Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Literary Corner: I Got Rhythm

Hi gang, (comic) relief crew here:

Donald Trump's latest performance piece, Commuting Roger, a multimedia blizzard of tweets, video clips, official statements, and court papers, came out to rave reviews, as the president himself said ("I'm getting rave reviews"). Critics adored the extraordinarily swift pacing of the dénouement, in which the attorney general said Stone's prosecution was justified, Stone confessed that he'd committed his crimes (lying and intimidating witnesses) to cover up the president's high crimes, and Trump announced he'd paid the price of keeping Stone silent on the details in a Friday night news dump, all in an Aristotelian span of less than 24 hours:

July 9, 2020: Attorney General William Barr declares that Roger Stone’s prosecution was “righteous.”

July 10, 2020: After learning that his appeals to remain out of prison have been denied and that he must surrender to the Bureau of Prisons on July 14, Roger Stone tells reporter Howard Fineman, “I had 29 or 30 conversations with Trump during the campaign period. He knows I was under enormous pressure to turn on him. It would have eased my situation considerably. But I didn’t. They wanted me to play Judas. I refused.”

Also on July 10, 2020: Shortly after Fineman’s interview with Stone becomes public, Trump commutes Stone’s sentence and he becomes a free man. (Steven Harper/BillMoyers.com)

But there were many remarkable effects along the way, not least the moment in the next day's epilogue, "Remarks to Stakeholders Positively Impacted by Law Enforcement" when he slipped, unexpectedly, out of his usual choppy free verse into 15 lines of unrhymed iambic pentameter, the line of Shakespeare and Milton:

   Rave Reviews
by Donald J. Trump

And — no, I did — I’m getting rave reviews 
for what I did for Roger Stone. And he, 
frankly, is going to go and now 
appeal his case. He had a jury forewoman 
who hated Roger Stone and who hated, probably, 
me. But she went on a false pretense. And he 
wasn’t given a fair trial. He wasn’t — 
it’s not a fair trial. He wasn’t given 
another trial. He should have been 
given another trial. I won’t say more. 

I won’t talk about the judge. I’m not going to — 
why would I ever talk about a judge? 
But this was a judge that gave, I believe, 
solitary confinement to Paul Manafort. 
Al Capone didn’t have solitary confinement.

(not too smooth; he has to use some awkward word ordering to make it scan—"he, frankly, is going", "to go and now appeal", "who hated, probably, me"—and two or three lines that don't make it at all, but how many working poets today can trot the old meters out like this with any fluency whatever, extemporizing?)

For the record:
  • the closest I've seen to an actual rave review is Jonathan Turley's hopeful suggestion that it's probably not the most corrupt act in American history:
There is lots to criticize in this move without pretending it was a pristine power besmirched by a rogue president. Indeed, Trump should have left the decision to a successor or, at a minimum, to the attorney general. But compared to the other presidents, this commutation is not even a distant contender for “the most corrupt and cronyistic act” of clemency.
  • Stone is already walking back his promise to appeal and clear his name ("I gotta become convinced that I can get a fair second trial")
  • Judge Jackson produced an 81-page opinion arguing that "The assumption that the forewoman could not fairly consider the evidence against Stone based on her views about Trump 'is not supported by any facts or data and it is contrary to controlling legal precedent,' and that Stone's motion is 'a tower of indignation' with 'little of substance holding it up'"), contrary to Turley's claim that she simply "shrugged it off"
  • Trump says he won't talk about the judge and immediately begins talking about her
  • Manafort's "solitary confinement", while it lasted, after his bail was revoked for tampering with witnesses while he was awaiting trial, was at his and his lawyers' request (for his personal safety) and not exactly harsh
  • Manafort “is not confined to a cell”
  • Between 8:30 am and 10 pm, Manafort “has access to a separate workroom at the jail to meet with his attorneys and legal team”
  • He has “his own bathroom and shower facility”
  • He has “his own personal telephone,” which he can use more than 12 hours a day
  • Those calls are limited to 15 minutes each, but when they cut off, he can just call the person back immediately
  • He’s made nearly 300 phone calls in the last three weeks
  • He has a personal laptop he can use in his unit to review materials and prepare for his trial
  • He was provided an extension cord to let him use his laptop in either his unit or his workroom
  • He’s not allowed to send emails, but he “has developed a workaround” for even that — his legal team brings in a laptop, he drafts the emails on that laptop, and they send them out after they leave.
  • He’s being treated like a “VIP,” according to his own account on a monitored phone call.
Finally, as Robert Mueller has explained in a Washington Post op-ed, it's not a "hoax":
Stone became a central figure in our investigation for two key reasons: He communicated in 2016 with individuals known to us to be Russian intelligence officers, and he claimed advance knowledge of WikiLeaks’ release of emails stolen by those Russian intelligence officers.... Congress also investigated and sought information from Stone. A jury later determined he lied repeatedly to members of Congress. He lied about the identity of his intermediary to WikiLeaks. He lied about the existence of written communications with his intermediary. He lied by denying he had communicated with the Trump campaign about the timing of WikiLeaks’ releases. He in fact updated senior campaign officials repeatedly about WikiLeaks. And he tampered with a witness, imploring him to stonewall Congress.
And as Mueller did not say but I will, if those actions constitute, in Stone's and Trump's view, "not turning on Trump", that's a clear statement that Trump was the boss of these goings-on and guilty of racketeering in association with Julian Assange and the Russian intelligence agencies.

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