Abbreviated Pundit Round-up: Yesterday before yesterday, everything seem clear


So, about Friday. Remember that part where I was all like “That’s suborning perjury!” and then, then it was “Democrats can’t even wait for the Mueller report, they have to impeach Trump now!” Yeah. That was … a thing.

Everything on Friday was couched in a careful collection of “if true” and “is reporting” and “alleges.” But that doesn’t mean here wasn’t a considerable amount of “lean in” to the story published on Buzzfeed, both here and elsewhere. The thing about that story was not that it indicated that Trump had committed a felony — we already know that Trump committed felony violations of campaign finance law in instructing Michael Cohen to make undercover payments. Both Trump and Republicans in Congress have come to the conclusion that felonies, when committed by a Republican, are no bit whoop.

What set the Buzzfeed story about was the simplicity of the story it told. You don’t have to understand the complexities of campaign finance law to understand that instructing a witness to lie under oath is a crime. It’s not necessarily a worse crime, but it is much more understandable. Telling Cohen to lie is suborning perjury, is obstruction, and it’s an indictable offense precisely because explaining the crime is exactly that simple.

So the statement from the special counsel’s office on Friday night wasn’t just a surprise, it was a deadly complication to a story that had been so, so simple. Even in the best case, even if you read the carefully worded statement about “specifics” by spokesman Peter Carr as exactly that — a carefully worded statement that only strikes out some particular details of the original article—it just leaves … a mess.

Of course, if that outcome is concerning here, it’s far worse over at Buzzfeed. It’s not too much to say that both the publication and the careers of quite a few people are on the line. This kind of story, the story that was obviously going to be an instant sensation, is exactly the sort of story that demands careful, check it once, check it twice, just keep on checking validation of every detail. Well known reporters more than heavily hinting that they may have been contacted by some of the same sources and took a pass on the story, certainly doesn’t help the apparent judgement.

On the other hand, Buzzfeed is staying firmly planted behind the story. The reporters, the editors, and the spokesperson for the publican continue to stress their faith in both the sources and their analysis. They’re being “specific” as well, as in saying that “As we’ve re-confirmed our reporting, we’ve seen no indication that any specific aspect of our story is inaccurate.” Buzzfeed has also indicated that they might release more information in support of their story. Which would be good … though at this point it won’t stop right wing sights from claiming this as a victory over fake news until doomsday. But maybe there is more. Maybe there are documents. Maybe there’s a nice memo emblazoned with the Trump Organization logo and graced with Trump’s scrawl giving Cohen the complete timeline of lies he was supposed to tell.

That seems unlikely, but it would be nice to get back to Friday. Things were so simple then.

Okay, let’s read pundits.

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