MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle on Wednesday laughably argued that the former federal prosecutors who signed a letter accusing President Trump of obstructing justice were “apolitical” actors. Her argument was swiftly dismissed out of hand by former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R), resulting in an explosive back-and-forth.
Ruhle made this claim while leading a discussion with Christie and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the SALT Conference in Las Vegas. As the panel drew to a close, the MSNBC host brought up a letter published on Medium, in which some 800 former federal prosecutors argued that President Trump would have been charged with obstruction of justice if not for the DOJ guidelines preventing the indictment of a sitting president.
“These federal prosecutors, some of which worked with both of you, have signed onto this letter to make the point, if he were not the sitting President, [Trump] would have been charged with obstruction. I’m asking you, do you agree with them?” she inquired.
“I can’t agree,” Sessions replied. “First of all, I haven’t studied it sufficiently to make an opinion on it, and I don’t think they probably have either.”
Ruhle then wedged her foot into her mouth with the force of a hydraulic press: “You think former federal prosecutors – apolitical prosecutors, would have signed on?”
“Stop,” Christie interjected. “Apolitical prosecutors? Let me just say, I ran an office in New Jersey for seven years. Every one of those prosecutors who worked for me had an opinion.”
Having dislodged her foot from her own maw, Ruhle instead opted to force words into Christie’s: “So everyone who signed this has a political agenda?”
“No. Don’t change the word, Stephanie. I said opinion, not agenda,” Christie shot back. He continued:
So don’t say they’re apolitical. They’re not apolitical. They’re American citizens, human beings who go to the polls – probably in greater percentages than a lot of other professions – and vote and express their opinions. And they do the best they can every day to be objective in the way they evaluate facts, but they’re not apolitical. The fact is they all have political opinions and those political opinions, like they affect all of us in this audience, affect their judgment at times as well.
While Christie had a point that no individual is capable of being entirely objective, that was far from the biggest issue with Ruhle’s use of the term “apolitical.” If Ruhle were to poke through the list names at the bottom of the letter, she’d have found nearly a dozen individuals who were former or current commentators on her own network.
Here are some of the most notable “apolitical” signatories:
Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal (CT).
Democratic Congresswoman Kathleen Rice (NY).
David Axelrod – Former Senior Advisor to President Obama; CNN senior political commentator.
Jill Wine-Banks – MSNBC contributor known for habitually accusing President Trump of treason; Watergate prosecutor.
Paul Butler – MSNBC contributor who claimed in 2018 that Michael Avenatti and Robert Mueller were part of a “justice league” to save democracy; Georgetown professor.
Daniel Goldman – Former MSNBC contributor who once apologized “on behalf of all men” when Senator Lindsey Graham called Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser a “nice lady”. Recently Goldman was hired by future CNN contributor Adam Schiff to supervise the House Intelligence Committee's collusion investigation.
The list goes on. Other notable MSNBC contributors who signed on include Joyce Vance, Barbara McQuade, Mimi Rocah, and Cynthia Alksne, to name a few. It's beginning to look like this letter might as well have been titled, "Credentialism: The Essay".
A transcript of the conversation is available below. Click “expand” to view.
MSNBC Live with Katy Tur
2:49 – 2:51 p.m. EDT
RUHLE: These former federal prosecutors, some of which worked with both of you, have signed on to this letter to make the point, if he were not the sitting President –
SESSIONS: They haven’t studied all of this.
RUHLE: – he would be charged with obstruction. I'm asking you, do you agree with them?
SESSIONS: I can't agree. Well first of all, I haven't studied it sufficiently to make an opinion.
RUHLE: All right.
SESSIONS: And I don't think they probably have either. What do you think, Chris? You think they all read and studied that report?
RUHLE: You think former federal prosecutors –
CHRIS CHRISTIE: Yeah. Yeah, they all read the –
RUHLE: – apolitical prosecutors, would’ve signed on?
CHRISTIE: Oh, stop. Stop. “Apolitical prosecutors.” Let me just say, I ran an office in New Jersey for seven years. Every one of those prosecutors who worked for me had an opinion. They had an opinion.
RUHLE: An opinion that –
CHRISTIE: They – excuse me. They voted in elections. They had – they are not apolitical. And they’re not required, by the way, to be apolitical. They, those folks –
RUHLE: So everyone who signed this has a political agenda?
CHRISTIE: No, I didn’t say – no. Now, don’t change the word, Stephanie. I said opinion, not agenda. So don’t say they’re apolitical. They’re not apolitical. They’re American citizens, human beings who go to the polls – probably in greater percentages than a lot of other professions – and vote and express their opinions. And they do the best they can every day to be objective in the way they evaluate facts, but they’re not apolitical. The fact is, they all have political opinions and those political opinions, like they affect all of us in this audience, affect their judgment at times as well.
Now, I wouldn’t sign onto that, that letter because I don’t believe there’s a crime of attempted obstruction. And I’ve read the whole Mueller report. I don’t profess to be an expert in it, but I’ve read through it once. And I could just tell you that, you know, there were a lot of good people – the guy sitting next to me being one of them – who, when the President decided to pop off and say some things that he shouldn’t have been saying or thinking, did not implement things that the President may have been suggesting through his comments.
But you know what? That’s part of the way government’s supposed to work. You know, that’s why you hire good people who have integrity.