Archive for Russian Interference

Presidential Grammar 101: Commonly Misused Words and Phrases

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 25, 2018 by drmiller1960


I know that words can be difficult, especially in legal situations-that’s why I’m offering the following guidance to our president.

It’s Mueller Time!

I don’t know.  Maybe it’s the stress from having Robert Mueller breathing down his neck.  Maybe he doesn’t want to get his buddy Vlad in trouble.  Maybe he’s just as guilty as sin. But for some reason Trump’s vocabulary really snaps its tether whenever he talks about the Russia investigation. Here are just three examples of what I mean.

No collusion!

With the soul-deadening regularity of a dripping faucet at midnight, Trump inserts the phrase “no collusion” into nearly every communication he broadcasts—regardless of its relevance or otherwise to the subject at hand. It’s interesting that Trump has glommed onto this particular word.

“Collusion” occurs when you enter into an agreement with someone to do something illegal or nefarious. As long as that is all you do, then you’ve committed no crime.  Outside of the antitrust context, where “collusion” is used to describe illegal practices such as price fixing and bid rigging, it is not in and of itself a criminal act.  However, as soon as you take an overt action to bring that agreement into fruition, then you’ve committed the crime of conspiracy. Here.  I’ll show you what I mean by using a wild-eyed hypothetical.

Let’s say that you and I are senior campaign officials for an amoral, racist, sexually predatory billionaire who doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning unless he gets help from a traditionally hostile country. You and I talk it over, and we agree that we really should get in touch with officials from that country and see if they can dish up any dirt on our opposition.  Up to that point, you and I have colluded because inviting a hostile foreign power to interfere in our elections is both illegal and nefarious, but we have not conspired.  Therefore, no criminal act has occurred.

Now imagine that we get an email from the friend of a friend, saying that a highly placed lawyer from that country has the nasty on our opponent.  Rubbing our hands in glee, we have our girl call their girl and set up a meeting with the lawyer.  We’ve just taken an overt step in order to realize our illegal intent, and therefore, we’ve entered into a conspiracy to violate federal election laws. It wouldn’t even matter if the meeting fell through or if the meeting were a nothing-burger because all the lawyer talked about was foreign adoptions—it’s still a conspiracy.  So, Trump’s constant insistence that he didn’t commit collusion is irrelevant and nonsensical because Mueller isn’t going to indict him for collusion.  No, no, no, no! Mueller is going to fry Trump’s ass for conspiracy.


This is a new quirk for Trump, and strictly speaking, it really has nothing to do with the Mueller investigation. But since when does anything to do with Trump rely upon logical connections?  Briefly, Trump started using the second definition of  “exonerate” , to clear or absolve from blame, shortly after the DOJ’s Inspector General issued his report on the FBI’s conduct of their investigations into Hillary’s emails.  Donald had a hard on (ewww) for this report to come out because he thought the IG would find that the FBI was acting with animus against him.  If this were the case, Trump would have some merit in claiming that the Mueller investigation was a “witch hunt” (see below).

After an exhaustive review, the DOJ IG pretty much found that, other than some insubordination on Comey’s part, along with some snarky texts between a couple of FBI lovebirds, everything about the FBI’s investigation was above-board.  This is pretty much what one would expect—after all, if the FBI were conspiring to help Hillary beat Donald, one would hope that they would have succeeded.  I mean, they are supposed to be the best of the best, right?

Trump is right to point out that there is exoneration going on, but his yuge mistake is to assume it was directed at him.  That’s a major problem for narcissists:  it’s tough when they realize that it isn’t all about them.  To be “exonerated” by something, the instrument of exoneration actually has to be relevant to the deed for which one is being exonerated.  Otherwise, my dog could say it was exonerated for ripping apart my slippers because my parrot said the cat was out of the room when it happened.  Right now (but give the NY State’s Attorney General time), the major cloud hanging over Trump’s head is, you guessed it, the Mueller investigation.  However,  the IG said absolutely nada, zip, rien, about the issues underlying the Mueller investigation, so it’s hard to see how Trump is exonerated.  The only way that this report could exonerate Donald is if he were a member of the FBI team investigating Hillary’s emails.

And now that I think of it, given the impact Comey had on the election, maybe this isn’t as crazy a thought as it first appears.

Witch hunt!

Now this is a phrase with an interesting little history.  Like most metaphors, “witch-hunt” started out its linguistic life as a real thing.  Even before the Salem witch trials, there were those who hunted out witches.  The Pendle Hill witch trials of 1612, for example, claimed the lives of eleven innocent people (one died in prison, the other ten were hanged).  The estimate of how many people were killed for being witches varies wildly, but one reasonable estimation is 40,000 people were executed as witches over two hundred years, the large majority of whom were women.  In fact, maybe it isn’t too much of a stretch to characterize the original witch hunts as state-sponsored, misogyny-fueled, mass murder of women.

It was only (relatively) lately that the term took on its political overtones.  While Arthur Miller drew direct lines between McCarthyism and the Salem witch trials in the introduction to his play, The Crucible, the first recorded use of the term in its political sense was in 1919.  Like its later incarnation in the 50’s, the 1919 use of “witch hunt” was in response to a Senatorial investigation of Communism.  Crazy, huh?

Now it’s Trump’s turn to claim victimhood, which is hysterically ironic on several levels.  First, it’s pretty rich for Trump, a self-professed sexual predator, to latch onto a term that originally described anti-female violence.  Next, Trump is not subject to scrutiny because of his lofty political beliefs or because of his gender.  Instead, he is subject to scrutiny because his greed, ambition, and narcissism have led him to commit acts of a treasonous nature.  Allegedly.  Similarly, unlike “witchcraft,” obstruction of justice or conspiracy to have Russia interfere with our presidential election is a thing—a real, provable thing that relies on more than hearsay and unreliable testimony to demonstrate its existence.  Emails, texts, and bank records are just a few of the tools Mueller has used to already secure over twenty indictments and five guilty pleas.

Finally, the hallmark of the traditional victim of a witch hunt is that she is innocent.  Now, some people are saying that Trump isn’t innocent.  I don’t know.  We’ll see what happens.  Believe me.

©2018 D. R. Miller


Critical Thinking Today’s Q and A About the Mueller Indictments

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 1, 2017 by drmiller1960

Well!  You can’t say that Robert Mueller doesn’t know how to throw a curve ball.  Everyone knew about one indictment, and some savvy money was on Manafort, but two? And an admission of guilt?  Who says Christmas comes only in December?

In case you’ve been under a rock, here’s the low down:  Bobby Mueller has convinced a federal grand jury that Paul Manafort and his minion Jack Gates have committed a vast array of federal felonies, including conspiracy, tax evasion, money laundering, and failure to register as foreign agents.

Additionally, there’s the admission of guilt by George Papadopoulos.  In it, Georgie admits that he’s been a very bad boy indeed, having lied to the FBI about the timing and nature of interactions that he had with various Russian nationals on such sundry matters as emails and dirt on Hillary.  Of course, President Trump is saying “George who?”, but it wasn’t so long ago that Candidate Trump glowingly referred to Mr. Papadopoulos as “an excellent guy” who was one of his campaign’s five foreign policy advisors.

So those are the facts.  Now, some questions from the audience.

  1. What’s the big deal? It’s not like Jack and Paul are convicted or anything.

I can see your point.  In a sense,  this ain’t much—at this point in the game, all Mueller has to do is convince the grand jury that it’s more likely than not that a crime was committed in order to get the indictment.  It’s no guarantee of an ultimate conviction. True enough, but here’s a little piece of fat to chew over:  under the DOJ’s Principles of Federal Prosecution, in an indictment, a US Attorney should not recommend charges that he or she does not believe can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.  And there’s something about the cut of Bobby’s jib that makes me think he takes those principles very seriously indeed.

  1. Why did Mueller release the indictments at the same time as the admission of guilt?

Other than wanting to give his legions of admirers an extra treat, there’s an excellent tactical reason for Mueller’s decision to release  the Papadopoulos admission at the same time as the Gates/Manafort indictments:  nothing says “you might want to reconsider your decision not to cooperate with the prosecutor” like an act of mercy juxtaposed with a napalm attack.  I wouldn’t be surprised if George ends up with probation, while Gates and Manafort, if found guilty of all charges, could be in for a very, very, very long sentence indeed.  The message should be clear to all possible actors in this sordid attack on our government:  speak up, and I’ll be merciful; be a dick, and you’ll rue the day you were born.  Even Jack and Paul should be able to read the tea leaves; if they showed up at Mueller’s office with a contrite heart and a willing set of jaws, I bet they’d be pleasantly surprised at how smoothly all this could go for them.

  1. Papadopoulos was arrested on July 27, but no one knew about it until his guilty plea was released on October 30. All that time, he was a “cooperating witness,” which must have been quite a mean feat to pull off. But when I read George’s admission of guilt, I got the distinct impression that he was a suit short of a full deck of cards. How in the world did he manage to keep his yap shut for such an extended period of time without letting on to any of his co-workers?

Well, yes, I think you’re right:  it was an amazing trick.  However, you might have misplaced the credit.  I think that Mr. Mueller, and not Mr. Papadopoulos, managed to pull off that particular caper.  I don’t have first-hand knowledge, but I suspect Mr. Mueller employed an old prosecutorial trick called the Ninja nut-twist.  It takes years of experience to know how to achieve that Platonic balance of employing enough rigor to get the witness to do what you want without making him squeal like a stuck pig.  I imagine that Robert is a Zen master by this point.

  1. By the way, what does a “cooperating witness” do?

The short answer is, whatever the prosecutor wants him to do.  As for the particulars, I wouldn’t want to hazard a guess—but I bet George’s former colleagues are doing just that as I type these words!

  1. Robert Mueller is saying one thing, and the President is saying another. Whom should I believe?

Seriously?  This is a question?  Tell you what.  As your Critical Thinking Teacher, I’m going to give you some homework.  Check out this brilliantly written masterpiece on how to judge the credibility of a witness by using RAVEN (Reputation for honesty, Ability to see, Vested interest, Expertise, and Neutrality), and then get back to me with your answer. Here’s a hint:  focus on “R.”

6. But what about Killary’s uranium? And Benghazi?  

 I. Can’t. Even. Here. Read this.  And this. Life is just too short.

  1. Ha, ha! Just messing with you! My real question is, since the first leaks about the indictments surfaced, Faux News, Rush Limbaugh, and others of their ilk have come out with guns a blazing, saying that the real scandal is anything remotely to do with Hillary.  I know that this is a false equivalency designed to distract me from the matter at hand, which is whether the Trump campaign gave a tiny but helpful hand to Putin’s plan to wreck our election.  But I can’t decide:  is this a red herring, or is it ignoratio elenchi?

Excellent question, Hermione, and a succinct description of both of these logical flaws.  The distinction can be difficult to make however, because it depends upon the intent of the person throwing rhetorical sand in his opponent’s eyes.  As you might recall from the delightful article “Ignoramus Rex,” a red herring requires intent, while ignoratio elenchi occurs when the opponent blurts out an irrelevant refutation without intending to do so.  Now, to absolutely prove intent, you would have to enter Rush’s mind—a sad and lonely place, to be sure, and I really don’t recommend it.  However, judging from the highly coordinated nature of their verbal blitzkrieg upon logic, I think it’s safe to conclude that they actually meant to fling their balderdash.  Hence, I would characterize their flaw as a red herring.

Well, that was fun.  I’d love to answer some more questions, but there really is the most marvelous World Series going on.  Gotta go!

©2017 D. R. Miller