My newest piece at Fox News starts this way:The anti-Trump media are in an uproar about a comment by President Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday that “truth isn’t truth.”
News reports have taken Giuliani’s comment completely out of context – showing that many in the media really don’t care about the truth.As part of the media pile-on attacking Giuliani, a former New York City mayor, CNN’s Brian Stelter warned
: “For a part of the country’s population, the truth is not the truth anymore. President Trump’s accomplishment has been to destroy the notion of the commonly accepted set of facts. The truth is what the president says that it is.”Washington Post Opinions Editor James Downie compared
Giuliani’s comment to President Clinton’s statement about his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinksy, when Clinton said: “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”HBO’s John Oliver gave
only a glimpse of the late night talk shows will do with the statement this week by poking fun at Giuliani’s statement.
But what was Giuliani really saying
Here is the exchange between Giuliani and Todd on “Meet the Press.” Giuliani: “And when you tell me that, you know, he should testify because he’s going to tell the truth and he shouldn’t worry, well that’s so silly because it’s somebody’s version of the truth. Not the truth.”
Todd: “Truth is truth. I don’t mean to go like – ”
Giuliani: “No, it isn’t truth. Truth isn’t truth. The president of the United States says, “I didn’t – ”
Todd: “Truth isn’t truth? Mr. Mayor, do you realize, what, I, I, I —”
Giuliani: “No, no, no –”
Todd: “This is going to become a bad meme.”
Giuliani: “Don’t do, don’t do this to me.”
Todd: “Don’t do truth isn’t truth to me.” Giuliani’s point was simple: even if you tell the complete truth, prosecutors can still go after you for perjury. It could be that the prosecutors truly believe some other witness. It could also be that the prosecutors are just hell bent on getting another conviction.
Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was charged last year with perjury after getting a date wrong in an interview with FBI agents. Flynn wasn’t told the purpose of the interview and hadn’t had a chance to refresh his memory.
The agents who interviewed Flynn didn’t think that he had lied, but merely made a mistake on dates. They found no
“physical indications of deception” and “didn't see any change in posture, in tone, in inflection, in eye contact.”
Making a mistake isn’t the same thing as lying. Witnesses to crimes often make mistakes in recalling events that may have happened just minutes or hours previously.
But perjury charges weren’t brought against Flynn until Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election got underway months later in 2017.
Mueller never alleged that Flynn perjured himself in an attempt to cover up some other crime. The hope was simply to get someone in President Trump’s inner circle to crack and divulge evidence against the president.
Mueller’s prosecutors weren’t present at Flynn’s interview and may have no reason to believe that Flynn lied. Indeed, there was not any reason for Flynn to lie, because what he was talking to the agents about didn’t even involve a crime.
When I served as chief economist at the U.S. Sentencing Commission, I observed this sort of thing happen many times. Prosecutors often abuse their tremendous power in the belief that the ends justify the means. I had prosecutors tell me that even if the defendant hadn’t committed this particular crime, they were sure that he had committed other ones.
“Meet the Press” panelists congratulated Todd on getting a sound bite that they could run with. They seemed unconcerned with what Giuliani actually meant.
“I think the headline is truth isn't truth,” said
PBS White House Correspondent Yamiche Alcindor. “As soon as he said (it) I thought, ‘Man, Chuck Todd really does these things really well.’"
Former FBI director James Comey ignored Giuliani’s point and quickly chimed in on Twitter
: “Truth exists and truth matters. Truth has always been the touchstone of our country’s justice system and political life. People who lie are held accountable.” . . . .The rest of the piece is available here