Trump’s de­fend­ers sink in shift­ing sands of truthi­ness

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - OPINION - Fol­low Dana Mil­bank on Twit­ter, @Mil­bank.

Rep. Mark Mead­ows, R-Hul­la­bal­loo, sit­ting in the au­di­ence for this week’s im­peach­ment pro­ceed­ings, looked up from his phone with a start when he heard fresh tes­ti­mony that Pres­i­dent Trump was keenly pur­su­ing a Ukrainian in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the Bi­dens.

But he quickly re­gained his balance. Asked by re­porters in the hall­way about the rev­e­la­tion, the Trump ally said he was not con­cerned. “I think what hap­pens is when we start to look at the facts, every­body has their im­pres­sion of what truth is,” he said.

Thus did Mead­ows, in 2019, join the great epis­te­mol­o­gists Rudy Gi­u­liani (“truth isn’t truth,” 2018) and Kellyanne Con­way (“al­ter­na­tive facts,” 2017) in their path­break­ing work on the The­ory of Sub­jec­tive Truths.

Mead­ows’s truth-is-in-theeyes-of-the-be­holder de­fense was the best im­peach­ment de­fense of Trump since, well, last week, when Sen. Lindsey Gra­ham, RS.C., de­buted the in­com­pe­tence de­fense: “What I can tell you about the Trump pol­icy to­ward the Ukraine, it was in­co­her­ent, it de­pends on who you talk to. They seem to be in­ca­pable of form­ing a quid pro quo.” That’s quite a re­elec­tion slo­gan.

Be­fore that, the most cre­ative de­fense had been de­vel­oped by Con­way, who ar­gued that, what­ever hap­pened in re­al­ity, “there was no quid pro quo in­tended.” What matters, she said, is what was in Trump’s “heart, mind or soul.”

Even House In­tel­li­gence Chair Adam Schiff, D-Calif., would surely pre­fer to close down the in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­fore is­su­ing a sub­poena for Trump’s soul.

But if Mead­ows, Gra­ham and Con­way are the finest schol­ars in the field of truthi­ness, many oth­ers have made wor­thy con­tri­bu­tions. Let us con­sider some of the finest im­peach­ment de­fenses of Trump yet pro­posed, all by cur­rent and for­mer Trump ad­vis­ers and con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans: On the quid pro quo: There is no quid pro quo.

You can’t have a quid pro quo with no quo.

We do quid pro quos all the time. On the value of hearsay: Tes­ti­mony from sec­ond-hand wit­nesses is hearsay, which is un­re­li­able.

The anony­mous so-called whistle­blower had no first-hand knowl­edge.

The whistle­blower must be forced to tes­tify.

On Trump’s view of aid to Ukraine:

Trump holds a deep-seated, gen­uine and rea­son­able skep­ti­cism of Ukraine.

Trump has al­ways been skep­ti­cal about for­eign aid and doesn’t want to give any to Ukraine.

Mil­i­tary aid to Ukraine has sub­stan­tially im­proved un­der Trump. On the July 25 phone call: Trump’s call with the Ukrainian pres­i­dent was per­fect.

Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian pres­i­dent sounds ex­actly like what Joe Bi­den did.

What the Bi­dens did was hor­ri­bly cor­rupt and both Joe and Hunter should be forced to tes­tify.

On the sig­nif­i­cance of the whistle­blower:

Who­ever gave in­for­ma­tion to the whistle­blower is close to a spy and could be ex­e­cuted for trea­son.

Al­most ev­ery­thing the whistle­blower said was “sooo wrong.”

You may spot some in­con­sis­ten­cies in these Trump de­fenses. You may even de­tect con­tra­dic­tions. This is be­cause, as Mead­ows says, every­body has his or her own im­pres­sion of what truth is — and yours just hap­pens to be wrong.

For ex­am­ple, it is en­tirely con­sis­tent to say that Trump’s clos­est aides are jus­ti­fied in ignoring con­gres­sional sub­poe­nas for their tes­ti­mony — yet at the same time ex­press amaze­ment that wit­nesses have had no di­rect con­tact with the pres­i­dent. It is per­fectly rea­son­able to as­sert that there was no di­rect link­age be­tween mil­i­tary funds and po­lit­i­cal in­ves­ti­ga­tions — even if an­other Trump de­fender had al­ready made such a link and told us to “get over it.”

Some­times Trump may feel that Gor­don Sond­land, am­bas­sador to the Euro­pean Union, is a re­ally good man and great Amer­i­can.

At other times, he may be­lieve that he hardly knows that gen­tle­man. That is Trump’s per­sonal truth im­pres­sion.

Like­wise, State Depart­ment of­fi­cial Ge­orge Kent can be, at one mo­ment, the hero who warned of a Bi­den con­flict of in­ter­est in Ukraine — and the next, a Never Trumper and sym­bol of a politi­cized bu­reau­cracy.

The Bi­dens, and Hunter Bi­den’s work for the Ukrainian com­pany Burisma, in­spires par­tic­u­lar cre­ativ­ity. At times, we hear that Trump knew al­most noth­ing about Burisma or that the Bi­den son was on its board (one de­fender ex­plained that Trump was try­ing to say “Burisma” but in­ad­ver­tently blurted out “Bi­den”).

At other times we hear that Trump had a solemn duty to look into the cor­rupt Bi­den ac­tiv­i­ties at Burisma. But this much is clear: Trump has done noth­ing wrong even though he had every right to. He can’t be im­peached be­cause the quid pro quo wasn’t con­sum­mated. And abuse of power is not a crime.

Con­fused? So are Trump’s de­fend­ers.

Colum­nist Dana Mil­bank

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