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Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.
In his recent book, True Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Investigation of Donald Trump, CNN analyst Jeffrey Toobin, a recovering lawyer, addends a paean to his later-chosen occupation:
Journalism matters not just because we speak truth to this particular president, but because democracy will always require an informed electorate.
This followed his pained description of President Trump’s attacks on “fake news” and journalists as “enemies of the people.”
One would therefore expect that the preceding 451 pages would be a scrupulously faithful account of the Russian investigation and the Ukraine-related impeachment proceedings. If instead this is a deliberately falsified account by a prominent journalist, such would bode ill for the media’s influence upon American democracy.
One of the major issues in the coming election, which Toobin is clearly seeking to influence preemptively, will be the fitness for office of Democratic candidate Joe Biden. To assess Biden’s character, there is no better sample to examine than Biden’s tenure as President Obama’s chosen “point man” in Ukraine. Therefore, there is no better test for American journalism than the honesty of Toobin’s treatment of the Trump-Biden Ukrainian contretemps.
Trump sought an investigation of both Biden and son Hunter into what Trump alleges was their Ukrainian corruption. Toobin, both directly and through the mouths of witnesses, expresses shock and horror – yes, they are aghast, even stupefied – that Trump would investigate a “political rival”, thereby constituting “interference” in the coming election.
Toobin’s readers do not reach the Ukraine matter until 279 pages of discussion about the Russian investigation. His readers, though, are not reminded in his Ukraine treatment about the DNC’s, the Clinton campaign’s, and Obama’s government agencies’ years-long spying on and investigating Trump’s presidential campaign.
Why was it tremendously important that America get to the bottom of [nonexistent] Trump-Russian “collusion,” but ignore abundant evidentiary inferences of Biden-Ukraine corruption? In other words, why was it an unalloyed good for Obama and Clinton to investigate Trump and his political campaign, but not permissible to investigate Biden’s seeming corruption in the performance of his official duties? One would think the latter far more worthy of investigation than the former. But Toobin buries this salient issue, concealing it from his readers.
Trump had sought a Biden investigation by Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, leveraging the considerable foreign aid allocated for anti-Russia weaponry. In conveying shock at this, Toobin ignores that foreign aid is meant to be leveraged, and this particular aid was conditioned on certification of Ukrainian non-corruption, which in this case was made only for the prior Petro Poroshenko administration, not for Zelensky’s incoming government. Since State Department talking points urged Trump to encourage Zelensky to “root out corruption,” Trump’s push for Zelensky to look into the Biden-oligarch corruption would seem appropriate.
How would Toobin know that withholding foreign aid is a proper means of getting desired foreign action? How about Joe Biden’s famously withholding $1 billion from the same country until it fired Viktor Shokin following his prosecution of Mykola Zlochevsky, Hunter’s corrupt, pro-Russian oligarchic client?
Apparently, these two “leveragings” are not the same thing in Toobin’s view, and it is noteworthy that Toobin avoids putting them side-by-side. After all, the reader might be tempted to reason that such a comparison is apt.
So, is there is reasonable cause for our lauded investigative journalists to investigate Biden corruption? We have elsewhere documented in detail how Burisma and PrivatBank stole billions of American dollars, aided by Hunter Biden and enabled by his father. We as well have shown the profoundly harmful consequences that have come from our media condoning such corruption, while encouraging an impeachment giving cover to corruption.
What does Toobin say about this Biden-assisted Ukrainian looting of American billions? No more than this brief brushoff:
Giuliani gave Volker the same talk he had been peddling on Fox and Twitter-that former Vice President Biden had engaged in a corrupt alliance with his son to forestall investigations of Burisma. Volker knew this wasn’t true.
Actually, as we have shown previously, Toobin’s statement is not true. Unlike journalists, lawyers are trained to recognize any material misstatement or concealment, careful to distinguish between argument and fact.
But Toobin, as do so many journalists today, conflates strong opinion advocacy with false statement and fraudulent concealment. There are hundreds of instances of the latter in Toobin’s book alone.
Toobin is perhaps correct that what he writes is not “fake news.” It should be more precisely described as “fraudulent journalism.” If Toobin were a lawyer representing these facts to a Court, such dishonest statements could get him sanctioned, disbarred, prosecuted or at least defeated in the case.
However, when such falsities are uttered by journalists, they are self-regardingly labeled as “truth to power,” invariably aimed at the partisan journalist’s political opponents. And perhaps a Pulitzer Prize would be in the offing for the skillful dissembler. So in abandoning his brief legal fling, Toobin made an excellent career choice.
Will the media continue Toobin’s style of coverup? He unintentionally answers this by his fawning praise of Congressman Adam Schiff’s invocation of Robert Kennedy’s speech on political courage:
Real political courage doesn’t come from disagreeing with our opponents, but from disagreeing with our friends and with our own party, because it means having to stare down accusations of disloyalty and betrayal.
How often has a CNN journalist had the courage to depart from colleagues and call for an investigation of Joe Biden? We know the answer. So it appears that, as the masthead of the Washington Post so presciently proclaims, Democracy Dies in Darkness. Toobin’s coverup journalism shows why and how.