On The “Facts” Of The Case Against President Trump

The story surrounding the potential impeachment of president Trump is an evolving story, so everything I write here is subject to revision.  But from what we know right now from the transcript of the conversation between the president and the president of Ukraine, the claim that president Trump offered a quid pro quo to president Zelensky of Ukraine—requesting damaging information about former vice president Biden and his son Hunter Biden in exchange for (the release of) military aid—is entirely circumstantial not at all demanded by the text.

I have read the transcript and the NYT’s spin on the “favor” president Trump is asking of the president Zelensky.    According to the NYT, the sale of the anti-tank Javelin missiles the president made contingent on investigating Joe Biden, among other things.  

But in fact, it was not president Trump who brought up the subject of missiles, but president Zelensky himself!  As I read the transcript, there is no discernable intent to manipulate the conversation to advance “his own interests.”

Nor did president Trump steer the conversation to military aid or the sale of these missiles.  If president Zelensky had not brought it up, it does not appear, from the informal and relaxed nature of the conversation conveyed by the transcript, that president Trump would have brought it up.

But the case against president Trump—as we have now learned after the release of the whistleblower’s full statement—draws support from a second accusation of the whistleblower:  that he has been informed that members of the president’s team conspired to cover up and disappear any record of the conversation.

“Over the past four months,” writes the whistleblower, “more than half a dozen U.S. [government] officials have informed me of various facts related to this effort … that the President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election” (italics, mine).

According to the whistleblower’s statement, which I have also read in full, the president’s associates, upon hearing the conversations or reading the transcript, smelled danger and agreed that what the president had said would be so damaging to his presidency that it had to be buried.

They concluded, or so the allegation goes, that the president had crossed a line by putting pressure on the president of Ukraine to investigate former vice president Biden and his son Hunter Biden—the “big favor” the president is asking of Zelensky.

But president Zelensky has recently confirmed that the president did not pressure him to investigate Biden or his son Hunter.  In fact, Zelensky seems clearly stunned by the spin put on the conversation by the critics of the president.

Furthermore, there is one major problem with the whistleblower’s statement.  He claims that he has been informed of various “facts.” No Mr. Whistleblower, you were informed of allegations whose factuality has not been established!  

The only thing, Sir, that is factual is that you were told these things, not that these things are factual or true.  For all you know, these “government officials” have an axe to grind against the president, and what they gave you was their spin of what they heard.

Then, there is this other statement by the whistleblower: “I was not a direct witness to most of the events described. However, I found my colleagues’ accounts of these events to be credible.”

So you are not a direct witness, you did not hear the conversation, but what you were told—which is only an interpretation (aka, spin)—of the president’s words and those of his team in the White House is “credible”?  What makes them “credible”? Where is the corroborating evidence? Where is the independent fact-checking on your part? Can you rule out partisan bad blood here?

You have levelled a major accusation against a sitting president, on the basis of what some people told you?  I need not say more.

Many were sure that Comey had nailed the president; even more people were sure of the “facts” discovered by the Mueller investigation.  Mr. Whistleblower, you seem to me to be too eager to label interpretation and spin “fact,” and that worries me.

Could what the whistleblower is claiming be corroborated through the inquiry that the Democrats have started?  Perhaps. It just looks to me that the “facts” of the case are no facts at all, at least not yet, by a long shot.