The simple fact is that Mueller did not find sufficient
evidence to charge or accuse President Trump of any wrong doing.
Mueller’s key words from his May 29, 2019 public statement were,
And as set forth in the report, after that investigation, if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so. We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.
If we were sure the president didn’t commit a crime, we would have told you.
We did not determine the president committed a crime.
The convoluted wording alone should make us wonder about
spin. Clearly Mueller did not have a legal case against the president (or he
would have stated such), but spin allows him to make a political accusation; by
We can’t say the president didn’t commit a
crime; suggesting that maybe he did
We can’t say the president did commit a crime;
suggesting that maybe he didn’t
All of this leaves a cloud of suspicion, but rightly viewed,
Mueller is an agnostic rather than a true atheist.
Agnostic: I don’t know if there is a God or not;
suggesting not enough proof or evidence either way
Atheist: I know there is no God; suggesting
evidence and proof exists to show ‘no God’
By posturing himself as an agnostic, he leaves
room for speculation on the part of all the rest of us. To bend Robert Frost’s
We dance in a ring and suppose, Mueller sits in the middle and knows.
To Un-Spin this matter, we simply need to know if Mueller thinks
he had a case to indict Trump if he were not the president. If that were so,
his language would be something like, “While I know a sitting president can’t
be indicted, I believe there is sufficient evidence to prove he committed a
crime.” That would be provable and explosive if true. Indicting the president
is one thing, accusing him of committing a crime is another.
Of course, he says nothing close to an accusation since he
flatly states, “We did not, however,
make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.”
Mueller’s spin is to nuance the difference between these two statements:
a crime was not committed
did not determine a crime was committed
In either statement, there is nothing for the legal system
to do. If there was no crime or if no conclusion is reached that there was a
crime, it doesn’t matter legally; THERE IS NO CASE.
Mueller’s entire problem is one of INSUFFICIENT EVIDENCE. He states this in the same public statement when he says,
[Volume One of the report] includes a discussion of the Trump campaign’s response to this activity, as well as our conclusion that there was insufficient evidence to charge a broader conspiracy.
the legal world, insufficient evidence mean you don’t have a case, especially
during a trial. When there is not enough evidence, then charges are dropped and
the person under investigation is cleared and freed.
n. a finding (decision) by a trial judge or an appeals court that the prosecution in a criminal case or a plaintiff in a lawsuit has not proved the case because the attorney did not present enough convincing evidence. Insufficient evidence usually results in dismissal of the case after the prosecution or the plaintiff has completed his/her introduction of evidence or, if on appeal, reversal of the judgment by the trial court.
We can call this one a spin-by-deletion or context error. Honestly, I don’t know if Chris Cuomo just made a mistake, is engaging weak journalism, or is up to something. In his video from Cuomo Primetime (“New Abortion Laws Aim to Provoke Roe v. Wade Protections” – May 7, 2019) he accuses President Trump of ‘fiction, BS, and ignorance’, charging him with misstating the law. Chris Cuomo is the one, however, who is doing the misstating. Here’s the Cuomo verbatim:
CUOMO: What you’re seeing is Republicans running with the fiction POTUS is pushing. It’s fear-mongering. It goes back to the campaign.
TRUMP (video clip): You can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month, on the final day.
CUOMO: That’s just not true. That’s complete BS. So, whether he is ignorant or not on the issue doesn’t matter anymore as President of the United States.
So far so bad for the President, except the video tape is both edited and out-of-context. Here’s the verbatim from the New York Times:
CONTEXT: October 20, 2016 debate moderated by Chris Wallace. The question concerned partial-birth abortions.
TRUMP’S ACTUAL WORDS: Well I think it’s terrible. If you go with what Hillary is saying. In the ninth month you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother in the ninth month, on the final day.
First, this statement was made during the campaign and shows Trump attacking Clinton’s view (or his view of her view). Trump is clearly not stating this is the current law as Cuomo insists he thinks. Instead, Donald Trump is arguing what he believes will happen if Hillary’s view becomes accepted.
Second, this statement also has the words ‘of the mother’ removed. Why would CNN edit Mr. Trump’s words in mid-sentence? Speculation would suggest that it softens the rhetoric, making the issue sound less mother/daughter and more woman/body. Another option is the clip was edited to essentials because of time constraints. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t make Cuomo and his team look good.
Chris Cuomo may have been ignorant (didn’t realize the clip was an out-of-context and edited clip) or he may have been simply offering BS (his term), but in either event he’s wrong on this point. The spin is for the Pro-abortion/Pro-life debate. Cuomo is making a case for women’s rights (pro-abortion) and is using a false narrative (via a video clip) to invite people to think this President (and pro-life advocates) are so lame that they don’t even understand the laws and are willing participants in promoting false information. It’s a spin. Of course, the irony is that it is a part of his Facts First segment.
THE REMEDY One should always insist upon two essential things before making a conclusion about another’s BS;
Assume the person being quoted means something that makes sense to themselves, and then look for it.
Gather the context of words, setting, and intended audience.
These two simple practices will steer you well, and they will allow you to see where spin-meister’s, entertainers, op-ed writers, and sometimes journalists, can go awry. CNN’s Chris Cuomo would have done better engaging these tools.
NOTE WELL: The ‘abortion issue’ isn’t going away and is, at its core, a conflict of values: The mother’s rights vs. the unborn daughter’s rights. Pro-abortion advocates are making the mother’s rights the issue, while pro-life advocates are making the unborn daughter’s rights the issue (an alternate framing would say the woman’s rights vs the fetus’s rights, but that’s another Spin-Check). THE QUESTION: At what point does the unborn daughter’s rights exceed the mother’s rights (if ever)? Wherever you land, please check the spin and keep the facts in play, especially within the context they’re quoted.
One of the favorite ways in which media outlets (like CNN and The Washington Post, see below) spin the news for us is by REDEFINING the terms to prove the opposition wrong.
If you think we mean that certain outlets ALWAYS spin, then you are missing our point. We are all given to spinning because of our biases; however, certain news organizations clearly spin more than others. True?
Remember that spin = propaganda. “In public relations and politics, spin is a form of propaganda, achieved through providing a biased interpretation of an event or campaigning to persuade public opinion in favor or against some organization or public figure. While traditional public relations and advertising may also rely on altering the presentation of the facts, “spin” often implies the use of disingenuous, deceptive, and highly manipulative tactics.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spin_(propaganda)
Media have continued to enter into the domain of politics by taking a slant on the news in order to influence public opinion. Redefining terms is a favorite tool of all spin-meisters.Let’s start with a pretend scenario to understand the game. Imagine you simply want to find a flaw in what someone says in order to write about it. In this case, you don’t like Trump saying he is the oldest president to be sworn into office. While on the surface it’s true, since he was 70 at the time of his inauguration, it gets a spin like this,Trump’s Claim: “I’m the oldest person ever sworn in as president.”Fact Check: While it’s technically true, it needs some context.Donald Trump was sworn in at 70 years of age, but relative to life expectancy, he is actually among our youngest presidents. Trump was 70, but life expectancy at the time was 78 years old in the United States. In contrast, consider Abraham Lincoln, who was 52 years old when he became the president. The life expectancy in 1861 was only 40.5 years in the United States. Relative to the population, Abraham Lincoln was much older than Donald Trump, therefore Trump’s point of accomplishment is nothing much to write home about.
Now, do you get the idea? A term is REDEFINED to suit an argument or analysis to support a bias or slant in the ‘reporting’ or opinion piece. You’ll notice it often once you start paying attention to this tactic.Here’s an example from the world of news.
2019 – Pence & Tax Cuts
(CNN March 4, 2019) While praising President Donald Trump during his remarks at CPAC, Vice President Mike Pence listed off some of the accomplishments he believes the administration has made in its first two years. Among them, of course, was the 2017 tax reform.
“With the support of this generation of conservatives, President Trump signed the largest tax cut and tax reform in American history,” the Vice President said. “That’s promises made and promises kept.”
CNN and the Washington Post (and others) took exception to this claim and called it false in early 2018.
2018 – Pence & Tax Cuts
CNN – The biggest tax cut in history? Not quite.“The Treasury measured the sizes of tax cuts by looking at the revenue effects of the bills as a percentage of gross domestic product — in other words, how much federal revenue the bill cuts away as a portion of the economy. Reagan’s 1981 cut was 2.9% of GDP. Obama’s tax cut extensions in 2010 and 2012 were 1.3% and 1.8%, respectively. https://www.cnn.com/2017/12/15/politics/is-trumps-bill-largest-tax-cut-in-history-no/index.html
So, these two outlets rely on the Treasury measurement based on the GDP or as compared to the national economy. It’s fine, of course, to measure it however you’d like, but it isn’t addressing the fact-claim. The writers should be asking, “What did Trump and Pence mean when they said, ‘We gave the largest tax cut in history.” This goes to determining meaning in communication. As Stephen Covey points out in his 7 Habits book, “First understand, then be understood.” I frame it as, “First understand, then disagree.”
What did Trump/Pence mean? Were they thinking of the GDP and the national economy as a comparison over time? No, the Whitehouse told us exactly what they meant by the statement:President Trump’s tax cuts are the biggest gross tax cuts in American history, cutting over $5.5 trillion in taxes over ten years.
The President’s tax law included substantial reforms to make taxes simpler and fairer, which helped offset the cost of the tax cuts and thereby limit the net tax cut to $1.5 trillion.
President Trump cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, the largest percentage point reduction of the top marginal rate in history.
President Trump’s tax cuts include the biggest increase in the child tax credit in history.
So, if Trump/Pence meant that it’s the largest dollar amount tax cut in history, then they are not factually wrong. They said and meant what they said and meant (though it can be it’s own spin, perhaps). For the Washington Post to give Trump four Pinocchio’s and then base it on ‘the best way to compare’ is a spin using redefinition. In other words, neither Trump nor Pence meant what the Washington Post or CNN said they should have meant.UNSPUN VERSION:Trump/Pence: “President Trump signed the largest tax cut and tax reform in American history.”Journalist: While it is true that Trump’s tax cut is the largest dollar amount cut in history, it is doubtful that it will be the most impactful tax cut in history. The Treasury has a consistent way to measure a tax cut’s impact…SPIN-CHECK TIP:Watch for it and keep asking, two basic question to avoid their propaganda-spin:
What did they say?
What did they mean by what they said?
That will guide you well through the brackish water of spin into the clear waters of the Gulf of Truth.
Sep 28, 2012; Medinah, IL, USA; Billionaire Michael Jordan smokes a cigar as he watches the afternoon matches during the 39th Ryder Cup on day one at Medinah Country Club. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
The logic of immorality has taken a fresh turn in public discourse as US representative declares billionaires to be persona non grata
THE FACTSWhile we are not a fact-check site per se, it is important to notice that Ocasio-Cortez is asserting that there are people in Alabama who are contracting ringworm because they don’t have access to public health. There is so much wrong here it is confusing to even address. It might be surprising to those from (ironically) the Empire State to learn that Alabamians actually have health care. It may not be in the top tier nationally, but by world standards it’s certainly able to handle ringworm. Of course, she probably meant pinworms. Ringworm is a fungus that is contracted in numerous ways everywhere. When the fungus is between the toes it’s called ‘athlete’s foot’ and ‘jock itch’ when in that vicinity. It is commonly spread in public places and has nothing specifically to do with the quality of health care in a state (though flip-flops in a public shower may help). Oh, pinworms are everywhere too.
THE SPINFacts aside, what is the spin here? Ocasio-Cortez is offering a rhetorical way of reasoning that looks like this:Either X or Y is trueEither fair or unfairEither moral or immoralEither billionaires or health care
This is known as a False Dilemma or the Either/Or Fallacy. She is saying that it is immoral or wrong for the system to allow individuals to have a billion dollars when there are injustices (like the Alabama Ringworm Epidemic) that could be erased with the money. While there are more complex nuances in saying something is immoral, the naive argument is that preventing individuals to amass wealth would guarantee solving real-world problems.
Either Billionaires or Ringworm
While sometimes things are either/or, it is pretty rare in the economic or political worlds. If money cures what ails us, then the lottery winners would all do exceptionally well. Sadly, they don’t fair well and are far more likely to go quickly bankrupt than the average American. The assumptions Ocasio-Cortez must have in mind are numbing. She must assume that there is only a limited amount of money in the world, that the money above the billion mark would find its way to the injustices in the world, and that someone (the government?) would guarantee the money got delivered to the right places in the right way. There are more assumptions, but…The spin is to set up an apparent contradiction to force a choice that is patently unnecessary. It’s a very common problem in politics because of the emotional nature of locking one’s identity into a cause or person. Are you a Never-Trumper or an Always-Trumper? In a False-Dilemma there is never a third option (sometimes Trumper).
When Ocasio-Cortez says the system shouldn’t allow people to make a billion dollars, she is specifically talking about removing one’s freedom. Of course, the billion mark is arbitrary. It could be a million or one hundred thousand just as easily. It’s a perfectly anti-freedom, pro-socialism, spin that ignores both the reality of problems like the Alabama Ringworm Epidemic or the truth surrounding how much the wealthy contribute to things like the growth of the economy and humanitarian efforts (see Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation).Don’t fall for this spin: It’s immoral to allow people to keep their money because that money would otherwise be solving problems.Instead, inquire about the discrepancy:
If we prevented billionaires from existing, why would that mean the Alabama Ringworm Epidemic would go away?
This question exposes the dilemma and invites clearer thought surrounding ‘how it works’.
This past summer, Kyle Olsen declared concerning her acceptance speech for the AFT Woman’s Rights Award that, “Hillary begins her speech: ‘I’m so tired, I can barely stand.’’While his quoting her is innocent enough, he goes on to claim, “The failed presidential candidate started her speech to the American Federation of Teachers Union on Friday in a bizarre way: by telling everyone how tired she was.”
Nothing is factually errant about her statement, but Olsen spins the statement with a disregard for context. In my theological training, it was commonly said in interpreting the Bible that “A text without a context is a pretext for a proof text.” The logical fallacy is called Quoting Out of Context [http://www.fallacyfiles.org/quotcont.html]. Olsen’s assertion that Clinton is being bizarre misses the context of her statement.
While Olsen did quote some of the context, he left out a couple of things.Clinton: “Well, I’ll tell you,” she said, “I’ve been back there listening to Randi (Weingarten) and I’m so exhausted, I can barely stand here.”
So, we can see that she was referring to an exhaustion from listening to a speech, rather than some health related (implied) issue. She goes on to say,
Clinton: “That was an amazing speech.”
Is Hillary Clinton being bizarre or is she complimenting Randi Weingarten? Clearly she is praising the prior speaker. There is simply nothing bizarre, or even slightly odd, for a speaker to observe that the energy and excitement of a speech can be a ‘drain’ emotionally and physically on an individual.
When I was a kid I found a way to connect with my dad by watching boxing (both in the Olympics and in a Friday Night boxing show on TV). I consistently felt exhausted after a bout, as though I too had been in the ring. We commonly assert this same notion after watching a close football game involving a team we love.
Of course, it simply needn’t be true. Hillary didn’t have to be exhausted and unable to speak after hearing an introduction for her award. She was probably just speaking in hyperbole, exaggerating the point to complement Weingarten.
“Well, I’ll tell you, I’ve been back there listening to Randi and I’m so exhausted, I can barely stand here. That was an amazing speech…”
In learning how to discern and think, we must constantly look at the context rather than to accept a passing editorial headline as the gospel-according-to-the-writer.
Context matters, and Hillary Clinton was simply misrepresented in the spin. She may actually be exhausted, but she went on to talk energetically for about 25 minutes in her acceptance speech.
“President Trump on Monday denied that he offered Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) $1 million to take a test proving her Native American heritage, even though he did just that.”
Elizabeth Warren’s DNA analysis revealed that she can claim some native ancestry, however, the Boston Globe put it in perspective:
“The inherent imprecision of the six-page DNA analysis could provide fodder for Warren’s critics. If O.C. Sarah Smith were fully Native American, that would make Warren up to 1/32nd native. But the generational range based on the ancestor that the report identified suggests she’s between 1/64th and 1/1,024th Native American. The report notes there could be missed ancestors.” https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/politics/2018/10/15/warren-addresses-native-american-issue/YEUaGzsefB0gPBe2AbmSVO/story.html
There are two important things to note for context:
1. Elizabeth Warren’s results appear to make her about as Native American than the average Native European (American). Here’s the average according to the New York Times, “The researchers found that European-Americans had genomes that were on average 98.6 percent European, .19 percent African, and .18 Native American.” https://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/25/science/23andme-genetic-ethnicity-study.html 2. The requirement for being consider a Native American is commonly considered between 1/16 and 1/4 genetically, “To give you a clue, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians a minimum of 1/16 degree of Cherokee blood for tribal enrollment, while the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Higher Education Grant expects you to have the minimum of ¼ Native American blood percentages. That’s 25%.” https://www.powwows.com/much-percentage-native-american-enrol-tribe/
The spin here isn’t concerned with the facts exactly, but with the writing within the article itself. The claim is that Trump offered to pay if Warren ‘took the test’ —but that is also contradicted in the article. In fact, contradiction and incongruence is often a sign of spin.THE HILL: “Trump spoke after Warren responded to the president’s challenge and released the results of a DNA test showing she has a distant Native ancestor. ‘I didn’t say that. You’d better read it again,’ Trump told reporters at the White House when asked about his $1 million offer.”
In other words, “We gotcha!” But The Hill writer Jordan Fabian goes on to give the exact promise Trump made in contrast to the headline:
“I will give you a million dollars, to your favorite charity, paid for by Trump, if you take the test and it shows you’re an Indian,” Trump said at the time. “I have a feeling she will say ‘no.’ “
SHE DIDN’T SAY, “NO.” BUT, SHE’S ALSO NOT A NATIVE AMERICAN.
Fabian/The Hill is asserting that Trump promised 1 million if she took the test, but later notes that ‘SHOWS YOU’RE AN INDIAN’ is a necessary condition. The spin is that she ‘merely’ need to take the test to call Trump out, but that isn’t Trump’s offer, despite Fabian’s claim.
By any standards of genetics or common sense, Elizabeth Warren is not a Native American. In fact, statistically speaking, Trump himself may actually be more Native American than Elizabeth Warren.While this could be a fact-check issue, it’s really about spin. The spin here is that a conclusion is asserted based on one part of a statement while looking past the other part of the statement. Often when we dig in the same article, we can find the spin on the truth. This isn’t about facts or ideology, liberal or conservative; it’s about framing the known information in such a way as to guide the reader to a certain conclusion. Trump clearly was not saying, “Take a DNA test and if you have any amount of Native blood, I’ll donate a million dollars.” He said what he said, “I will give you a million dollars, to your favorite charity, paid for by Trump, if you take the test and it shows you’re an Indian.”
Senator Warren took the test and is not a Native American, so the promise isn’t violated.Nothing to see here folks.
UPDATE – Posted Online After Elizabeth Warren Indicates She Will Run For President (early 2019)