ANNOUNCER: Welcome to MOYERS ON DEMOCRACY for a conversation about Roger Stone, William Barr, and Donald Trump – with a glancing reference to Roy Cohn. Bill’s guest is the lawyer Steven Harper, who with his daughter Emma Harper created “The Trump-Russia Timeline” and now “The Pandemic Timeline.” These valuable resources for journalists and citizens can be found at BillMoyers.com and Dan Rather’s News & Guts. Before his retirement, Steven was a litigator at Kirkland & Ellis in Chicago and cited as one of the Best Lawyers in America. Here now is Bill Moyers.
BILL MOYERS: Steve, it’s good to not only hear you now, but to see you. This is the first time I’ve seen you in our conversations.
STEVEN HARPER: Well, it’s great to see you, Bill, really terrific. Thanks for having me on.
BILL MOYERS: What did you think when you heard that President Trump had commuted Roger Stone’s prison sentence?
STEVEN HARPER: I was shocked, but not surprised. How’s that? To me, it’s the culmination of what has been happening since Barr became attorney general. Even before he became attorney general. You know, people forget that the way Bill Barr got his job was by sending an unsolicited memorandum to the Justice Department in the summer of 2018 saying that Mueller’s investigation was out of bounds, that under no circumstances should Trump sit for any kind of questioning of Mueller. And lo and behold, six months later Donald Trump has finally found his Roy Cohn. To me, that’s the most discouraging part of the thing as a lawyer.
BILL MOYERS: What do you mean when you say Trump has discovered his Roy Cohn?
STEVEN HARPER: As you know, Roy was the famous McCarthy hatchet man who spared no weapons and took no prisoners. And he was Trump’s ultimate fixer. He was Trump’s father’s attorney for a while. Ironically enough, it was Cohn who introduced Trump to Roger Stone. It’s the very first entry in my Trump Russia timeline is the Cohn-Roger Stone-Trump connection. And now the circle is complete. Who would’ve thought you would ever yearn for the days of Jeff Sessions as attorney general, right? Even Sessions wouldn’t go to the lengths that Barr has gone to to protect Trump, to undermine Mueller, whom he characterized during his confirmation hearing as a friend, which is somewhat remarkable to me, to punish Trump’s enemies and to reward his friends. Roger Stone is truly a central player in this. And he stands for so much of what we know and also don’t know about the Trump-Russia investigation.
BILL MOYERS: Why does commuting Stone’s sentence matter?
STEVEN HARPER: Well, it matters ’cause it springs him. You know, it gives him freedom. Here’s a guy who was convicted of seven felony counts. He lied to Congress repeatedly. He threatened witnesses actually, with physical violence. He’s a central player in all of this. And the fact that you would commute the sentence of a person who has done everything he could to, number one, frustrate the Trump-Russia investigation. Number two, knows terrible things about Trump, I believe, and Russia, and that Mueller, some of the latest unredacted pieces make that clear. It’s just a travesty. And he’s yet another poster child of what’s wrong with justice in America. There are two systems. If you know the right people, if you have the right kind of resources, you can avoid prison for some crimes that actually threaten democracy.
BILL MOYERS: Five counts of perjury, guilty. One count of obstructing Congress, guilty. One count of tampering with a witness, guilty. The federal judge, as you know, who sentenced Stone, acknowledged that he’d been prosecuted for, quote, “Covering up the president.”
STEVEN HARPER: That’s right.
BILL MOYERS: That’s the judge who sentenced him summing up the case. But now he’s going free by the president’s own decree. The man for whom he covered up is setting him free.
STEVEN HARPER: Well, that’s what makes this so much worse than Richard Nixon. And I don’t have to remind you of all the terrible things that happened with Richard Nixon. But the commutation in this case, which is what makes it, I think, so much more heinous than anything Nixon did, it’s the culminating act of obstruction of justice with respect to Roger Stone, who constantly said, you know, “I’m never gonna turn on him. I’m an honest guy.” And then Trump would, you know, tweet in response, “Boy, it’s good to see people with guts.” It’s all in plain sight, as it always is with Trump.
BILL MOYERS: Can this be anything but a reward for Stone keeping his lips sealed about Trump’s own involvement in the Russian campaign?
STEVEN HARPER: No. I don’t see how. None of the so-called justifications for the commutation make any sense. It never went through the formal Department of Justice commutation process. In order to have a sentence commuted, at least, as I understand the rules, you have to at least have served some time in prison. This guy walks before he ever went across the threshold. And there’s no other way to see what happened here other than a reward for someone to remain silent. I mean, if you had John Gotti in the White House, I mean, you’d expect this sort of thing.
BILL MOYERS: But the conduct, the behavior, the outspoken– I mean, Stone actually boasted that he had remained silent. And Trump, as you say, praised him for his quote “guts” in not cooperating with the prosecutors. Isn’t that pretty much of an admission that it’s one more step in the cover up?
STEVEN HARPER: I think so. I don’t see how you can see it as anything else. I really don’t. Stone is a guy who– I think from the beginning, he was the central intermediary between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks. Before, during, and after the election. And then you have this endless, you know, as only Roger Stone could, bragging about how central he was and how he was in touch with WikiLeaks throughout the fall of 2016, and how often he talked to Trump and so on.
BILL MOYERS: So why was Stone’s lying to Congress so serious to the Russian investigation?
STEVEN HARPER: Because what he lied about was central to the investigation. He lied about whether or not he had documents. He lied about the nature of his communications with WikiLeaks. He lied about who he had communications with. He was lying about matters that went to the core, I believe, of the Russian investigation. But, you know, what makes Barr particularly dangerous is that he’s a lot craftier and he’s a lot smarter than Trump. And I really believe that they’re using the pandemic to cover a host of sins. And I fear that there are more to come, although I couldn’t even begin to tell you what they might be. But, you know, from Flynn to Stone to whatever October surprises Barr has been cooking up with John Durham– you know, they’ve got this whole sideshow going–
BILL MOYERS: John Durham is the veteran prosecutor– been serving in Connecticut, whom Barr has appointed to investigate the investigation by the FBI of Trump and Russia.
STEVEN HARPER: Precisely right. And the issue there, of course, is that neither Trump nor Barr like the notion that the investigation at its origins was properly opened. So even though Mueller concluded that it was properly opened, even though Inspector General Horowitz concluded it was properly opened, even though the Senate Intelligence Committee, led by the GOP concluded that the investigation originally was properly opened, one of the first things that Barr did was appoint somebody to take another look at this and say, “Well, let’s see if it was properly opened.”
BILL MOYERS: You remind me that the congressional committee that Stone lied to was Republican controlled. Does it ever cross your mind that some of those Republicans are relieved now that the country will never know why they let him get away with it?
STEVEN HARPER: Well, eventually the truth will out here. And it won’t surprise me in the least if Stone does it himself in a tell-all book ’cause he could make some money doing it. I mean, that’s the way these things work. Eventually it unravels. Whether you and I will live to see the ultimate unraveling is not clear, but the judgment of history is not gonna be kind to any of these Republicans who have continued to sit on their hands and just remain silent while all this has unfolded.
BILL MOYERS: But they will be dead, and what judgment will pass on them?
STEVEN HARPER: I don’t know if you remember– in one of Barr’s early interviews, after he was criticized, as he properly should’ve been, for trying to spin the Mueller report out of existence before releasing it, during an interview, somebody asked him, “Aren’t you worried about your legacy? Aren’t you worried about history?” And his comment was a very straightforward, “Everybody dies.” So, you know, you’re in a world where if you don’t care, I guess you can convince yourself a lot of things are okay.
BILL MOYERS: But they may, in time, in history, in death, be judged by this. But what’s the damage being done now?
STEVEN HARPER: Horrible. I think it’s just absolutely horrible. And I think people don’t realize– maybe lawyers have a greater sensitivity to this, although some of my disdain, frankly, is for people like Barr and other enablers with law degrees that are allowing this sort of thing to happen. You know, people bristle at comparisons, you know, to dictators like Hitler and Mussolini. But, you know, Hitler couldn’t have done any of the things that he did without lawyer enablers helping him along the way.
BILL MOYERS: Did you read the piece in the NEW YORK TIMES by one of the prosecutors in the Mueller investigation, Andrew Weissmann?
STEVEN HARPER: Yes.
BILL MOYERS: He said that we might get the truth from Stone, some grand jury would call him back and tell him, “Why did you lie to Congress?” Just begin with that premise. And that would start it all over again even though his sentence has been commuted?
STEVEN HARPER: Well, it could. He’d be being asked a new set of questions under oath and therefore creating new opportunities for himself to lie. So, each new appearance creates the new potential for legal jeopardy. There was another article I read along similar lines by Neal Katyal, who was the acting solicitor general for President Obama for a time. And he also suggests that the Stone story may not be over. I do have to say, at the end of the day, as a practical matter, I don’t hold out a whole lot of hope that any of those things are likely to happen. I fear that politicians might say, well, we just don’t wanna go down that road. But the road that Trump has taken us down already has been so fraught, and is continuing to be so fraught with danger for democracy that I think it’s imperative that we hold him accountable.
BILL MOYERS: So you don’t think there’s any possibility that Attorney General Barr wants to pursue Stone to get at the truth?
STEVEN HARPER: (LAUGH) I’m sorry, if you intended it as a serious question—
BILL MOYERS: I was just seeing—
STEVEN HARPER: No. Nope, I couldn’t even restrain myself in response to a rhetorical question.
BILL MOYERS: But what does Barr have to gain from protecting Stone from further prosecution?
STEVEN HARPER: What Barr has been doing in the protection of Trump, in the undermining of the Mueller investigation, in the protection of Flynn, dropping the Flynn case, the nagging question in all of this, to me, is why? What’s in it for him? What is it that he thinks he’s achieving? Now the only thing that I’ve been able to come up with is that he has this theory of a unitary executive, which is essentially an all-powerful president who is always able to do whatever he wants, and it’s the closest as we would ever come, and I hope we never get there, to having a king. And so is this just some pursuit of his own pet theory that people shouldn’t be able to scrutinize a president? I don’t really get it. Somebody somewhere, sometime, someday maybe will be able to figure out what the piece is, but there’s a piece of the puzzle there that I don’t understand.
BILL MOYERS: You say that Stone was central to the Russia-Trump investigation. What’s going on with that investigation as we speak?
STEVEN HARPER: I think it’s essentially dead. In terms of the substance of whether anybody is seriously at this point going after or looking into the Trump campaign connections with Russia I think the answer is no. But what people ought to be concerned about is what US attorney John Durham is doing in the so-called investigation– I guess it’s the third one now– into whether the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation were proper. When Inspector General Horowitz came out with his 400-page report, one of the conclusions of which was the origin of the investigation was proper, it was appropriately opened, there was no evidence of political bias in the pursuit of the investigation. One of the things that happened immediately was Barr saying, “I don’t agree.” And then immediately after that Durham echoed “I don’t agree either.” That’s unheard of. But that’s part of the program that began when Barr first started spinning Mueller’s report three weeks before releasing it.
BILL MOYERS: And you haven’t mentioned yet what Barr has been doing in manipulating various federal attorneys under his authority who were investigating or could investigate Donald Trump’s activities. Barr has been moving them around out of positions of authority over those investigations and installing his own confidantes.
STEVEN HARPER: That’s right.
BILL MOYERS: What do you make of that?
STEVEN HARPER: That’s very troubling. You know, using this sort of interim acting attorney, US attorney process so, number one, you’re bypassing even the Republican controlled Senate in terms of getting consent to the nominations. But let’s take the three that you mentioned. In DC he did all sorts of machinations to get Jessie Liu, whom, ironically enough, Trump had personally interviewed before pointing her to the job as DC US attorney, which was also an unprecedented thing to do. I guess that’s what you have to do, you have to sound these people out to see if they’re gonna hurt you before you put them in these places where they might. That office winds up inheriting the Mueller investigation, and the Mueller case involving Michael Flynn, so Barr appoints a US attorney out in Missouri to second guess the investigation and the prosecution of Flynn who is a thrice confessed felon and about whom the judge said “Arguably you betrayed your country.” So that’s DC and now we’re in the process of trying to decide whether Barr can get him off the hook altogether by dropping the charges retroactively after the guy has confessed three times. In the southern district of New York, we all saw very publicly what happened to Geoff Berman who was told that he had resigned to his great surprise and said, “No I haven’t.” And then ultimately wound up resigning. Although there Barr did not achieve his objective, which was to put in the person he wanted. He wound up with an acting US attorney who I think is going to be very tough and so I feel okay about that one, but the effort is what happened there. And then, now most recently, last week you had the eastern district of New York, a guy named Richard Donoghue replaced by another Barr confidante, Seth DuCharme. Donoghue was the guy, just to really tangle this web, whom Barr and Barr’s deputy had appointed to be the receptacle of Giuliani’s evidence relating to Hunter Biden. And, oh, coincidentally that office is also handling an investigation into the Trump inauguration committee which was headed by one of Trump’s buddies, Tom Barrack. So, he’s moving these chess pieces around in a very insidious way. Although, again, here, this causes me to ask a question. You’re four months away from the election, every poll says that Trump’s gonna lose the election soundly, and he’s gonna be out of office in January, so why do all of this now when the whole cast of US attorney characters is going to change? What’s going on in those offices over the next several months that has Barr and Trump so concerned that they have to make these highly unorthodox personnel moves?
BILL MOYERS: Well, as you indicated earlier there’s a prosecutor handpicked by the attorney general, conducting a criminal investigation of the investigators. Hopefully, it’s been suggested to get a report before the election, that will get Trump off the hook by deciding the investigation was a hoax. And that might have an effect on the last bump in the polling right before people go to vote.
STEVEN HARPER: Yeah, that would be the theory, I suppose, and that would explain Durham’s mission. I’m not sure it explains what he tried to do in the southern district of New York. I think that has more to do with the Trump organization, and Deutsche Bank, and those sorts of investigations. But that’s just my speculation.
BILL MOYERS: But isn’t there something really sinister that you sense, or smell, in this?
STEVEN HARPER: Yep. And I will actually go into the realm of speculation, which I don’t usually do, but it’s fearful speculation. And the fearful speculation is that there’s a process underway that is now accelerating, that, in addition to undermining the rule of law, is also stripping away fundamental pillars of democracy. And one of the things I’m most concerned about is what happens in November. Number one, is there an election? Is it inconceivable that Trump, with the help of Barr providing legal justifications, is it possible that Trump could take the step of declaring martial law? Might he use the cover of the pandemic and the inability of people to vote as the ultimate excuse? I mean, there are a lot of different– if you’re a conspiracy theorist you could go all the way to some really bad things. But I think what’s insidious is that we have a man in the White House, Donald Trump, who is wielding every weapon that he can have, that he can think of, to push every agency and person in government, to bend every one of them to his personal will. And his personal will involves self-interest. And that is at least, except coincidentally, the nation’s interest. And I think that’s about as insidious as you can get.
BILL MOYERS: And to those people who argue, “Well, that is so un-American it just couldn’t happen here,” I remind them of what John Adams and other of the founders who were concerned about the character of public leadership worried that democracy could lead to oligarchy, the rule of the rich to favor the rich. I remind them that human nature is such that some men love power more than they love honor.
STEVEN HARPER: And here’s what makes the current moment, I think, particularly dangerous. We have become a society where many of us, not all of us– something terrible can be happening in the world, but unless it’s personal it’s not real. Even with the pandemic. Until it becomes personal, many people don’t view it as real. So, for example, in New York, it was real very early on for most New Yorkers. But for the rest of the country it was New York’s problem. Well, now all of the sudden it’s hitting the sunbelt, and the red states, and it’s becoming real for everyone. And I worry about that because if it only matters when it reaches you personally, you’re gonna let an awful lot of stuff slip by. You’re gonna let the war on truth happen. You’re gonna let the war on science happen because you’re not gonna care. You know, Trump has been counting on that. He was counting on rising investment returns in people’s 401Ks. But if we are a society where for the most part it’s only real if it’s personal to us then I think that’s when the kind of situation you’re describing, democracy transitioning to oligarchy, you know, keep enough people happy that you can maintain some semblance of control over the rest– I fear that we’re dangerously closer to that sort of a problem than people realize.
BILL MOYERS: I think that’s one reason the Russian-Trump investigation never gained traction with a majority of the American people, because they didn’t understand that Russia’s meddling undermined their vote. You know, our vote is our voice. But the threat from Russia was never real enough to people that it became personal.
STEVEN HARPER: That’s right, particularly the way it was then rolled out, so that if it comes out because you have Bill Barr spinning it as this innocuous thing, no collusion, no obstruction, both of which are lies, and then you have– in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, Federal Judge Walton specifically said that, as he’s now had an opportunity to review the Mueller report, it becomes clear to him that Attorney General Barr was intent on creating a one-sided narrative that was at issue, in many ways, with the facts in the report. But, you know, primacy sticks. The first message, if you keep repeating it over, and over again, and there you are. And you’re right. It didn’t become sufficiently real to people in a way that they would have felt it. I remember saying to people– I had dinner with friends very early on in 2017 when a lot of this was going on, and they would sort of say, “Well, you know, I don’t know, what’s the deal with Trump. Maybe he’s okay. Maybe he’s not.” I said, “What would you say if it turned out that the only reason Trump is in office is because Vladimir Putin wants him there, and because Vladimir Putin has an agenda that has only to do with undermining everything that the United States stands for?” And at that point they said, “Well, that would bother me.” But somehow the clarity of that message just kind of got lost.
BILL MOYERS: Even now, with all the credible stories about the Russians paying a bounty to the Taliban to pursue and kill American troops, Trump has continued– the record shows, he has continued flirt with, and humor and play up to Putin, it’s incredible.
STEVEN HARPER: Yup, it would be incredible to any prior president who sat in the office. One of the ways they pull this off is by continuing to lie about it. So all of a sudden the bounty thing becomes, “Oh, that’s no big deal. We know they’ve been after us. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” And you know, Kayleigh McEnany comes on and says, “You know, there is no story here.”
BILL MOYERS: How do you explain the White House crusade against Dr. Fauci?
STEVEN HARPER: They’re trapped in Trump’s modus operandi. That’s what he does, in fact I think he tweeted it once, you know, if somebody punches me I counterpunch.
BILL MOYERS: That was Roy Cohn’s advice to Trump: “If you’re attacked, hit harder.”
STEVEN HARPER: There it is. And so, at a fundamental level that’s what’s going on. The closest analogy I can think of is a cult. And if I had to think of one cult in particular it would probably be something along the line of Jonestown where, you know, if somebody says, “Drink bleach,” you’re gonna drink bleach. Now, not everyone is quite that enamored of the leader that they’re going to drink bleach, but Trump’s modus operandi is it doesn’t matter how real it is. If it’s negative, if it’s something bad about Trump, if it’s something that makes him feel badly, or look badly, or is inconsistent with a message that he wants to deliver: whether it’s Trump-Russia being a hoax; whether we’re going to attack the investigators; we’re going to attack Comey; we’re gonna attack (the bad cops; we’re going to attack Mueller; we’re gonna attack everybody. Still, he carries a grudge, and he carries it, apparently, forever. Fauci was totally predictable. Once you saw that the Fauci approval rating was two or three orders of magnitude higher than Trump’s– something like 70% to 20%– you know Fauci was in trouble. I mean, that was the point at which you knew that, number one, Fauci was gonna stop showing up at these press briefings, because they were making Fauci look good, even as he contradicted Trump. They’ve just pulled out the same old playbook. The thing I hope that they have underestimated– notwithstanding the public’s confirmation bias, and their desire to believe what they wanna believe, and discard facts that are inconsistent with their beliefs even as it relates to the pandemic. They wanna be free of the pandemic, they wanna go out, they wanna believe that Trump is right, but at some point the body bags are a testament to the fact that maybe Trump’s wrong. And maybe Fauci’s right. It’ll be interesting to see. My own personal feeling, and I hope I’m right, is that the attack on Dr. Fauci will be immensely counterproductive in terms of doing anything that would raise Trump’s standing. And I think even Lindsey Graham recently said that it’s a mistake to attack Dr. Fauci. And this guy has won the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He’s served how many? Six presidents? He may be the most respected infectious disease doctor in the entire world. We are a country that is, in terms of responding to the pandemic, something slightly better than a third world nation because of the way Trump has botched it. And I just have to believe at some point Americans are gonna say, “You know, the Fauci attack just isn’t gonna work.”
BILL MOYERS: What’s your perspective on this as a lawyer. The president is threatening to defund any government entity that goes against his wishes: the Department of Education over whether kids go back to school or not next month, the Postal Service, universities whose culture he doesn’t agree with or like. Can he get away with this? I mean, Barr might say he could under the unitary executive privilege or power. But what do you think?
STEVEN HARPER: I think his ability to do that is somewhat limited. His ability to stop funding to public schools, for example, if they don’t open, is extremely limited. I think there’s a slice of the CARES Act appropriation, the supplemental appropriation related to the pandemic that he has some control over. The more dangerous person, however, in all of that could very well be Betsy DeVos, the education secretary who, I think, would use whatever tools she has economically to implement Trump’s message. So there’s something there. He doesn’t have complete control, I guess is the best way to put it. But he could achieve a lot of pain. He could achieve a lot of disruption. You know, he wants everybody to go back to school, for example, but he has no suggestion about where they’re gonna get the billions of dollars that it would take to retrofit infrastructure, classrooms. I was watching a report on CNN the other day ’cause Betsy DeVos has taken off on Fairfax County, Virginia, and the superintendent of the schools said, “Look, in order for us to reopen consistent with the guidelines that we should be following to preserve the kids’ health as well as the adults’ in the homes that they return to, and the staff, and the bus drivers, and so on, we would have to build the equivalent of five Pentagons.” Five Pentagon buildings. Where are we gonna put ’em? Where are we gonna get the money for ’em? I mean, it’s as close to magical thinking as you can get. But I mean, we saw what he did to Voice of America, right? He’s got his selected people now controlling the message that America sends around the world through Voice of America. And the people– a number of people who were there were extremely concerned about what that meant. So there are gigantic phases of American life that he’s obviously able to influence in negative ways, not the least of which is the example he sets for culture, for young people, for old people, for people who maybe they were always out there but they were content to remain silent in their racist views or their intolerant views. Well, now all of a sudden he’s given all of them the freedom to speak. And all of that– there’s so many levels at which his influence has been profound and profoundly horrible that it’s gonna take an awful long time to unwind it all.
BILL MOYERS: Two final questions.
STEVEN HARPER: Sure.
BILL MOYERS: You have made a singular contribution to public knowledge today, and to history by the indefatigable work you have done on the timeline of the Russian-Trump connection, which began at BillMoyers.com, and is now doing very well on Dan Rather’s blog as well as on our site. You’ve done that with your daughter, right?
STEVEN HARPER: Yup.
BILL MOYERS: Why were you so obsessed?
STEVEN HARPER: Obsessed. That’s the right word. Obsessed is the right word. Well, I think when we first started this, you and I, it began with a post where all I really wanted to do, and it was very early on, it would have been maybe February of 2017, shortly after Trump’s inauguration, and there was so much smoke. You know, those were the good old days when we were fighting about inauguration crowd sizes, for example. And I was fearful that clarity was being lost in the same way that it had been muddled throughout the campaign in terms of the significance of Russia’s interference with our election. And all I wanted to do was sort of identify a handful of what I thought were key data points, dates really, that would kind of just mark the story. And ironically enough, I think the first post featured prominently Roger Stone. And I think there were about 25 entries, because his were among the most striking to me. He was bragging about his WikiLeaks connection. You know, I knew a fraction of what I do now. And I have to say if you had told me three years later we would now have 3,000 entries, I’m not sure I would have embarked on such a project. But it’s also the sort of thing that once I got started, it would have been very difficult if I hadn’t kept track as I went along, to keep track of all of things that were happening, as well as all of the earlier things that were being disclosed as they were happening. And I really thought it was an important story. Frankly, it developed in ways I never would have dreamed in terms of the significance, the scope of the Trump campaign involvement, and on, and on, and on. But, I just thought it was something that if I could help somehow in a world of media clicks and soundbites, if I could somehow just provide something that became a resource for others who were interested in finding out what the truth was, just the facts, and I was very determined not to be at all argumentative in any of the entries that I’ve made in the timeline. They’re all strictly factual and sourced with links to the source. I thought maybe then people would come to their own conclusions, and that those conclusions would be correct. And whether it’s a journalist writing an article looking for background, or essential facts that might give context to a larger story, or whether it was just an ordinary citizen wanting to understand in the haze, what was all happening– I came to believe, when I was trying cases to a jury, that you do a lot better if you lay the facts out and let them come to their own conclusions than if you beat them over the head and try to tell them what the truth is. And once I did it I really did feel that it was important to see it through to at least some culmination.
BILL MOYERS: The WASHINGTON POST the other day reported that Trump had told 20,000 untruths since he became president three and half years ago. Doesn’t the sheer weight of lies affect the temperament and character of democracy? What are the stakes here?
STEVEN HARPER: Absolutely. It can’t survive, I don’t believe, without truth. In a society of people that has lost the capacity to know the truth, to accept facts that lead them to the truth is a people that is lost in a desert from which it may be impossible to return, in some ways. If you go back to Jefferson, and education, and the very premise of the founding fathers that it was an informed electorate that was the essential foundation of democracy– well, if you don’t have facts with which to inform the electorate, or if you have an electorate that is not willing to entertain facts, or if you have leaders that are not willing to promote facts over fiction, then you’ve lost democracy, at least in the way that our founders would have envisioned it. Stakes are, for young people, it’s the kind of country that they’re going to live in. For my children, and my grandchildren and yours, it’s, are we going to be a democracy or not? I really think it’s that stark. And we only get to the right place if people fight hard, particularly in this environment, and long, and to the end for the right outcome.
BILL MOYERS: Steve Harper, I thank you for all of the people who will benefit from listening to and reading you. Thank you again.
STEVEN HARPER: Thank you, Bill. It’s always a pleasure to talk to you.
ANNOUNCER: Thanks for listening to MOYERS ON DEMOCRACY. Until next time, get the facts with Steven Harper’s timelines at BillMoyers.com.