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Victor Joecks: anatomy of a failed political hit job on AG Adam Laxalt

If you’re having trouble falling asleep, listen to a recent hearing on the secret recording made of Attorney General Adam Laxalt.

Liberals built it up to be the event that would end Laxalt’s all-but-announced campaign for governor. Instead, it was hard to stay awake as lawyers discussed legal strategies and non-lawyers struggled to understand legal procedures.

The only substantive takeaway was learning why lawyers get paid so much. They’re the only ones crazy enough to want to work daily with such boring stuff.

So how did liberals get it so wrong? Let’s look at the anatomy of a failed political hit job.

Start with motive. Liberals are on a mission to destroy Laxalt for being both a successful conservative elected official and Republicans’ likely 2018 gubernatorial nominee.

Next came opportunity. The news that Gaming Control Board Chairman A.G. Burnett had surreptitiously recorded a conversation with Laxalt discussing a case involving Las Vegas Sands Corp. and its CEO, Laxalt donor Sheldon Adelson, would have been enticing enough. Finding out that Burnett sent the tape to the FBI, even though the FBI said no crime had been committed, had liberals writing Laxalt’s political obituary before even hearing the tape.

They couldn’t pass up this chance. Blinded by their biases, they pushed the idea that Laxalt had done something wrong under pressure from a large donor. To build the narrative, they gleefully doled out incomplete information.

This was the execution of the hit. Via subpoena, Assembly Ways and Means Chairwoman Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, received the recording, along with Burnett’s affidavit, two Fridays ago. Instead of immediately releasing the recording, Carlton leaked everything but the recording to create anticipation for the hearing — and false impressions. She didn’t release the transcript of the recording until the day before the hearing, and the audio came out the morning of the hearing.

Carlton’s sloppiness was highlighted when the recording revealed that Laxalt said “Philosophically …” in a part where the transcript read, “Don’t go soft on me …” Liberals had latched onto that phrase as Laxalt pressuring Burnett.

This was just one of many instances when new information undermined liberals’ previous claims of wrongdoing. As I detailed on Wednesday, trying to follow their shifting narrative was enough to give you whiplash.

For liberals, the biggest political mistake of all looks like the decision by Carlton to have the hearing. Attorney-client privilege had prevented Laxalt from sharing pertinent details that Burnett had failed to mention. Calling Laxalt to testify was the political equivalent of throwing Br’er Rabbit into the briar patch.

Laxalt finally was able to put the truth out — and the truth was boring. A lawyer talked with his client about legal minutia in a conversation you couldn’t pay most people to listen to.

For a political hit, benign is the height of failure.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.

Victor Joecks is a columnist for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Contact him at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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