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Last night, on a major US TV network there was a Trump ad about the "Witch Hunt" and ongoing impeachment proceedings.

It was unclear from the ad, if Trump's position is that he didn't take the actions reported by the whistle blower, or if he did but those actions were not illegal.

Can anyone clarify, the official Trump position on this?

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    The phrasing of this question implies that the impeachment proceedings solely involve the issues raised by the whistleblower about the phone call between Trump and Ukrainian Pres. Zelensky. Maybe that's what the ad suggests, but the inquiry has brought up evidence of a months-long campaign among diplomats and non-governmental actors that culminated in the phone call. Also, impeachment and removal do not require that the activities in question be "illegal." – jeffronicus Oct 31 at 16:36
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    This wording is either deliberately or accidentally confusing. Can you, please,make it more clear which "allegation" you referring to? Actually, I just looked through the revision history and it looks like the original wording did not have this confusion. I'll revert. @JamesJenkins you can keep the old wording, or if you like the new wording (revision 2), please, make it a little more clear. – grovkin Oct 31 at 17:50
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    "It was unclear from the ad, if Trump's position is that he didn't take the actions reported by the whistle blower, or if he did but those actions were not illegal." Well, that's the whole point, isn't it? He deflects instead of responding. That's always been his MO. That's his aesthetic. – Lightness Races with Monica Nov 1 at 13:09
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I think the only sensible answer is "yes": he both denies that he did those actions and denies that they are illegal. At least from my reading of the news, he seems to be doing both at different times, depending on his audience and whims of the moment.

  • Trump certainly denies that he said or did anything illegal or in any way inappropriate with respect to the call. It's unclear to me whether he denies performing the actions alleged by the whistleblower, because the details of the whistleblower allegations are unclear to me. Much of the talk has been focused on whether Trump was attempting to coerce Ukraine by threatening to withhold aid -- which Trump does deny -- but I have no idea whether that was part of the WB's actual claims or whether there were other claims. – John Bollinger Nov 2 at 13:25
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    @John Bollinger: Please realize that I was trying to be as neutral and as polite as possible in this answer. I could have said that Trump says whatever he feels will give him advantage at that moment, without regard to truth, falsity, or consistency with his previous statements. If memory serves, he did at one point admit that he asked Ukraine to investigate the Bidens as a favor (as the whistleblower and the released transcript both say). The withholding of aid (though not the reason) is a documented fact. – jamesqf Nov 2 at 16:53
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Given the quick release of the transcript of the phone call, it seems the official White House position is that the call happened as per the released transcript (Which the Ukrainian President has gone on the record as saying that he did not think anything was significantly altered on the released document) and the whistle blower's knowledge of the call and topics does line up. The disagreement is that the President's reason to withhold aid money was out of concern was with American involvement in Ukrainian Corruption, largely with respect to the 2016 election meddling by foreign governments and that the Bidens' connections to the Ukrainian Corruption.

So the actions described by the whistle blower happened, but they were not illegal as they were not motivated out of leveraging the Ukrainian government to dig dirt up on a political opponent, but in ensuring Ukrainian assistance in determining if any U.S. citizens were engaged in corrupt acts in the Ukrainian government, and that being a political opponant of the president does not grant you immunity from being investigated for a Federal Crime.

Please note that this is generalization of multiple different individuals working in the White House and for the President, and not the President himself specifically. The President is reliable capable of making poorly worded statements that are limited to 140 characters at a time and can often be read with one of two meanings and often during moments of frustration. To attempt to keep it neutral (and cause I don't want to go through mountains of tweets) I will not discuss specific statements from Trump or the inevitable contradictory statements that later surfaced.

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    Almost got it. I would say the President thinks that the whistleblower's claim doesn't mirror the transcript and that's why it was released. There are a couple of typos in this response, so can't be sure, esp last sentence 1st paragraph. – K Dog Oct 31 at 14:19
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    aside: 140 is not a limit on tweets, it's been 280 for a while, maybe a year or so.... – dandavis Oct 31 at 16:40
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    @hsvmz: Your answer is based on the contents of the transcript. From the document (pg 1): CAUTION: A memorandum of a Telephone Conversation (TELCON) is not a verbatim transcript of a discussion". Vindman testified before the House inquiry that parts of the conversation specifically mentioning the Bidens was omitted from the document released. So "redacted" was the wrong word. The original document is incomplete, and so your argument that nothing illegal happened based on the document is shaky and that is relevant to this answer. – jalynn2 Oct 31 at 18:26
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    @hszmv: The question is asking what Trump's position is. In your answer, you are stating your opinion of what actually happened: "but they were not illegal as they were not motivated out of leveraging the Ukrainian government to dig dirt up on a political opponent", "Please note that this is generalization of multiple different individuals working in the White House and for the President, and not the President himself specifically." Your opinion is irrelevant to the question too. If you reword your answer to make it clear that this is what the White House's position is, I would agree – jalynn2 Oct 31 at 18:44
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    Referring to what was released as a "transcript" is factually wrong. It even has a banner on it saying "Caution: A Memorandum of a Telephone Conversation is not a verbatim transcript of the discussion." – PoloHoleSet Oct 31 at 20:32
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Trump uses the term "witch hunt" as a rhetorical device to refer to any investigations of him or the people around him. According to a Vox.com article:

Since assuming office, Trump has tweeted some variant of the phrase “WITCH HUNT!” more than 120 times in response to the Mueller investigation and critics including the “Fake News,” congressional Democrats, Hillary Clinton, various intelligence agencies, former President Obama, and “leakers” within the administration itself.

This was written a year ago, before the Mueller report was released or the current impeachment investigation. I wouldn't be surprised if his uses have more than doubled since then.

The article goes on to say

These tweets reflect the modern usage of the term — as a metaphor that delegitimizes an investigation by calling out the partisan biases and ideological motives underlying accusations of wrongdoing.

Trump's actual claims about what he's being accused of are very inconsistent. Sometimes he'll say that he didn't do it, other times he'll say that it isn't illegal or wrong. One of his spokesmen said about the Ukraine issue that it's done all the time in politics. And sometimes he just flat-out lies, like saying that the Mueller Report totally exonerated him.

The term "witch hunt" for political investigations entered the lexicon in reference to the McCarthy anti-communist hearings. Trump is trying to equate the narrow investigations into his activities to the sweeping accusations against thousands of government employees and public figures with liberal viewpoints.

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Trump doesn't have a "position" on these allegations as such.

He is applying advice he received many years ago:

  • Never give up
  • Never admit a mistake or a wrongdoing
  • Don't apologize (equates to an admission)
  • Always fight back

The whistleblower has alleged a serious wrongdoing by the president. Trump is applying the above advice by:

  1. Not admitting the wrongdoing, and
  2. Fighting back ("counterpunching")

He is responding to the allegations by alternately:

  • Assaulting the character and integrity of his accusers (fighting back) - asserting partisan political motives and/or a personal attack on him.
  • Denying that he did what has been claimed (one might infer that he recognizes that the claimed act was wrongful, so he denies having done it).
  • Claiming that the act was not wrongful (one might infer that he admits to having done the alleged act, but asserts there was nothing wrongful about it).

As new information rises to the surface, his messaging to his base shifts focus to address it in an attempt to get out in front of the story. The White House formulates or reformulates its official position accordingly.

His "go-to" claim of a "witch hunt" is a claim that his political opponents have fabricated a case as a personal attack against him. It implies a lack of any substantive evidence, a partisan political motive, and that he, personally, is being made a victim.

The point of the impeachment proceedings is to expose the truth and, if the evidence leads there, right a wrong.

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    or he may be refusing to admit something he didn't actually do. also a logical interpretation. – Genli Ai Nov 3 at 12:12
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    @GenliAi Not to get into an argument, but... Trump has a known pattern of denying things he's quite obviously done. The evidence should reveal the truth of the matter. Secreting away the actual call recording smells of cover-up; why would someone loyal to Trump's administration go to such lengths to hide away evidence if it was benign and could exonerate him? Occam's razor: the simplest explanation is usually the correct one; he directed/approved a cover-up and is trying to sell his own version(s) of what happened. FWIW this parallels Watergate in so many ways. – Anthony X Nov 3 at 13:48
  • re "known pattern of denying" potato, tomato. yes both are vegetables. -- "secreting away" routinely done, isn't it? -- "why not submit to investigation" is NKVD kind of justice. not what America was all about, until now. – Genli Ai Nov 4 at 7:27
  • @GenliAi If I understand the situation correctly, the steps taken thus far have amounted to the taking of depositions before members of a bipartisan committee. It isn't normal for depositions to be taken in a public setting, and the attending Republicans (any who chose to attend) could bear witness to the procedure followed "behind closed doors". A normal investigative process in any free society is to depose witnesses in a secure setting and then hold a public hearing in which those witnesses can be cross-examined. Seems to me like due process is being followed. – Anthony X Nov 4 at 14:43
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Usually (which is to say often but not always and certainly not without exception) when Trump talks about "the witch hunt", he is referring to the actions of the Democrats in the House of Representatives.

This link gives a cursory view of such statements.

So the way to understand this ad is to view it as the President's interpretation of how the House Democrats are treating this witness' testimony rather than as a statement about the content of the testimony itself.

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    Please try to support your answer with references. It's not really clear to me what you're saying. – JJ for Transparency and Monica Oct 31 at 18:37
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    @JJJ can you be more specific? Not to be insulting, but if something is not clear to you, that's literally a statement about you. If you believe something in the answer is unclear, please, elaborate. – grovkin Oct 31 at 18:39
  • @grovkin Yeah, I was just trying to clarify that. It might do to make your answer a bit more explicit about your main point – divibisan Oct 31 at 18:53
  • @jeffronicus "The mirth and muscle of President Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign continues." There's definitely some mirth in that. Not sure it's in the way that was intended. – JimmyJames Nov 1 at 16:52

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