Jonathan Alter is an award-winning author, reporter, columnist, radio host and television producer and analyst. He is the author of three New York Times bestsellers: “The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies”(2013), “The Promise: President Obama, Year One” (2010) and “The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope (2006), also one of the Times’ “Notable Books” of the year. Since 1996, Alter has been an analyst and contributing correspondent for NBC News and MSNBC, appearing on-air two or three times a week.
After 28 years as a columnist and senior editor at Newsweek, where he wrote more than 50 cover stories, Alter is now a twice-monthly columnist for the Daily Beast and the co-host, with his wife, Emily Lazar, and two of his children, Charlotte Alter and Tommy Alter, of “Alter Family Politics,” which airs Thursdays at 10:00 a.m. on RadioAndy on SiriusXM, 102. He has also written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Washington Monthly, Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, The New Republic, Esquire, Bloomberg View and other publications.
He is an executive producer of “Alpha House,” a 21-episode half-hour political comedy created by Garry Trudeau and starring John Goodman that is available for viewing on Amazon.com. He is at work on a full-length biography of former President Jimmy Carter and is co-directing a HBO documentary about the lives of legendary journalists Jimmy Breslin and Pete Hamill.
QUID PRO QUO
The Opening Argument in the Trial of Donald J. Trump
03.18.18 9:02 PM ET
For Trump, the motive for the crime was to use any edge he could to win the election, even if it was clearly illegal, and to complete business deals with the Russians if he lost.
Good prosecutors always have a theory of the case. While much of special counsel Robert Mueller’s evidence remains unknown, the contours of the criminal conspiracy case against President Trump are coming into view. The public might hear it at an impeachment trial in the Senate next year (if the House goes Democratic) or in a jury trial (if the Supreme Court, which has never ruled on the constitutionality of criminally prosecuting a president, allows it). Either way, here is a reasonable approximation of the story the prosecutor would tell the court and the American people in his opening argument:
May it please the court. Ladies and gentlemen: This is a simple case about a plot hatched during the 2016 presidential election. The story begins with close business contacts between the Defendant, Donald John Trump, and Russian oligarchs, including some who obtained and distributed illegally hacked emails belonging to the Democratic Party in order to help Trump win. It continues with Trump and his associates—after receiving stolen goods—promising a major favor to the Russians in return for their criminal activity. And it ends with the Defendant Trump trying to cover up his crimes. Actually, the true end of the story is in your hands—when justice and accountability are restored.
First, a little Latin. I took Latin in high school but remember almost nothing. I have, however, picked up a few Latin phrases over the years. One of them, which will be an important part of this case, is quid pro quo. It literally means, in English, “something for something.” An exchange of favors. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.
Now, all of us engage in favor swapping or quid pro quos every day. Nothing wrong with it most of the time. If you cook dinner, I’ll do the dishes. But when the “quid” is an illegal act, it’s a whole different story. Then the “quo” is often illegal, too, even if it wouldn’t be on its own. If you rob a bank and use the money you stole to help me, and in return I promise to help you out, then I’m in a lot of trouble, too, especially if I try to throw the cops off the scent.
In this case, you will learn that in return for the Russians stealing and releasing emails, the Defendant Trump and members of his staff promised—publicly and privately—that after being sworn in, the new president would drop U.S. government sanctions against the Russian government and Russian oligarchs who are close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The stolen emails and a variety of other illegal Russian efforts to hurt the Clinton campaign were the currency the Russians used to barter for sanctions relief.
Read more at the link above…
Trump-Russia Isn’t About the Cover-Up. It’s About the Crime.
In Watergate, it was the cover-up, not the crime. But in Russiagate, that stands to be turned on its head. We already know a lot—and we can be sure Mueller knows more.
Recall the Watergate cliché that the cover-up is worse than the crime. That may have been true then. While it was never established that President Nixon knew in advance about the break-in at the Watergate complex, he was forced to resign after proof emerged that he used the CIA to obstruct the FBI investigation.
In the Russia scandal, special counsel Robert Mueller has credible proof of obstruction of justice—i.e., the cover-up. But in a highly politicized climate, where “memos” and insults are weapons of distraction, that won’t likely be enough. Even if Democrats take control of Congress in November, most Republicans—like most juries in run-of-the-mill criminal cases—will demand significant evidence of an underlying crime as a motive for the obstruction before turning on President Trump, much less voting in the Senate to remove him from office.
Read more at the link above…
The Death of Newsweek
The U.S. is losing something as the publication disintegrates—a magazine with guts and heart.
Newsweek is in the news—raided by the police last month as part of a probe into the owners’ shady finances, then subjected to a crude purge on Monday, when the owners sacked the editors and reporters who tried to write about the scandal. This was the cinematic coda to a decade of collapse. Whatever its shortcomings, the country lost something with the demise of classic Newsweek—a magazine with guts and heart.
After years of survivable financial struggles, the magazine—founded in 1933—cratered with the economy in 2008, was sold by the Washington Post Co. for $1 in 2010, and sold again in 2013 by Barry Diller’s IAC to a shadowy company called International Business Times. In the last five years, Newsweek produced some strong journalism and plenty of clickbait before becoming a painful embarrassment to anyone who toiled there in its golden age. Matt Cooper, who also worked at the old Newsweek, resigned from the latest incarnation Monday with a letter saying that in three decades in journalism, “I’ve never seen more reckless leadership.” Ed Kosner, editor in the late 1970s, wrote on Facebook Tuesday, “Time to begin always making the distinction between our Real Newsweek of sainted memory and this shameful Fake Newsweek.”
I went to work at Newsweek 35 years ago last month. Sometime in the early 1990s, when I wasn’t yet 40, the Village Voice joked that I’d have to be carried out prone—and they weren’t far wrong. I stayed for nearly three decades as a national-affairs writer, media critic, and political columnist. Many of my colleagues also worked there for the better part of their lives—unheard of nowadays. We bitched a lot but loved the place. Journalists are sometimes compared to the horses in Black Beauty—all we want is a nice master, a little hay to lie down on, and a sugar cube once in a while. We got that and a lot more from Katharine Graham, now immortalized by Meryl Streep in the film The Post, who until her death in 2001 was the best proprietor imaginable. While more publicly identified with The Washington Post, she would hold monthly editorial lunches at our plush headquarters at 444 Madison Avenue (and later 251 W. 57th) in New York, where travel and expense accounts were generous and even researchers often had their own offices.
Read more at the link above…