“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.