“The truth still exists; the truth still matters,” Judge Amy Berman Jackson said Thursday at the sentencing of the president’s favorite dirty trickster, Roger Stone. It may have seemed like an obvious statement, but as Trumpworld continues its assault on the rule of law, things like the truth mattering seem slightly obscured by the current political climate of relentless lying. Judge ABJ continued, “Roger Stone’s insistence that it doesn’t, his belligerence, his pride in his own lies are a threat to our most fundamental institutions, to the foundations of our democracy.”
The foundation of our democracy has been feeling a little shaky after all the Republican senators (with the exception of Mitt Romney) were derelict in their duty of holding the president accountable, after John Bolton was more committed to book sales than the truth, and as the president runs his own separate media ecosystem that takes his lies as gospel. It’s hard to have any faith in anything that’s going on in Washington, D.C., these days. But then along comes Judge Amy Berman Jackson, emerging like a phoenix from the ashes of the Mueller investigation.
Berman Jackson, like any woman who dares to stand up to Trumpworld, has been subjected to the usual Trumpy abuse, all of it laced with the standard Trumpy misogyny. She was harassed on Instagram by Roger Stone, who posted a picture of her in a crosshairs symbol—probably not the greatest way to treat the judge responsible for your case. Stone later apologized. He was later banned from posting on social media by the judge.
At Thursday’s sentencing, ABJ addressed this head-on: “The defendant engaged in threatening and intimidating conduct toward the court. It’s important to note that he didn’t just fire off a few intemperate emails. He used the tools of social media to achieve the broadest dissemination possible.” One might also see this remark as a subtle commentary on the president’s love of social media.
But Stone wasn’t the only person in Trumpworld who threatened the judge. Trump retweeted a clip from his favorite terrifying propagandist, Tucker Carlson, who called the judge an “open Democratic partisan.” She is an Obama appointee; that said, she’s married to a man who held an appointed position in the Bush administration. ABJ even got a Trump tweet: “Is this the Judge that put Paul Manafort in SOLITARY CONFINEMENT, something that not even mobster Al Capone had to endure? How did she treat Crooked Hillary Clinton? Just asking!”
But the 65-year-old, Harvard-educated judge has not been deterred, and at the sentencing hearing she got down to the heart of the matter, which is simply that the cult of personality that surrounds Trump shouldn’t matter more than the truth. “The defendant lied about a matter of great national and international significance,” she said. “This is not campaign hijinks. This is not just Roger being Roger.”
This is perhaps the most important and meaningful argument against Trumpism I’ve ever heard. Every time we give Stone, Trump, or Junior a pass, the way Mueller decided that Junior was too stupid to collude, we are actually gnawing away at the foundation of democracy and undermining the entire notion of truth. We are saying that the cult of personality that surrounds the president is above the law, that the truth doesn’t matter when you’re special.
The truth has had a very hard time of it lately. The president is not a fan. As of January, The Washington Post had him at 16,241 misleading statements. Bill Barr seems more and more like Rudy Giuliani, just another one of Trump’s “free lawyers.” Often, it feels like his administration is at war with the truth, the president’s army of propagandists seems relentless. And just when it looks darkest, we have the young RBG, ABJ, to remind us that “the truth still matters.”
It’s a beautiful and weirdly tragic moment, watching ABJ beat back against the current of Trumpism. ABJ reminds us that some day the truth will matter once again, that we as a people are better than the childish rhetoric and grotesque name-calling that is Trumpism.
Some day America will once again be a shining city on the hill, or at least a normal place, and not a partisan nightmare ruled by a moron. And when it returns to its once former normalcy, it will be because of judges like ABJ and not criminals like Roger Stone.