Can’t Anybody Here Play This Game?

cant anybody here

Jonathan Chait further elucidates the Dershowitz argument:

Alan Dershowitz, one of the members of President Trump’s legal team, has an odd habit of using the reductio ad absurdum technique to his own arguments. Dershowitz argues that “abuse of power” is not a category of behavior that can be impeachable. He admits he previously believed the opposite, and that the vast majority of constitutional scholars believe the opposite, but claims to have delved into it and discovered that they are all wrong. Dershowitz has conceded that even if Trump handed Alaska over to Vladimir Putin, that would not be an impeachable offense.

Speaking in the Senate trial Wednesday, he managed to express his own principle in an even more absurd fashion. “If a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest,” he said, “that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.” So any abuse of presidential power designed at least in part to aid his own reelection is not impeachable.

What if the president were to pressure foreign governments to imprison members of the opposing party if they pass through their territory? Or withhold disaster aid from a governor unless that governor announces an investigation of the president’s rival? Offer pardons to anybody who kills his opponent? If it helps the president win, then you can’t impeach.

And That’s the Best They’ve Got?

“Not a Single Witness Testified,” or, Pop Goes the Weasel

Philip Bump, Trump’s legal team outlined its case. One day later, John Bolton appears to have kneecapped it:

“Not a single witness testified that the president himself said that there was any connection between any investigations and security assistance, a presidential meeting, or anything else,” Purpura [one of Trump’s lawyers] said.

The most important words in that sentence aren’t the ones about the connection. They are “witness” and “testified.” By including those words, Trump’s team is constraining the scope of what it’s considering to only those dozen and a half people who sat down as part of the impeachment inquiry. …

On Sunday evening, the day after Trump began outlining its case, the New York Times reported on a much more substantial example of where Purpura’s claim was too narrowly tailored. In August of last year, the paper reported, Trump told then-national security adviser John Bolton that he wanted to hold the aid until Zelensky agreed to the investigations Trump wanted to see, according to a manuscript of Bolton’s upcoming book. …

Purpura spent a great deal of time on Saturday making clear this point about the lack of witness testimony. He noted that Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland had asked Trump what he wanted from Ukraine, with Trump volunteering that there was “no quid pro quo” involved. Of course, that conversation came after Trump was aware of a whistleblower complaint raising questions about a quid pro quo and after The Post’s editorial board had drawn a direct link between the aid and the investigations.

More broadly, Purpura noted witness after witness who did not draw such a link. He cited name after name, walking through the collection, as though clearing police lineup after police lineup meant that no crime had taken place.

The emergence of a second potential witness who could be precisely what Trump’s legal team said didn’t exist is hugely problematic for Senate Republicans. Purpura’s phrasing was carefully and cleverly tailored to exclude Mulvaney, but it now introduces the counterpoint: If the important thing is solely that the testimony implicating Trump be from sworn witnesses, how does one argue against having Mulvaney and Bolton be sworn witnesses? 

This, Ladies and Germs, is a Rhetorical Question

The answer could be to employ the Nancy Reagan Rule: Just Say No.

Isn’t Weaselly Word Chopping by Lawyers Deplorable?

Well, everyone is entitled to her or his own view on that question.

But we do it all the time, if we think we can get away with it.

OK, Was it Reasonable for the Trump Defense Team to Think They Could Get Away with Word Chopping This Time?

What do you think?

They were sitting on the bloody Bolton book manuscript!


Lots of readers in the UK, today. Happy Brexit, y’all.

A Trump Defense Argument that Would Not Insult Your Intelligence

Ross Douthat makes the kind of argument that anyone defending Trump—anyone, that is, who was actually trying to persuade the unpersuaded—would make.

It’s still wrong, but it doesn’t spit in the eye of the unconvinced, and it isn’t the kind of argument that would only be made by a fool, or a knave speaking to fools. It’s the kind of argument that doesn’t eventuate in your jumping off a cliff.



Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien

George (Mr. Kellyanne) Conway, The worst thing about Trump’s answer to the impeachment articles

Bob Bauer, The Trump Impeachment and the Question of Precdent, Part II: The Trouble With Alan Dershowitz’s ‘Constitutional Argument’

Paul Waldman, The White House doubles down on its dumbest impeachment defense

Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien

Some misread the execrable 7-page document some of Trump’s team issued on Saturday as “conceding the facts.” That is wrong, as today’s 109-page (not counting appendices) makes clear. He concedes nothing—though the net effect of Trump’s current legal posture is to make a factual defense what lawyers call a “fallback argument.” His first line of defense is the abstract proposition that there can be no impeachment unless a violation of the United States Code is alleged.

And, may I say, that for the first time, the Monday filing bears a superficial resemblance to an actual legal brief.

It’s just that the world depicted in the defense brief is Neverneverland.

You probably will not be surprised to learn that this is not the first time, in the history of American jurisprudence, that a legal brief has painted an utterly false picture of reality. And, you may be mildly gratified to learn that such efforts generally lead to the client’s being flushed down the crapper.

Demolishing Dershowitz

Mr. Kellyanne Conway, Bob Bauer, and Paul Waldman demolish Dershowitz.

And not only Conway, Bauer, and Waldman. The 1998 Dershowitz demolishes the 2019 Dershowitz. Just click to enjoy.

Let Us Review the Bidding on Impeachment, as Matters Stand This Afternoon

50 Dead Men Walking

Coming soon, indeed.

Five points.

In Media Res

We remain in the middle of the factual development process. We can see very well what the light at the end of the tunnel looks like. But we have not yet reached the end of the tunnel. And the picture changes hour by hour. More bluntly, an already damning picture grows more damning, hour by hour.

All that said, prudence counsels that we reserve judgment on exactly what the picture will look like until all the witnesses (that we are going to hear from) have been heard; all the documents (that we are going to get) have been reviewed; and skilled lawyers have laid out the full case for the public.

John Bolton, anyone?

Trump’s Lines of Defense

(1) Serve up heaping bowls full of word salad with a battery acid dressing, and large helpings of  mendacious ad hominem attacks on the side.

(2) As each new bad fact emerges, reach deep inside your ass and pull out an utterly bogus, easily disproved counter “fact.”

(3) Rinse and repeat. Rinse and repeat. Rinse and repeat.

In other words, cling desperately to the hope that tribalism and gullibility will protect you.

An Impeachment Backlash?

The evidence so far is that Trump’s base is holding. I am not surprised in the least.

But, based on the polling, there is no evidence—zero, zilch, bupkis, rien, nada—that the impeachment inquiry is creating a backlash against Democrats. All the evidence is to the contrary.

Walking Through the Cow Pasture Wearing White Shoes

Lots of folks are trying to step carefully around the dung that lies in their path. Examples include Bill Barr, Mike Pompeo, Moscow Mitch McConnell and any number of others. Predicting how these folks will ultimately land is a fool’s errand. Because I am not a fool, I will make no prediction.

But here is a prediction which, in my view, grows more likely day by day, hour by hour.

Dead Men Walking. Lots of Dead Men Walking.

I repeat myself on this topic, and I am unclear why no one else—at least no one whom I have read—has made the point.

In the deep, deep red states, congressmen and senators who stick with Trump will probably be reelected.

In swing states—and very probably in some pinkish states as well—congressmen and senators who stick with Trump are damned and congressmen and senators who don’t stick with Trump are damned.

Whether or not they have yet figured it out, they are dead men walking.

And at least one dead woman walking

Joni Castrator