Media critic

CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin on Monday morning participated in a cable-news conversation that didn’t go viral. And that’s just the point.

On the agenda was Toobin’s story in the New Yorker about Roger Stone and Jerome Corsi, two central figures in the late-stage (or so says acting attorney general Matthew G. Whitaker) activities of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. As CNN “New Day” host John Berman pointed out in the segment, Toobin wrote in the story that Stone took on a posture of caution when approaching a certain topic. From the New Yorker piece:

For a person who is usually categorical in his statements, Stone is cautious when describing Trump’s involvement in the quest for WikiLeaks’ documents during the campaign. “I have no memory of ever talking about WikiLeaks with him,” Stone told me in Fort Lauderdale. Responding to persistent rumors that Mueller has a witness who says he heard Trump and Stone on a speakerphone discussing WikiLeaks, Stone said, “Prove it.” Stone’s indictment speaks of an unnamed person, possibly Trump himself, who “directed” a senior campaign official to tell Stone to find out what was coming from WikiLeaks. In public comments, Trump has denied ever speaking to Stone about the organization. It would not necessarily have been illegal for Trump and Stone to have discussed WikiLeaks in the summer of 2016, but, if it were established that they had, that would prove that the President has been lying to the public about his role.

These questions hover over the summer of 2016, a period that, by the time rising seas sweep away all the historians, may end up as the most scrutinized period ever. Toobin told Berman and co-host Alisyn Camerota: “This is when Trump is saying, I love WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks is great. That, of course, raised the question, is, what did Trump know or what did Trump do to help encourage Stone and Corsi to try to find out what else WikiLeaks had. Stone says nothing. Stone says, well, I don’t believe I talked to him. The president has said I didn’t have any contact. But it’s — it is, let us say, suspicious,” he said.

As dialogue on the important stuff waned, Toobin showed off a “souvenir” from Stone’s box of polished stones that he’s selling for his legal defense fund. “If you contribute to Roger Stone’s legal defense fund, you get a ‘Roger’s stone,’ ” said Toobin.

Berman then said, “Jeffrey Toobin with his hands on Roger Stone’s … ”

“Oh wow,” said Camerota.

An awkward moment ensued, with Toobin tongue-tied. “Well,” he said, clearly readying to join in the repartee. He didn’t, and then uttered the most sagacious words ever to skirt across a cable-news transcript:

I -- from -- anyway. Just sometimes you think of things to say and you don’t say them and you think, "What a good decision!”

Indeed. Imagine how many people wish they’d exercised that very same sense of restraint before saying something stupid on television or on Twitter.

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