CTMirror tells us that President Donald Trump has “attacked the credibility of Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal and several other Democrats, warning television networks against booking them on their news shows.”
Tim Murtaugh, spokesman for the Trump campaign, wrote to the television networks, “You should begin by asking the basic question: Does this guest warrant further appearances in our programming, given the outrageous and unsupported claims made in the past? Murtaugh pointed to “reckless” and “outlandish, false claims” made by Blumenthal; among them “was Blumenthal’s statement in October on MSNBC that ‘the evidence is pretty clear that there was collision between the Trump campaign and the Russians.’”
In the past, presidents loftily ignored their opposition gadflies as being somehow below the presidential salt. Those in Connecticut who long have known there is no more dangerous place in politics than that between Blumenthal and a television camera may be inclined to admire Trump’s courage. Trump, some may have noticed, is not averse to engaging in political fisticuffs. The dispute between Trump and Blumenthal clearly turns on a matter of honor.
Neither Trump nor Blumenthal have yet challenged each other to a duel, perhaps because dueling has long been outlawed in the United States. The practice was petering out when Democrat state auditor James Shields challenged Abe Lincoln, then a Whig lawyer, to a duel in 1842 owing to several sharp letters he thought had been written by Lincoln.
The circumstances surrounding the duel were – it must have seemed to Lincoln, though not of course to Shield – somewhat farcical. Mary Todd had written in the Sangamo Journal, a whig newspaper, several very rough letters concerning Shields. The temper of the letters may be deduced from the following extract, which appeared to have been written by a farmer’s wife: “Shields is a fool as well as a liar, With him truth is out of the question, as for getting a good, bright, passable lie out of him, you might as well strike fire from a cake of tallow.”
Lincoln, seeking to maintain Todd’s anonymity, admitted to only one of the letters. Challenged by Shields, Lincoln set the terms of the duel as follows:
“1st Weapons — Cavalry broadswords of the largest size precisely equal in all respects — and such as now used by the cavalry company at Jacksonville—
“2nd Position — A plank ten feet long, & from nine to twelve inches broad to be firmly fixed on edge — on the ground, as the line between us which neither is to pass his foot over upon forfeit of his life— Next a line drawn on the ground on either side of said plank & parallel with it, each at the distance of the whole length of the sword and three feet additional from the plank; and which lines the passing of his own such line by either party during the fight shall be deemed a surrender of the contest— The fight in no case to last more than fifteen minutes—“
The quarrel was patched up and the duel shelved. The honor of all involved was preserved.
It seems almost indecent to speak of honor in connection with tweeting politicians and Democrats who have their sights on Trump’s presidential hide. However often Speaker of the U.S. House Nancy Pelosi denies it, anti-Trumpers, Blumenthal among them, appear to be assembling an impeachment case; in a pinch, they may be satisfied with a process-crime prosecution once Trump leaves office.
The notion that Trump engaged in a collusion with President of Russia Vladmir Putin to deny presidential candidate Hillary Clinton her presidential ambition is – just fetching for a word here – farcical. And Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller said as much in his report, filed nearly two years after a lengthy, thorough and professional investigation. Mueller, Attorney General Bill Barr has reported in a summary of the investigation, has discovered no evidence pointing to a conspiracy or collusion between Trump and Putin the object of which was to deny Clinton the presidency that she felt was her due.
In his response to Murtaugh, Blumenthal told CTMirror’s Ana Radelet, that Murtaugh failed to quote Blumenthal in full. He does not deny saying, “the evidence is pretty clear that there was collision between the Trump campaign and the Russians.” However, CTMirror reports, “Blumenthal said Murtaugh’s memo did not include the whole statement he gave MSNBC in October, which was “the evidence is there, whether there’s enough of it to bring criminal charges is another issue entirely.”
And, Blumenthal told Radelet, “I stand by the contention that there is evidence [of collusion], it may not rise to the level of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. I know as a former prosecutor that sometimes that proof becomes very close, but it has to be beyond a reasonable doubt. Particularly when it’s the president, it’s a very, very high bar.”
As a former prosecutor, Blumenthal should know that collusion, unlike conspiracy, is not a crime. And because collusion is not a crime, no amount of evidence assembled by Mueller demonstrating collusion could result in a prosecution. High proof bars have nothing to do with the matter.
In the light of Barr’s claim that Mueller found no evidence of collusion, Blumenthal may possibly, though unreasonably, claim that Barr’s interpretation of the Mueller investigation is in error. He has not made such a claim. Nor has he been asked by CTMirror to affirm such a claim.
In the meantime, all the crooks and bends in the political arena might easily be settled by the reinstitution of dueling. But the chances of this happening are as remote as the notion that Barr’s summary of the Mueller report is wrong in its conclusion that Mueller found no evidence of collusion. In the absence of collusion, no conspiracy can ensue because conspiracy without collusion is like Blumenthal without access to a television network.