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Richard McDonough


NextImg:Trump Audiotape does not Prove he Retained Classified Documents

Kent (to Oswald):  “I’ll teach you differences.”

William Shakespeare, King Lear Act 1, Scene 4 (Also considered by philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein as the motto
for his Philosophical Investigations)

The Democrat “News-media” Complex (hereafter the DNC) haven’t been this excited since the heyday of their Trump-Russian Election Interference hoax.  The occasion for their most recent ecstasy is that they believe they possess an audiotape of Trump admitting that he retained classified documents after he left the presidency.  Biden was also found to possess classified documents from the times he was only a senator or vice-president but that does not count because he has a “D” behind his name and the DNC is not interested.  Whether Trump retained classified documents after he left the presidency and whether that was illegal are factual and legal matters not addressed here.  The present point is that the DNC’s arguments that the audiotape proves Trump retained classified documents are invalid.

In the audiotape of Trump talking to several people first aired on Anderson Cooper’s 360, Cooper states that Trump “seems to indicate he was holding a secret Pentagon document with plans to attack Iran.”  Trump, accompanied by sounds of papers rustling, says “These are the papers”.  He later says that “this” is “highly confidential” and adds that he could have declassified them when he was the president can no longer do so. 

The context is that Trump was talking about Gen. Milley’s accusation that Trump wanted to stage a coup. One of the guests replies that this was what they did, “trying to overthrow your election” in 2016.  As CNN reports, Trump replies,

Milley … said I wanted to attack Iran [sound of PAPERS SHUFFLING [Note: CNN added all the capitalized words]. … I have a big pile of papers. Look [PAPERS SHUFFLING]!  … They presented me with this – this is off the record, but … [t]his was the Defence Department and [Milley].  … [L]et’s see here [PAPERS SHUFFLING]. … This totally wins my case, except you know, it’s like highly confidential. Secret information. … As president I could have declassified it. Now I can’t.

Kaitlin Collins, the CNN anchor who humiliated herself trying to trap Trump on the CNN town hall, says to Cooper, “This undercuts everything Trump has been saying.  Even a few days ago he [said], ‘There was no document per se.’  But you can hear him very clearly referencing something in his hand. And he’s not just saying, ‘Here’s this document.’ He appears to be showing it to them.” Anderson adds: “He says ‘Look!’”  Collins says, “[T]his is crucial to Jack Smith’s case.  It’s Trump acknowledging, ‘I have this document. It is secret. It’s classified.  I cannot declassify it now.”  

Paula Reid chirps, “It’s remarkable how casual this conversation is.  The former president knew he was being recorded. … There’s a lot of laughter.”  Collins adds, “He knows exactly what he has. He knows it’s not declassified. It’s his own words.”

            They then play a video of Trump’s reply,

There was no document.  That was a massive amount of papers talking about Iran and other things …There was nothing to declassify.  These were newspaper stories and articles.

Cooper accuses Trump of “downplaying” the papers he’s holding as articles and magazine stories: “Clearly that does not seem to be the case when you hear this audio and he says ‘These are the papers.’” 

In fact, Trump’s statement that there were no documents, only stories and articles, is completely plausible.  Consider the following analogy!  Someone accuses Bill of being a bigamist because he is currently married to Sue but was formerly married to Erica and cannot produce the divorce decree.  Since the actual divorce decree was lost in a fire Bill waves around some newspaper articles that reported his divorce from Erica at the time and says, “Look at this. … This totally wins my case [that I’m divorced from Erica].”   When Bill, waving around a stack of papers, says, “this proves my case,” the “this” does not refer to the actual divorce decree.  It refers to what is reported in those newspaper articles

When one applies this mundane point about the way the word “this” is used in the English language to the Trump audiotape, Trump’s reference to “this” stack of papers in his hands and admission that “this” is classified might refer to the actual classified documents he’s not supposed to have but it might also refer to the information about those classified documents in the newspaper articles he’s holding.  In the former case he is guilty of having a classified document.  In the latter, he is not.

Further, in the latter case, Trump’s statement that he could have declassified “this” but did not now might just be an explanation why he only has newspaper clippings, not the classified documents themselves!  Trump’s statement that “this” is classified or secret might, therefore, be no more significant than the statement that the information referenced in the newspaper clippings in his hand is classified. In the parlance, Trump refers to a “secondary source” and there is nothing illegal in that.

Collins statement that “It’s Trump acknowledging, ‘I have this document. It is secret. It is classified” is flat-out false.  Trump never uses the word “document” in the clip.  Collins adds that word to Trump’s statements to exaggerate her case.  Trump refers only to “papers”, “stories” and “articles”.  Cooper’s point that Trump says “Look!” as he shuffles the papers proves nothing.  What matters is only what they are looking at and nothing proves it was not newspaper articles that support his views.  Cooper here commits the fallacy of “begging the question” (assuming what he purports to prove).  In fact, all three of these “journalists” commit this fallacy here and there in the discussion.

Paula Reid’s point that even though Trump knows he’s being recorded the discussion with laughter is so casual proves nothing.  It has not apparently occurred to Reid that even though Trump knows he is being recorded the reason the discussion is so causal is because he is handling newspaper articles, not classified documents.  Duhhh! 

Similarly, Business Insider falsely reports that “Trump is about as direct as he can be … that he knows a document he has is secret” and that “it has not been declassified.” In fact, Trump never says he has a “document”.  Business Insider, like CNN, needs to think about the different ways the word “this” is used in the English language, the different ways the reference of the word “this” is determined, the difference between seeming evidence and genuine evidence, and the difference between primary and secondary sources (similarly for MSNBC and the rest of the media).  

Cooper, Collins and Reid should read their own CNN reports of what is in the audiotape.  CNN reports state that Trump “seems to be showing [the papers] to others”. Unfortunately, “seemed” evidence is not evidence.  Further, it is not, as Collins claims “his [Trumps] own words” that he has classified documents. She literally changes Trump’s words to support her case.  Cooper and Reid bring up blather that “begs the question” and proves nothing. The media has once again exhibited the “confirmation bias” that marred their shameful Trump-Russia collusion hoax.  The only things missing from their attempt to support Jack Smith’s case are the cheerleader skirts and pom poms: “The walls are closing in!  The walls are closing in!”

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