Limiting the scope of an investigation

Because people feel so harried all the time these days, pressures mounting, attention spans shrinking, the 24/7 news bombardment as constant as the ever more personalized commercial come-ons, because the demands on our time are so relentless, few inquiries are ever carried out as thoroughly as they need to be, for best results.   We deal with vexations by triage, finding ways to relieve the most immediate and pressing tensions and moving on to other things.   It works to keep things going as they are, though it seldom leads to anything better than that.

During an interview with the New York Times reporters who researched and wrote the massive story of the Trump family’s long history of tax avoidance schemes, including outright fraud, the reporters were asked what the single most important aspect of their investigation was.   “Time,” they both said at once.  

Time is needed to complete any thoughtful research project, to follow where the new information points, to verify, to do more research, find corroboration, interview new witnesses, review new evidence, follow the leads from the new evidence.  Time is needed to refine the final product, eliminate avoidable errors and slapdash conclusions.  In the case of a newspaper, it takes time to run everything you plan to report past the lawyers who then have to review everything prior to publication.

The time and care the Times took in researching and writing that massive article on Trump’s family fortune is what enabled them to print and cheerily brush right past Trump’s lawyer’s empty threat:

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We learned the other day that the FBI seized a tremendous cache of hard drives, computers, phones, reams of digitally stored information in the raid on Trump political adviser Roger Stone’s home last week.  They also seized bank records.   The raid came shortly after interim Attorney General Matthew Whitaker addressed the nation and sweatily announced that the Mueller probe was reaching its conclusion and would be wrapped up soon.

Clearly, the timeline has now changed for any final report from Mueller, as this trove of potential evidence in the Roger Stone criminal case is reviewed.  I heard a knowledgable talking head say yesterday that while the Roger Stone chapter, which ties many themes together, is likely the last one in the Mueller report, the final chapter could be a long one, comprising maybe a third of the final book.

Once again my mind flashed on the farcical five day limited FBI investigation into credible and specific allegations against then Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.   The FBI, we were told, had already investigated Mr. Kavanaugh numerous times and found nothing, no hint of impropriety of any kind.  That these allegations by Christine Blasey-Ford were being made for the first time in the fall of 2018 did nothing to quiet the indignant Republican chorus about how many times this good family man, this fine Christian jurist, had already been investigated by the FBI and found spotless.   The 51-49 majority finally struck a deal, bravely negotiated by the supremely spineless Jeff Flake, where they allowed a limited week long FBI investigation, for the sake of fairness.  

While the limited investigation was going on, the president entertained supporters at his campaign rallies by mocking Kavanaugh’s accuser about not being able to remember anything about the incident.  Never mind the many specific details she did testify to — according to the Mocker-in-Chief she didn’t know where, when, what, how, who, ha ha!  

Nobody who volunteered to speak to the FBI about the college incident where a drunken Kavanaugh allegedly exposed himself to a fellow student at a party at Yale was interviewed.  Almost nobody was interviewed in connection with the incident Blasey-Ford testified about during that less than week long investigation, no leads were followed, the FBI’s report on its extremely limited inquiry was kept from the public, though it concluded that the few people they spoke to had not corroborated anything, THE END.  Fair is fair, now we vote!

I was thinking at the time how helpful it would have been to the investigation if the floor plan of the house where the alleged attack took place had been verified, the home located.  Skeech, or Stinky, or one of Brett’s other little hard drinking prep-school buddies, may have had a home with the floor plan Blasey-Ford described in some detail in her testimony.   The stairs leading up, the bedroom door right there, on the right, directly across from the bathroom on the left.   Once the house was located, all kinds of other inquiries could have been followed.   Blasey-Ford remembered her attacker because he was not a stranger at the time of the attack she described.  She had met him before, knew his name, his face.  But she was also not interviewed by the FBI.  Shit, they only had a few days and she’d already done enough damage to a great American in her public testimony.  

Not to mention that Kavanaugh’s full defense of himself after Blasey-Ford testified was that he was the victim of a calculated and well-financed left wing smear job,  He even cried a few times to show how unfair this orchestrated partisan attack had been to him, his good name, his fine family, his lifelong dream of a seat on the Supreme Court, his Lord and savior.

I don’t expect Republicans to suddenly develop spines, or Democrats either, for that matter.   The FBI has a checkered past, a lot of it shameful, so I don’t look for high moral standards there either.  It’s up to we the public to make enough noise, to demonstrate the determined public opinion that democracy, no matter what it may have been in the past, is not a few rich twats deciding how much freedom, information and liberty the rest of us get.   Organizing this will take tremendous concerted effort, strategic brilliance, grit and time.  Time, of course, is running out as the clock itself is constantly being run out on so many things in a stressed-out nation with no memory of things that happened two weeks ago, let alone a decade or more in the past.

 

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