Many Americans have blamed individuals within the government like former Special Counsel Robert Mueller and former FBI Director James Comey for limitless investigations into President Trump and his associates based on flimsy justifications like hearsay. Yet they should know that corporate media played an equally important role in the onslaught known as Russiagate.
They fomented hysteria by hyping investigation leaks, engaging in rank speculation and rumor mongering to make the “innocent guilty and guilty innocent,” to borrow a phrase from civil rights icon Malcolm X. Those attacked had little recourse given the difficulty of suing thousands repeating the same falsehoods, especially as fresh leads and lies continually emerged by design. Legacy media were sloppy, hyper-partisan and rarely corrected the record.
Based partially on my first hand experiences, last year the Capital Research Center, a Washington, DC-based investigative think tank, published a comprehensive series of reports including “Cast of The Trump-Russia Collusion Hoax,” a list of mini-bios and roles for over 200 individuals most responsible, to ensure at least some degree of public accountability.
Disgraced CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, who was just reinstated by the left-wing network last week after an eight-month suspension, easily made the list.
Toobin’s Zoom call last October during which he exposed himself to high-profile colleagues from the New Yorker Magazine and WNYC radio in an X-rated sexual act is the least of his offenses. While the New Yorker where he worked for 27 years suspended then fired him, CNN merely gave him a suspension. That says a lot about CNN and its idea of journalism. Small wonder why CNN ratings have collapsed this year. Toobin’s return won’t help.
It’s disgusting to think that during the video call’s “election simulation” where Toobin “played the courts,” he subjected co-workers to such lewd behavior, including Jane Mayer who acted as Republicans, Andrew Marantz the far right, Masha Gessen as Trump, Jelani Cobb as Democrats, Sue Halpern the far-left and Dexter Filkins as the military.
Yet while he embarrassed them, that unseemly act was minor compared to his “day job” fanning the flames of Trump-Russia, a scandalous political hit job which caused irreparable harm to scores of people never accused of wrongdoing, including their families.
He should be exposed for that instead:
Toobin: On Trump and Russia. July 18, 2018. “Today is actually a significant moment in American history. We’ve only had 45 presidents… now we know one of them was elected with the explicit and intentional help of a foreign power… with the aggressive and open support of the candidate.”
Mueller Report: On Collusion, Volume 1, Page 2. March 2019. “…the investigation did not establish that the Trump Campaign coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
Toobin: On Trump and Russia. April 18, 2019. “Happy people don’t obstruct justice. Trump’s frustration at leaks and investigation are evidence of guilt, not innocence.”
Mueller Report: On Obstruction, Volume II, Page 8. March 2019. “…while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
Toobin: On Trump and Russia, etc. August 2020. Authored book, promoted on C-SPAN, “True Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Investigations of Donald Trump”.
Byron York, Washington Examiner columnist: September 2020. Toobin book begins with “the assumption that Trump was guilty in the Russia matter – a highly questionable way to start – and then asks why Mueller, with all his resources, was unable to bring the president down.”
Though Toobin’s voice wasn’t the most extreme on TV, his impressive biography as a former Asst. U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn, Associate Counsel for Iran-Contra prosecutions, prolific author and Emmy Award winner gave him more credibility than most pundits and led to a constant presence on CNN. Despite a highly disturbing personal past which even the NY Times wrote about, when Jeffrey Toobin talked, people listened.
Yet NY Post opinion editor Sohrab Ahmari’s “Top 10” list of things media got wrong on “collusion” and “obstruction” after the Mueller Report was released specifically mentioned Toobin. Ahmari cited a tweet by @neontaster, a.k.a. Tablet Magazine’s Noah Blum, calling out Toobin’s words: “‘Your angry proclamations of innocence are themselves evidence of guilt.’ Are you analyzing the Mueller Report or the trial of Josef K. from Franz Kafka’s “The Trial”?
Finally, while late night TV comedians like Bill Maher had a laugh or ten at “Toobin” as a verb, even if/when the laughter fades, his legal commentary deserves closer scrutiny.
The presumption of guilt over innocence is un-American and must always be rigorously challenged. Alice in Wonderland’s “sentence first, verdict afterwards” mentality of the Red Queen belongs in fairy tales or grim reminders of the Soviet Union, not in today’s news.
J.D. Gordon is a former National Security & Foreign Policy Advisor to Republican leaders Donald Trump, Mike Huckabee and Herman Cain. Previously, he served as a Pentagon spokesman during the George W. Bush Administration and is a retired Navy Commander.