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I think Jonathan V. Last is a very funny fellow, in a dark and sardonic way. I enjoy him on the Sub-Beacon podcast and wherever else I hear him. He’s an amusing, irreverent, nebbish fellow, and I don’t like saying bad things about him.
But his latest piece at The Bulwark, entitled Donald and Jussie, Birds of a Feather, is trying too hard to fulfill The Bulwark’s mission, which is to spare no expense, grace, or integrity in its effort to besmirch the all-too-readily besmirchable President Trump.
First, here’s President Donald Trump claiming “complete and total exoneration” of all charges in the Mueller investigation.
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And now here’s actor Jussie Smollett claiming that he’d been “truthful and consistent” in the face of charges that he’d committed a hate-crime hoax.
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The symmetry here is perfect. Absolutely perfect. The only thing we really know from Bob Mueller’s lips is that on the subject of obstruction: “while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” That’s eerily similar to the words said by the prosecutor who dismissed the charges against Smollett, saying that he “does not believe [Smollett] is innocent.”
Now you can believe that both of these men have been judged as innocent because the legal system has declined to prosecute them. Or you can believe that both of them can be viewed with suspicion because the official verdict of the legal system is not the last word in actual culpability.
But you cannot claim that one of them must now be treated as totally and completely innocent but that the other is clearly guilty. Which is what most of America seems to be doing.
Do you see what he did there? It’s true that President Trump overstated the case with his “complete and total exoneration” comment. But is it true, as JVL claims, that the “symmetry here is perfect?”
On the one hand, we have a man who has just been definitively cleared of a charge that has hounded him for two years, who knew he was innocent the day the investigation started, who has professed his innocence all along, who could have stopped the investigation at any point but chose not to, and who almost certainly has not obstructed justice and, if he hasn’t, is fully aware that he hasn’t and that the justice department will now agree with him.
On the other hand, we have a man who has just been mysteriously absolved of responsibility for a crime he certainly committed, who has lied since the first moments of his case, and who continues to lie about his innocence now.
What Trump is saying, in essence, is “I didn’t collude with the Russians, and I didn’t obstruct justice in the investigation of a crime I know I didn’t commit. I allowed the investigation to run to its conclusion. I am exonerated.” His mistake was in his failure to add “… or I will be in a few days when the justice department acknowledges that I didn’t obstruct justice,” as it undoubtedly will.
What Smollett is saying is “I am innocent,” when in fact the little fraud is guilty as sin and everyone knows it.
That’s only “symmetric” if you’re tilted as far to one side as the good folks at The Bulwark appear to be.