Sunday, November 03, 2019

Trump Acts On Old Legal Advice - What To Do When Facts And Law Are Against You

As I listen to the conservative responses to the Trump-Zelensky phone call,  I can't help thinking about the old advice to attorneys on how to handle cases under different circumstances.  I found the website Quote Investigator that traces the history of  the old adage.  I've picked two variations here that are directly relevant:

1.  Pound the table
"You don’t have to be a lawyer to recognize the admonition of Oliver Wendell Holmes quoted by Scotty Mattraw in Printing Buyers’ News: 'If you’re weak on the facts and strong on the law, pound the law. If you’re weak on the law and strong on the facts, pound the facts. If you’re weak on both, pound the table.'”
At first Trump argued the facts - he offered his doctored transcript of the call and said it was perfect. When people condemned the facts, he argued the law - what he did was perfectly OK.  (And in the world Trump lives in, he believes that his word is the law.)

This situation is a little different than a courtroom trial. Besides the laws concerning his quid pro quo demand of Zelensky, there's also the law and custom surrounding impeachment.  And the conservatives are now full force condemning the process - it's secret (though Republican reps are there), there's no due process (we're in the investigatory phase, not the trial phase yet), and refusing to cooperate in any way.

2.  Abuse the other fellow's attorney

In addition,  Trump is following his own favorite personal strategy which is reflected in this variation of the first quote:
Such tactics have been compared to the story of a young lawyer who was consulting an older lawyer as to how he should act in the conduct of various cases.  He said, 'What shall I do if the law is against me?' The older man said, 'Come out strong on the facts.' 'What shall I do if the facts are against me?' 'Come out strong on the law.' 'Then, what shall I do if both are against me?' 'Abuse the other fellow’s attorney.'”  
In Trump's case he abuses everyone, not just the attorney.  He abuses the witnesses, those conducting the inquiry, and anyone else who shows any sign of disloyalty to Trump.  And he continues to call for outing the whistleblower - again totally besides the point as well as against the law.  It's not the whistleblower who matters, but what he or she alleges.  And from what I can tell, it's basically well confirmed.  The only time the whistleblower's identity might matter is if the complaint were bogus and made the way Trump's tirades are made - to damage someone personally.  And in those cases, it would be up to the organization to appropriately punish the whistleblower.  Attacking the whistleblower personally, instead of debunking the allegations, intimidates other potential whistleblowers.  And, of course, that's one of Trump's objectives.

It's important to remember all this when listening to Trump and his cult members (no, I don't think that is hyperbole):

Pounding on the table and abusing your opponents are the strategies you take when the facts and law are not on your side.  

And as many have pointed out, they are the tactics of a 2 year old's tantrum.

I'd note that these tactics are part of Trump's White Male Privilege.  Just look at how quickly Katie Hill left the House.  Though I'd add that brazen lack of ethics plus power and money make it possible to loudly defy the law and decency.  Al Franken and Katie Hill respect the law and decency enough to step down rather than fight. But Trump and his supporters are NEVER wrong.

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