Last Sunday, Rudy Giuliani, a personal attorney for President Donald Trump, appeared on Meet The Press and proclaimed to Chuck Todd and the world that “Truth isn’t truth.”
Giuliani was bending himself into a pretzel to argue why the president should not agree to be interviewed under oath and thereby fall into a perjury trap. Side note: what is a perjury trap, exactly? Is it asking a question to which the answer is known and about which a witness might be tempted to lie?
Giuliani took to Twitter early the following day to explain what he meant. Picture Rudy tweeting in his boxers and sock garters. Now try to forget it. You’re welcome. Anyway, Giuliani wrote: “My statement was not meant as a pontification on moral theology but one referring to the situation where two people make precisely contradictory statements, the classic “he said, she said” puzzle. Sometimes further inquiry can reveal the truth other times it doesn’t.”
Well, I think I know what Giuliani was up to, and it wasn’t that.
I’ve never cared very much for the expression “It is what it is.” It seems to have become commonplace in recent years, or perhaps I just became aware of it. Some of my family members are fond of it. As often as not, “it is what it is” is used as a statement of resigned acceptance of a situation that somebody doesn’t like. Yes, obviously, it is what it is, but what is that? Sometimes I find myself longing for the simpler “Whatever.”
My annoyance notwithstanding, “It is what it is” has one very important redeeming quality: it is logically correct. That is, it makes a certain amount of rational sense.
“It is what it is” is, in fact, one of the three fundamental laws of thought. The concept that a thing is equal to itself — whatever it may be — is known as the law of identity. A thing is uniquely itself. It equals itself. A equals A. Always.
Unless you’re Rudy Giuliani.
Of course, Rudy Giuliani is no stranger to logic or rhetoric. Giuliani’s undergraduate minor was philosophy. He considered entering the priesthood. He graduated the NYU School of Law with honors. He’s been a Democrat, then an independent. In December 1980, Giuliani changed his affiliation to Republican and in 1981 he became a US Associate Attorney General in the Reagan Administration. Oh, Giuliani’s undergraduate major was political science. He is also a former mayor of New York City and candidate for president and US senator.
Did Rudy Giuliani state “Truth isn’t truth” because he misspoke or because he wanted to mislead?
Another of the three fundamental laws of thought is the law of non-contradiction. A thing cannot be both true and not true at the same time. Thus, if there are two differing accounts of the same event, both cannot be true.
Abraham Lincoln expressed this concept eloquently in contemplating the divine will: “The will of God prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be wrong. God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time.”
President Donald Trump’s and then-FBI Director James Comey’s accounts of a White House dinner early in 2017 are significantly different. Comey made detailed notes at the time and claimed that Trump sought a pledge of personal loyalty. Trump denies ever seeking such assurances. Both of these accounts cannot be true.
The American legal system is designed to ascertain the truth. The accused enjoys a presumption of innocence while the prosecution bears the burden of proof.
Rudy Giuliani knows all this.
So why is Giuliani saying things like “Truth isn’t truth”? There’s a saying that if a lawyer finds that neither the facts nor the law is on his side, he should pound on the table and yell.
Distraction is one of Donald Trump’s core competencies. Lies, insults, threats, dire predictions, phony definitions and even Capitalization for Effect all work to control the conversation — what people talk about and how they talk about it, and what they’re ignoring.
Rudy Giuliani’s Sunday morning pot shot at truth, logic and the American judicial system marked the beginning of a pretty bad week for the White House. On Tuesday, Paul Manafort was convicted in federal court of 8 counts of tax and bank fraud. He faces other charges. Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to tax and bank fraud, as well as a campaign finance violation. Cohen implicated Trump as the candidate who directed the paying of hush money with the intent of influencing the election. Trump has denied knowing about the hush money in advance, but there is audio evidence to the contrary.
What does a narcissist like Donald Trump do when reality doesn’t align with his beloved, distorted image of himself? His orange complexion and elaborately absurd comb-over might suggest an answer. Trump was born into wealth and privilege and has seldom faced real consequences for his actions. Divorces, alimony, bankruptcies, hush money, out-of-court settlements, cushy job offers… these are all examples of throwing money at problems to make them go away.
The problems Donald Trump is now facing are not going to be solved by writing a check. He should be worried, and apparently he is. Trump is threatening dire consequences if he is impeached — the stock market will crash and everyone will be very poor. Trump asserts that his brilliance is what is keeping the US economy out of the toilet.
Is impeachment a real possibility? In a word, yes. Obstruction of justice and perjury are impeachable offenses. Ask Bill Clinton, whose accused offenses arose (ahem) from a sexual harassment lawsuit and testimony about an affair with a White House intern.
Any sworn testimony by Donald Trump opens the possibility of perjuring himself. If Trump has obstructed justice, Robert Mueller III is closing in on that right now. It’s on. This is happening. People close to the president are getting convicted, cutting deals, and facing federal prison.
Stay tuned. As of this writing, the week is not yet over.