Judge in Stone case: 'The truth still exists; the truth still matters'

It's striking to hear eloquent voices defend the nature of truth - in part because it's reassuring, and in part because it's not.
Jury Finds Roger Stone Guilty In Obstruction Trial
Roger Stone departs the E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse with his wife Nydia after being found guilty of obstructing a congressional investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election on Nov. 15, 2019 in Washington, DC.Win McNamee / Getty Images file
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By Steve Benen

During Donald Trump's Senate impeachment trial, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) made a series of powerful presentations, but one of his most memorable lines came toward the beginning of the proceedings.

"Right matters, and the truth matters," the Democratic lawmaker told senators last month. "Otherwise we are lost."

The phrasing came to mind yesterday reading the transcript of U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson's remarks during Roger Stone's sentencing hearing. The federal jurist reflected on the fact that the Republican operative's legal defense was rooted in part on indifference to relevant evidence.

It led the judge to explain:

"Of all the circumstances in this case, that may be the most pernicious. The truth still exists. The truth still matters. 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 very foundation of our democracy."

In a time of dramatic political divisions, there's a great deal for well-intentioned observers to discuss and debate. But to hear those in positions of authority take the time to defend the very nature of truth -- making the case that it need not be one of our points of contention -- is striking, in part because it's reassuring, and in part because it's not.

On the former, it's heartening to hear wise words from patriots who are willing to declare -- without apology or reservation -- that truth both exists and matters.

But on the latter, it's heartbreaking to know we've arrived at a point at which such declarations are even necessary. The fact that people need to be reminded by eloquent voices of the truth's importance is emblematic of the fact that the truth is facing the kinds of threats it shouldn't have to confront.

I don't know whether Judge Amy Berman Jackson's sentence will be cast aside by a president who sees the truth as a bitter foe, but to borrow Adam Schiff's phrasing, I do know that a Stone pardon from Donald Trump will bring us one step closer to being lost.