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Lying Santos Indicted, Trump Liable for Assault
The Santos Tapes
Seems like there are more newsletter entries than usual lately, because there’s more news! My latest is below — and click here to become a full subscriber for all my entries and to join my Zoom call, if you’re interested:
Rep. George Santos was indicted and arraigned Tuesday, a striking setback for the controversial new Congressman. The New York Republican rocketed to national infamy with lies so blatant that he ultimately admitted many of them, rather than defend them.
The indictment is partly about those lies — lying to Congress, lying to the government about campaign spending, lying to the government about unemployment. The Feds are trying to enforce an accountable line here.
While many politicians dissemble and lie, the charges come at a time of a growing reckoning for political lies and crimes. I’ve mentioned this dynamic in my writing here, and on The Beat. While there is no “single” or “coordinated” organization to all this, there are wider dynamics at play.
Judges may be skeptical of cases that punish speech as defamation, for example, and then plaintiff lawyers bring fewer such cases, because they are hard to win. Then there is the rise of Trump-led lying in political discourse, and new cases have begun testing those lines. Court cases can take years to go anywhere.
Now, however, we’ve seen recent defamation rulings against Fox News, Alex Jones and Trump — this week in the sexual abuse and defamation case — and this Santos indictment that takes lies seriously.
So something may be shifting.
Does that mean it should be easy to sue (or charge) someone for any exaggeration, false statement or honest mistake?
No. There are many valid defenses and legal limits here, as there should be. But the times are a-changing — drop a comment if you get that lyrical reference : ) — and the legal system seems to be changing a bit with these times, and the bracing new tradeoffs, and dangers, of instant publishing online. Or of politicians who use lies to radicalize people and stoke an insurrection.
As for Rep. Santos, he is legally presumed innocent, and vowing to fight the case.
On The Beat, we just broke a related story: New tapes of Santos, revealed for the first time by documenatian Blake Zeff, with Santos discussing his scandals, financial plots — and a clumsy stab at a supposed “joke” about a room full of Jews.
It’s the kind of story that it helps to hear; you can play the segment featuring the tapes here (and below). The evidence may be more powerful, and damning, than any opinionated attack.
Everything all at once
It’s become a cliche to go on about “busy news cycles,” just like people are tired of hearing about the “most important” election year ever. (Even after some important ones!) Sometimes, however, when it feels like more things are happening, or going in a certain direction, that’s because it is true.
I cannot tell you where we are headed, or put this all in the full historical context we may grasp someday. I can tell you that years of systematic attacks on truth, institutions and accountability have stoked a quite measurable series of legal counter-offenses, and some are clearly working.
Do you think these caes will make a difference? Tell me in the comments and feel free to share my reporting if you find it valuable…
The Santos Tapes:
P.S. You can always find my latest pictures on Instagram, and here's our brand new Mavericks interview with Logic, on Obama, music and mental health…