OFF TOPIC: 6 “FACTS” Presented by Trump’s Defense – Part 1

OFF TOPIC: 6 “FACTS” Presented by Trump’s Defense – Part 1 January 27, 2020

This is not ENTIRELY off topic, because it involves thinking critically about reasons and arguments. I have extensive education and experience related to criticism of arguments, especially of really crappy arguments presented by Christian apologists. In this post I will criticize some really crappy arguments presented by Trump’s defense team.

Here is a CNN article that I’m drawing quotes from:

https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/25/politics/fact-checking-opening-statements-by-trump-legal-team/index.html

Deputy White House Counsel Mike Purpura focused on “six key facts”:

President Donald Trump’s legal team kicked off their opening arguments in the Senate impeachment trial Saturday morning. In defending the President, Deputy White House Counsel Mike Purpura said the case is based on “six key facts that have not and will not change.”

Do any of these “six key facts” show that Donald Trump did NOT abuse his authority as president? Do any of these “six key facts” undermine some key claim in the case against Donald Trump?

 

Here is one of those “six key facts”:

Aiming to make the case that Trump did not engage in a quid pro quo because the Ukrainians got what they wanted without ever announcing an investigation into the 2016 election or the Bidens, Purpura argued “a presidential meeting took place on September 25 without the Ukrainian government announcing any investigations.”

That fact is IRRELEVANT. The fact that Trump’s scheme was discovered and FAILED before he could carry it out completely in NO WAY shows that Trump is INNOCENT.

If a bank robber points a gun at a bank teller and demands that the teller fill his briefcase full of cash, and if the bank robber is disarmed and arrested before he leaves the bank, his FAILURE to leave the bank with the stolen cash in NO WAY shows that the bank robber is innocent. He would still be arrested, and convicted, and sent to prison, even though he FAILED to get away with the stolen money.

 

Here is another one of those “six key facts”:

Purpura argued that Trump has “been a better friend and stronger supporter of Ukraine then his predecessor” while Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow noted that Trump, not Obama, took the “concrete step” of “actually providing Ukraine with lethal weapons, including javelin missiles.”

Whether Trump was a “stronger supporter of Ukraine” than Obama is IRRELEVANT.

For the sake of argument, lets assume that Trump was in many ways a “stronger supporter of Ukraine” than Obama was. SO WHAT? That is completely compatible with the charge that Trump ABUSED HIS AUTHORITY as president by conditioning a meeting with the new president of Ukraine on whether Ukraine announced investigations into the Bidens, or by conditioning security assistance to Ukraine on whether Ukraine announced investigations into the Bidens. That is an ABUSE OF HIS AUTHORITY and Trump should be REMOVED from his office for that reason.

Trump could have been “a big supporter of Ukraine” up until the point that he saw an OPPORTUNITY to get help from Ukraine to win the 2020 election by their announcing an investigation into the Bidens.  Trump’s desire to win re-election might well overpower any desire he has to support the people and government of Ukraine.  When Trump’s personal interests had no clear connection with our relationship with Ukraine, then Trump was happy to support that country.  But when his personal interest in winning re-election became connected (in Trump’s mind) with how and whether we support Ukraine against Russian aggression, then Trump might well have become more than willing to throw his support for Ukraine out the window.

 

Here is one more of the “six key facts”:

Purpura said “the transcript shows that the President did not condition either security assistance or a meeting on anything.”

This statement is AMBIGUOUS. In one sense, the statement is FALSE, and thus NOT a FACT. In another sense it is true, but IRRELEVANT.  So, in order to interpret this statement in a way that makes it true, it is IRRELEVANT.

The scope of the statement is unclear. If it has a broad scope, then it is FALSE:

the transcript shows that the President did not EVER condition security assistance or a meeting on anything.

The transcript does not and CANNOT show any such thing, because the transcript tells us only about what Trump said on the phone call, not about what he said prior to the phone call, and not about what he said after the phone call. Trump could have conditioned security assistance or a meeting on an announcement of an investigation of the Bidens either before the call or after the call.

So, we must narrow the scope of the claim to limit it to the phone call:

the transcript shows that the President did not ON THE CALL condition security assistance or a meeting on anything.

This clarified statement is still AMBIGUOUS. In one sense this statement makes a controversial claim, and thus it is NOT a FACT:

the transcript shows that the President did not ON THE CALL either EXPLICITLY OR IMPLICITLY condition security assistance or a meeting on anything.

That is NOT a FACT; that is a dubious interpretation of the transcript by Trump’s defense team. Democrats would argue that there is an IMPLICIT conditioning of security assistance on the Ukrainians announcing an investigation into the Bidens. Trump’s defense team can try to argue against that interpretation, but their obviously controversial interpretation is NOT a FACT.

The sense of this statement that does assert an uncontroversial claim is this:

the transcript shows that the President did not ON THE CALL EXPLICITLY condition security assistance or a meeting on anything.

This statement could reasonably be called a FACT, but it is IRRELEVANT, because the Democrats only claim that there is an IMPLIED or SUGGESTED quid pro quo by Trump on the phone call. They don’t argue that Trump EXPLICITLY asserts a quid pro quo on the call.

 

Here is another of the “six key facts”:

Purpura said “President Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials have repeatedly said there was no quid pro quo or no pressure on them to review anything.”

This point, unlike the above three points, is relevant. However, it is INSIGNIFICANT, because it is a very WEAK and DUBIOUS point. Zelensky’s statements are NOT CREDIBLE on this question.

Politicians lie all the time, especially when they have a vested interest in not telling the truth on a certain question. President Zelensky has some strong motivations to lie about this question.

If Zelensky said “President Trump was trying to shake us down and use his authority as President of the United States to force us into announcing a bogus investigation against the Bidens, and thus to interfere in US domestic politics against our will.” That might be the truth, but it would obviously make Trump look very bad, and thus make Trump very angry with President Zelensky. Trump might then use his presidential powers to hurt Zelensky or the Ukrainians.

Also, this would help remove Trump from office, and since Trump is (allegedly) a “stronger supporter of Ukraine” than Obama (and perhaps than the leading Democratic presidential candidates), Zelensky might prefer that Trump remain president and NOT be removed from office by the Senate.

Furthermore, if Zelensky admitted to nearly caving in to Trump’s pressure, that would make Zelensky look weak and corrupt to his own people, and since he ran on an anti-corruption platform, that might seriously damage his popularity in Ukraine.

Because Zelensky has some strong motivations to lie on this question, his statements on this issue are NOT CREDIBLE.

 

CONCLUSIONS SO FAR

Three out of the “six key facts” are simply IRRELEVANT, and one of the “six key facts” is relevant but INSIGNIFICANT because based on the statements of a politician who has a strong vested interest in lying about this issue.

Given that at least half of these six points are IRRELEVANT, and that a fourth point is relevant but INSIGNIFICANT, the case for Trump’s innocence looks pathetically weak.

(In fact, it looks about as pathetically weak as Peter Kreeft’s case for the resurrection of Jesus.  Just sayin’.)


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