conservative agents -- would want to frame a Republican president. And, of course, the supposed police conspiracy could not possibly account for the mountain of evidence against Simpson, just as the supposed FBI conspiracy cannot possibly account for the undeniable reality that the Russians really did intervene in the election to help elect Trump and that there are numerous documented links between the campaign and the Kremlin.
But in Simpson's case, it didn't matter: The overwhelmingly African American jury bought the argument because jurors knew the experience of police brutality and sympathized with the defendant. Likewise, today it doesn't matter to the president's acolytes that the case for an anti-Trump conspiracy is so flimsy. They are simply looking for an excuse to exonerate him, evidence be damned. Sadly, Sarah Huckabee Sanders may have been wrong: Attacking the FBI could turn out to be a winning (if reprehensible) strategy for Trump.
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