Where were you when you learned that OJ had gotten away with the murder of two white people? Do you remember exactly where you where and what you were doing? Did you then shout for joy and start dancing in the street (for real and not like the fake news Jersey City celebration)? Did you wring your hands in anguish and let out a big moan?
The OJ trial riveted the nation…for weeks. There had been nothing like it. For cable TV it was a godsend. Some of the people who made their media mark then are still going strong today. Now we were dealing with not one but two trials. And we are wondering about the big one to come. Although not directly related, the 1990s gave us two trials which changed the national media: the OJ and the impeachment. Now here we are two decades later seeing some of the same people on screens of various sizes.
August 21, 2018, is an historical day of multiple pieces and alternate realities. To begin with there were the trials – “what actually happened” asks the historian. Perhaps not since the deaths of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence have two such similar events to each other of historic significance occurred so closely in time.
What Actually Happened
The study of what actually happened is only just beginning. We are now starting to learn the full story. As someone who served on a jury trial where there were 18 charges and we convicted on 6, acquitted on 1, and were hung on 11 all by an 11-1 vote, I am fascinated by this unfolding story what went on behind closed doors. Our case lasted three months and became very intense. So far there are some preliminary conclusions which can be reached:
1. In general jurors do take their responsibilities seriously.
2. Tainted witnesses are not a prosecutors’ strong point but physical evidence is.
3. The tainting of the jury pool by the President and his Flying Monkeys did not succeed in the Cohen case of at least one juror who went public but the jury is still out on why the one holdout held out.
Undoubtedly in the days and weeks to come, we will learn about the group dynamics and psychology about something that may well be destined to become a case study in psychology, history, and law courses.
Second, the two sets of decisions raised additional questions which cannot yet be answered but which will be in the course of time.
1. Who were the other people in the Trump organization with whom Michael Cohen colluded?
2. Will charges be brought against them and will they implicates others in the conspiracy?
3. What other information will Michael Cohen share?
4. What other information will be gleaned from the documents of Michael Cohen seized by the FBI?
5. When will Paul Manfort be rewarded for his loyalty by the narcissist for whom loyalty is everything?
Undoubtedly the answers to some of these question will lead to further actions so in that sense, these two trials were a beginning and not an end.
The Presidential Performance
Third, on the same day as the verdicts, the President of the United States performed as a professional political wrestler at a rally in West Virginia. Based on the performance one would scarcely know that just hours earlier his longtime fixer and short term presidential campaign chair had been found guilty. Instead it was entertainment as usual with the perennial Republican favorites: Lock her up! Lock her up! Build a Wall! Build a Wall! Fake news. And the new one since the 2016 campaign: rigged witch hunt by 13 or 17 angry Democrats. Indeed, the greatest swamp builder in American history even called for draining the swamp precisely as the legal system had begun draining the very swamps he had built. As with climate change, there is no awareness of irony among Republicans.
The Impact of Pro-Trump Jurors
Fourth, what happens when the Trump supporters on the jury who voted to convict begin interacting with the Trump supporters cheering to drain the swamp? At this point, it is too early to tell. The initial juror foray into the public arena occurred on the President’s propaganda network but not with one of the Flying Monkeys. The juror’s belief that evidence is evidence and that truth is truth may not play well with them.
Republicans, like the Chinese, only get their news from government approved outlets. They do not include CNN, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. There is a danger in interviewing jurors on the one network they watch if those jurors contradict the party line. There is a disconnect between “the evidence was overwhelming” and “Manafort is brave.” What are the consequences if Republicans start to listen to the jurors who convicted Manafort instead of to the President who defends him? The 11 jurors know Manafort was guilty of everything. He is not a hero. If the jurors who support the President see that he does not realize that, then when else is he wrong? Why believe him on anything? The jurors who live in the real world may be Achilles’ heel to the people who live in the alternate reality. They have seen the truth. They will speak the truth. They have courage and integrity. They are not Republican Senators and Representatives.
Don’t Become Fox Fodder
Fifth, people who hyperventilate and become Fox Fodder are not doing their cause any good. There is no constructive purpose to be served by going into emotional overdrive about traitor Trump who is turning the United States into a banana republic through an authoritarian denial of freedom of speech. I am talking about you Carl Bernstein. I am talking about you John Brennan. I am talking about you Ralph Peters. When your heartfelt spiel becomes Fox Fodder you know you are being ridiculed. And that is the message being communicated to the Republicans you want to reach.
Chill. Freedom of speech has not ended. We have not become a banana republic. Could these trials have happened in Russia? Could these trials have happened in China? Could these trials have happened in North Korea? Need I go on? We are not “Z.” When the world does not come to an end as you describe you lose credibility and become a laughingstock on Fox.
Do not think of Trump as an adult who is evil. Face the reality that he is an immature child and knock off the over-the-top vitriol. Kim Wehle, former Assistant United States Attorney, Associate Independent Counsel in the Whitewater Investigation appearing on MSNBC referred to our President as almost like an adolescent smashing all the crystal in the house because he is not getting what he wants. Exactly right. She was angry when she said it but she was not hyperventilating. She will not become Fox Fodder. Similarly former Congressman Joe Walsh also was furious when he said of the elected Republicans that they have to watch him like a ten-year old child but are afraid to say it publicly. He will not become Fox Fodder. The more you talk about him as the immature child that he is the less likely you are to become quoted on his network and become a joke for your over-the-top comments.
Hush money is not illegal. Do you really think unreported hush money will qualify as high crimes? More is needed and as it turns out there is more to come. “Dorothy” Mueller has plenty of buckets of water. We have to wait. Hopefully only until September 1 for the next indictments.
Sixth, part of the reason why the old campaign refrains still work in the professional wrestling arena is because they are not old. Quite the contrary, practically every night, Republicans hear about Crooked Hillary, her collusion with the Russians, and her exoneration because of the Deep State coverup. For the Republicans chanting “Lock her up!” it’s not old news, its current events.
On August 21, I wanted to make sure at 9:00 Eastern time, I heard from Trump’s Brain on the events of the day. Hannity said he was going to provide us with the news and perspective not found elsewhere. The lessons of the day were straightforward and he heartily endorsed them:
1. Pay your taxes.
2. Do not lie on bank applications.
3. Do not lie to the FBI.
Then, did we really need Robert Mueller’s Witch hunt to tell us that? And because we have a corrupt two-tier justice system where Democrats can get away with what Republicans go to prison for there is another lesson:
4. Do not be a friend of Trump
Zero collusion. Zero conspiracy. Zero Russia. One might even think that White House staff were doing cartwheels of joy now with the target President high-fiving everyone. Sometimes he seems like the person who jumps off a ten-story building and at the eighth floor says, “so far so good.”
The Iceberg and the Titanic
Speaking of disasters, it is Chris Matthews who keeps asking how long the Trump Titanic can stay afloat after hitting the Mueller iceberg. We do not know how much Mueller knows. But if the jury was impressed by the documents presented in the Manafort case, one can only imagine how the jurors will react to the mountain of evidence dumped in the next round of indictments …or if the indicted Russians are ever extradited.
Perhaps Matthews should slightly change his metaphor. Instead of focusing on how many staterooms can be flooded, watch the rats. The swamp builder is known for the company he keeps and that company includes rats. Michael Cohen served Trump for many years but he did not take a bullet for him. He ratted. In the tape of the hush-money conversation with his co-conspirator, he mentioned needing the help of the longtime Trump organization financial officer whose ties go back to Trump’s father. Does that person want to spend the remaining years of his life in jail? Does he want his life earnings to go to lawyers instead of grandchildren? What will the co-conspirator publisher do (we already know)? If you surround yourself with rats, guess who will desert the sinking ship once they see it has hit iceberg Mueller? It’s even possible to imagine the Attorney General to grow a pair.
The trials mean the trump has hit the fan and he has no good news in sight.