April 12, 2024

for money paying for lying

Today’s Events in Historical Perspective
America’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932
Lying for money; paying for lying
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
          WASHINGTON — We just received a crash course on punishing people who lie for money. Hit them in their bank account. You know who they are or by now you should know.
         Let’s start with radical right media figure Alex Jones. After three weeks of hearing testimony about the emotional damage inflicted by him, a Connecticut jury awarded almost a billion dollars ($965 million to be precise) to the families of 20 first-graders and six teachers killed by a lone shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
          In the 10 years since the 2013 massacre, Jones and his Infowars media site and company, cashed in on a conspiracy theory that the shooting was fake and the anguished parents were actors. He made life hellish for the families, insisting their murdered children were still alive and inspiring crazed conspiracy theorists to stalk survivors.
          Will these families ever see the money? Jones is trying to hide his assets, which is not unusual, but now that he has lost in court, he will have to divulge his assets in what is called a judgment-debtor hearing. If he lies, he will go to jail. That is how a civil case becomes a criminal case.
          It is a simple lesson. How do you nail people with money? You go after their money. In Watergate, it was “follow the money,” that led to the discovery of the White House plumbers and the wider cover-up that led to President Nixon’s resignation. On the other hand, except for Jones the culprits on cable “news” have yet to pay.
          Then there is former President Donald Trump who is facing multiple lawsuits, and some will come down to money, how much he has, how much he owes, and where his money came and comes from. In 2014, Eric Trump, one of Trump’s adult children, told golf reporter James Dodson, “We have all the funding we need out of Russia” for Trump golf courses. Asked why he relied on Russian money, the younger Trump said American banks were reluctant to lend money for golf courses after the 2009 financial crisis.
          The former president called it a “witch hunt” when the Justice Department investigated his 2016 ties with Russia, ultimately clearing him of collusion. Still, there remain many questions that have gone unanswered about Trump’s relationship with Russian President Putin, whose toughness Trump admires.
          If Trump loses in court in any one of several pending cases, he could face a Judgement-debtor hearing and we could find out how much money he really has—or doesn’t have. Some Trump watchers speculate that he has never been willing to release his tax returns because the public would find out that he is not as rich as he says he is – that he is not a billionaire or possibly not even solvent.
          We might find out that he has outstanding loans that have gone unpaid, and that might as well be gifts. That is why there is so much speculation around the classified documents Trump took with him to Mar-A-Lago. What is his motive? What is his reason for hanging onto these documents?
          There must be a reason, and here is where the Watergate mantra holds, Follow the money.
          Trump’s Save America PAC paid a $3 million retainer to Trump’s latest lawyer, Chris Kise, former solicitor general of Florida who is highly qualified and insisted he get paid upfront, knowing Trump’s reputation for stiffing creditors.
          Nobody pays a lawyer that much unless they are in deep trouble, and Trump would not have taken those documents if he did not need them for something. The most likely something is leverage, leverage over somebody or something, and that is as precise as anybody can get at this stage.
          After the jury decision in the Jones case, lying for money just got a whole lot more expensive whether you are a media figure spreading lies or a former president scamming his donors to pay his legal bills, financial ruin could be one jury award away. 
          See Eleanor Clift’s latest book Selecting a President, and Douglas Cohn’s latest books The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency and World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers).
          Twitter:  @douglas_cohn
          © 2022 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
          Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

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