A Night At the Opera with Tenor Trey Gowdy

Mark Twain once wrote, “A southerner talks music.” 

U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy’s operatic molasses-and-cream voice, and a wardrobe’s worth of changing hairdos, memorably color the politics of the last decade. Who can forget the South Carolina Republican’s virtuoso performance of Immolazieone delle Spoliazioni (The Immolation of Spoliation)? In hearings on IRS misconduct, the tenor warbled over inferences against parties who destroy evidence—who engage in spoliation—sonorously filling the air to the delight of his adoring fans. Bravo! Unfortunately, other than the beauty of it, the performance had little effect. No one at the IRS paid for their spoliation.

Gowdy’s latest opera—let’s call it Comportarsi in Modo Innocente (Comport Yourself in the Way of Innocence)premiered earlier this week. In Comportarsi, Gowdy plays a former prosecutor and lame duck congressman hoping to become one of the town’s celebrity newsmen.

Gowdy’s character becomes troubled when President Trump and his counsel mount a sharp defense to the efforts of the special counsel to investigate the non-crime of “links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump.” As the president and his lawyers work to parry the inquisition of Special Counsel Mueller’s chorus of hired prosecutors, Gowdy steps to center stage, cantillating, “If you are innocent, act like it!”

Though moments of hilarity punctuate the action, Comportarsi is an opera seria. We laugh, for example, at the vanity of a parade of bespectacled newscasters who interview the divas of print and film pornography. But we grimace at the whole of the drama because the stakes—the right of the people to be governed by ballots, not selective prosecution—are tremendously high. The extreme tension awaits final catharsis.

The libretto for Comportarsi may be Italian but the setting is distinctly Anglo-Saxon. While Gowdy in his aria sings in general terms about the character of innocence, he does so in a specific system of justice. Anglo-Saxon law uses an adversary system, a descendant of trial by combat. Long ago in medieval England, plaintiff and defendant would prove their innocence or guilt in single combat, often using hired champions. God would strengthen the hand of the righteous and resolve the dispute with the death or defeat of one of the combatants.

With experience, the brutish practice brought forth the method of using advocates, attorneys, who use words instead of weapons. Today, the method of Anglo-Saxon litigation is for the verbal combat of two partial adversaries unfolding before an impartial—and passive—judge and jury to produce justice based on who raises and makes the stronger arguments. In this system, aggression is bred in the bone.

A prosecutor in this system is never the accused’s friend. The prosecutor does not—is not supposed to—have the accused’s interests in mind. The code of ethics obliges the prosecutor to use all lawful and ethical means—of course, he must have probable cause and must not lie or conceal exculpatory evidence – to produce a conviction on behalf of his client, the state. The accused is presumed innocent, but the adversary system assumes that defense counsel will nonetheless zealously represent the defendant, because justice will only emerge from the clash of zealous advocates.

If counsel for the defense does not aggressively defend his client, the adversary system fails; the defendant is not “acting innocent” but conspiring to a miscarriage of justice.

Faced with prosecution, the job of the defense is not cooperation but the destruction of the credibility of the witnesses for the prosecution, where plausible, the credibility of the prosecutor and, where necessary, the credibility of the prosecutor’s client, the state. The only circumstance where a defendant might not speak vigorously against the prosecutor and his case is where the prosecutor fails so badly that to say anything strengthens a weak showing.

While Gowdy has played his part in the first act, painting a deeply misleading picture of innocence in an adversary system, the opera is far from over. The curtain is up for the second act of Comportarsi.

Trump has dismissed John Dowd, an excellent lawyer, but one whose largely prosaic task of getting along with the special counsel is now done. With McCabe out at the FBI for misconduct, and with Strzok, Page, Comey and others exposed, new counsel, led by Joseph diGenova, will shift to building a zealous defense that Mueller’s effort—wittingly or unwittingly—is part of a widespread conspiracy to frame a president.

As the final scenes of Comportarsi unfold, expect diGenova to serenade the audience with his own account—contra Gowdy—of the title theme of “acting innocent” in the Anglo-Saxon adversary system, a paean to hitting back hard.

Bravo Maestro! Bravo!

Photo credit: Al Drago/CQ Roll Call

About Jay Whig

J. Whig is an attorney practicing in New York and a resident of Connecticut specializing in insolvency and restructuring. Opinions are his own.

Photo: UNITED STATES - JANUARY 6 - House Benghazi Committee Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C. speaks to the media on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016 before the start of the committee's closed-door hearing. In an effort to investigate the deadly 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, the House committee is interviewing former CIA director David Petraeus. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

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7 responses to “A Night At the Opera with Tenor Trey Gowdy

  • Gowdy is the brightest of the Republican Congressmen. He will be missed in that regard. But in the issue of telling Trump to act as though he is innocent, Gowdy misses three essential facts. (1) Mueller, who Gowdy defends, is a corrupt deep state operative who filled his investigation with ALL Democrat supporters of Hillary Clinton and included prosecutors with a strong track record of unethical prosecution by doing things like hiding exculpatory evidence and misrepresenting the facts, (2) Innocent people DEFEND themselves by protesting their innocence, pointing out prosecutorial misbehavior, and pointing out when the prosecutors are relying on people with a track record of misrepresentation, of lying, and who have a strong personal interest in being dishonest to benefit themselves, and (3) Mueller in a year found absolutely NOTHING criminal in the Trump campaign, no collusion, nada, zilch. His indictments were basically unrelated to the whole Collusion accusations. His investigations are fishing expeditions trying to find a crime – a USSR approach of “show me the man and I will find the crime”. Mueller should be dismissed. A Special Prosecutor to investigate the malfeasance at the DOJ IRS, FBI, CIA, and NSA trying to rig the election against Trump then trying to frame Trump to allow a legal coup driven by Mueller should be appointed.

    • Gowdy spent five years not learning what happened in Benghazi and four years not learning how Hillary’s purely illegal server was illegal. Gowdy is a skilled non-investigator who is paid to find nothing.

  • Synopsis for those who claim TLDR: Gowdy is totally offbase with his advice to Trump to “act like you are innocent.”

    I have enjoyed Trey Gowdy’s tenure (or, is that tenor?) in the House of Representatives. However, Gowdy is off base with his advice to the President here. What, pray tell, has the President done to merit such advice? Condemn the effort to effect a palace coup? Why shouldn’t he state in the strongest terms his condemnation of what amounts to sedition? Based on evidence to date, based on the factually correct observation that the FBI and DOJ presented opposition research constructed for the Clinton campaign (and the DNC) before a secret tribunal, asserting that the information they were presenting to the FISA court met the Woods procedures that are meant to ““ensure accuracy with regard to … the facts supporting probable cause”. (See: http://thehill.com/opinion/campaign/372233-nunes-memo-raises-question-did-fbi-violate-woods-procedures). Consider:

    – For all we know, the Trump/Russia investigation is based almost exclusively on the Steele dossier
    – The Steele dossier was presented to the FISA court when seeking a warrant to spy on Carter Page
    – The Steele dossier – alone! – was trotted before President Obama and President-elect Trump by James Comey as suggestion that there could be compromising information held by Russia for use against Trump
    – James Comey stated that at least a significant portion of the Steele dossier was “salacious and unverified) 9 months after the dossier was used before the FISA court and 6 months after putting it in front of the President and President-elect
    – The FBI and DOJ seemingly went to considerable lengths to hide the provenance of the Steele dossier (as Clinton/DNC funded opposition research) in their presentation to the FISA court
    – The statement from McCabe 15 months later that the application to the FISA court to surveil Carter Page would probably not have been made without the Steele dossier.
    – Text messages between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page to the effect of meeting in “Andy’s office” (presumably, Andrew McCabe) to discuss an “insurance policy” in the event that Trump should be elected
    – Text messages between Strzok and Page about using Strzok’s personal relationship with a FISA court judge to gain a favorable outcome for proceedings before him
    – The eventual recusal of that same judge in a case brought against Michael Flynn
    – That these text messages had names redacted when presented for congressional review, suggesting that the FBI and DOJ were attempting to shield their content from critical review
    – Leading up to Comey’s firing, Trump had stated that Comey had told him on three separate occasions that he (Trump) was not the subject of any criminal investigation. But Comey did not confirm the truth of that assertion until he gave congressional testimony a couple of months after his firing. Comey’s testimony came ONLY AFTER Mueller was named as special prosecutor. But the “need” for a special prosecutor was based on the characterization of Trump trying to obstruct FBI investigation – an investigation THAT DID NOT EXIST.

    All these elements condemn the operation of the FBI and DOJ as not acting in good faith. The elevation of a special prosecutor is based on the characterization of President Trump attempting to obstruct justice which is totally ludicrous when there was no investigation of Trump to obstruct. Trump is absolutely right that the special prosecutor should have never been appointed. His characterization of what has taken place as a “WITCH HUNT” is actually polite, since what we have is really sedition.

    Now, consider over the past year, we observed the special prosecutor’s office first staff his team only with individuals who are partisan toward the Democratic party and then dismiss Strzok and Page from his team without advising congress of the reason for dismissal. Consider, too, that Mueller and Comey are BFFs. Can anyone claim that the special prosecutor has been acting as an independent counsel? Isn’t the motive for a special prosecutor to be to remove all appearance of any partisan investigation? Can anyone, in good faith, claim that the special prosecutor has given the American public the perception that his investigation has been non-partisan? Moreover, what have we seen from the Mueller team in their actions? A gratuitous pre-dawn raid on the residence of Paul Manafort? The Mueller team extorting a confession of guilt from Michael Flynn by threatening action against Flynn’s son? Consider, too, that Christopher Steele IS a foreign agent and that the Clinton campaign paid him (conspired with a foreign agent) to gain electoral advantage. WE KNOW THIS. The special prosecutor was appointed to investigate supposed collusion of the Trump campaign with foreign agents for political advantage. Has the special prosecutor brought any indictment against Hillary Clinton (or anyone associated with the Clinton campaign)? NO. Again, this speaks to the special prosecutor not being INDEPENDENT COUNSEL.

    I haven’t even touched on the virtually unlimited resources of the special counsel, nor have I touched on the role of the propaganda arm of the Democratic Party (the MSM) in this sordid affair. The role of the media in all this would be a thesis just as long as the TLDR above.

    Given all the above, there is, then, EVERY REASON for Trump to act as he has. As much as I have appreciated Trey Gowdy’s prosecutorial style when questioning individuals who give congressional testimony, his advice to Trump to “act as if you are innocent” is entirely misdirected in this instance.

  • Gowdy will accomplish as little for the nation out of office as he did in office. All talk, no results.

    • All hat and not cattle has been Gowdy’s scent for some time now. A bunch of barking and never a bite.

  • VERY well put. You have articulated almost exactly where I’m at. I didn’t elect Donald Trump believing for one (New York?) minute that he was a saint. I still don’t believe that he is a saint. But when the soft underbelly of the entrenched and powerful cabal against him is fully exposed (the IG report and indictments that the DOJ is apparently working as we speak will be damaging, but won’t be the kill shot, unfortunately), there MUST be a sea change in direction of this country, or this experiment in republican (with a little r) government will be in its final death throws. Note that the IG’s report is meant to examine how the FBI and DOJ handled the Clinton email investigation. That is a pre-election matter. The soft underbelly will only be fully exposed when charges are brought for the post-election efforts to effect a coup. Holding McCabe and others accountable for the pre-election matters is a big step toward exposing the depth and breadth of corruption that had people conspiring to effect a coup.

    As I have seen Trump forge on through the vicious assaults on the institution of the President based on lie upon lie upon lie from a press corps (which TELLS US that they are the 4th estate but which acts simply as the propaganda arm of the Democratic Party), I have come to a much greater appreciation for the person of Donald J. Trump. Should he survive the effort to effect a coup and should there be a rebirth of the idea of freedom, that the individual has rights that the collective cannot lawfully trample on, then I would cast a vote to canonize Trump among all the Presidents of this nation.

    Perfect person? NO! Perfect man for this time? Lord, I pray that he is sustained that he might ultimately be regarded as so. Because the jackals are always at his heels. He is forever being tested beyond all measure. And it is not just Obama’s minions who seek to destroy him, but MANY in the Republican Party as well who are exposed as frauds, corrupt in virtually all their endeavors.

    OK, troops, to the ramparts we go! (Isn’t that how these speeches proclaiming the defense of liberty and freedom are supposed to end? Huzzah!)

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