Maybe House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler didn’t choose the best word when, in his opening statement before the committee’s first public hearing last week, he called the facts connected with the Trump impeachment inquiry “undisputed.”

Committee Republicans took immediate and indignant exception to Nadler’s characterization, and, indeed, they publicly asserted that they were herewith disputing the facts.

In one sense the Republicans are correct: All facts are theoretically disputable. We concluded long ago that, despite appearances, our earth is round. Yet the Flat Earth Society maintains a well-appointed website that argues, apparently seriously, that the earth is a flat plane rather than a globe.

But at least Nadler’s characterization of the facts in the impeachment inquiry provides the occasion to consider the nature of a fact, as well as the difference between evidence and proof.

Evidence and proof do not reside on opposite sides of a clear bright line. They generally are divided by a broad no man’s land filled with bias and emotion, and fair-minded people can honestly disagree on where a “fact” — disputed or not — resides on the spectrum between evidence and proof.

This point is exemplified by the disagreement among the four legal scholars who testified before the Judiciary Committee last week. All four looked at the same evidence. Three of them (Noah Feldman, Pamela Karlan and Michael Gerhardt) were convinced that the evidence had migrated across the line into proof. Feldman said, “Based on that evidence and those findings, the president did commit an impeachable abuse of office.”

Jonathan Turley, however, did not agree. He called the evidence gathered by the House Intelligence Committee “wafer-thin” and suggested that more evidence is needed before a credible case for impeachment can be pursued.

The contrast between these two views of the same evidence implies the extent that bias, preconceived ideas and emotions, from both liberals and conservatives, can affect the rational evaluation of facts.

Nevertheless, despite Republican assertions to the contrary, some facts are indeed undisputable.

For example, during the July 25 phone call President Donald Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy for a favor. This is impossible to dispute: The transcript of the call released by Trump says, “I would like you to do us a favor though.”

What is the favor? Trump doesn’t actually say, “The favor is as follows …” But Trump clearly appears to ask Zelenskiy to start two investigations that would benefit Trump’s electoral prospects in 2020. This proposition may not depend on a quid pro quo, but it does at least sound like a violation of federal election law, which prohibits even the solicitation of foreign interference. Feldman, Karlan and Gerhardt found this evidence credible; Turley found it insufficient.

Here’s another undisputed fact: Ambassador Gordon Sondland testified under oath that the promised White House meeting and the $391 million in security aid were dependent on a quid pro quo and that “everyone was in the loop.” The fact of his testimony is indisputable. But again, Feldman, Karlan and Gerhardt found Sondland credible; Turley did not.

Accounting for the disagreement among qualified experts about evidence deriving from undisputed facts implies the power of bias. But in some respects, the American people’s assessment of the evidence is more important than the judgments of four law professors. The viability of the effort to impeach Trump will depend greatly on public opinion and, thus, every American has a responsibility to make a careful assessment of the evidence.

The fact that I find Turley less credible than Feldman, Karlan and Gerhardt may reflect my own prejudices. But Turley was right about one thing: his argument that the evidence is insufficient to constitute proof implies that more evidence is still available. Indeed, Turley counseled taking more time and calling more witnesses.

Here’s one more undisputed fact: People who know a lot about what happened between Trump and Zelenskiy — Bolton, Pompeo, Perry, Mulvaney, Giuliani — have been forbidden by Trump from testifying. Does this prove anything about Trump’s guilt? No. But it’s more evidence to which Americans are entitled. The withholding of the evidence is yet another deeply suspicious undisputed fact.

John M. Crisp, an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service, lives in Georgetown, Texas, and can be reached at jcrispcolumns@gmail.com.

Copyright 2019 Tribune Content Agency.

(80) comments

des21

Moving forward i expect every President who is not of the same party as that which controls the HOR to be impeached. Turnabout (or quid pro quo if you prefer) is the coin of the realm on Capital Hill. Just ask Harry Reid how playing the Nuclear option has worked so well for the Democrats. SMH, they're the party of "smart" people right? You must be joking.

phydeaux994

Lindsey Graham said about Trump in 2015: He’s a race-baiting, xenophobic religious bigot. He doesn’t represent my party. He doesn’t represent the values that the men and women who wear the uniform are fighting for.

Ted Cruz on Tuesday unloaded on Donald Trump, accusing him during a news conference of being a "pathological liar," "utterly amoral," "a narcissist at a level I don't think this country's ever seen" and "a serial philanderer."

What Kevin McCarthy said: "There's two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump," McCarthy (R-Calif.) said, according to a recording of the June 15, 2016, exchange, which was listened to and verified by The Washington Post. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is a Californian Republican known in Congress as a fervent defender of Putin and Russia.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says Donald Trump needs to carefully select a running mate to bolster his inexperience, adding that Trump doesn't know much about "the issues." "He needs someone highly experienced and very knowledgeable because it's pretty obvious he doesn't know a lot about the issues," McConnell said of a running mate for the mogul.

The faction of the GOP that is unhappy with Donald Trump as the party's presumptive nominee has one last plan to stop the mogul: staging an all-out delegate revolt at the Republican National Convention. Republicans have been forced to criticize their own nominee. Recent comments from Trump about a federal judge's Mexican heritage have drawn widespread rebuke and put GOP leaders in a corner as they defend their endorsement of Trump while disavowing his comments.

prg45fan

Very informative. Thanks phy. [lol]

phydeaux994

They don’t disavow his comments any more, they repeat them ad nauseum. Have you ever seen such a gaggle of Bald Faced Lying Hypocrites as the Faux President’s Faux Republican Imposters Conspiracy to destroy America. We’ve got a Government consisting of Trump and Barr and a herd of Henchmen openly Hijacking our Country and 40% of the population is aiding and abetting them. I always wondered how in the World ONE man could demonize enough of a Country’s population to turn it into insanity. Now I know. NEVER AGAIN!!!

matts853

👍🏻 Phy. What’s happening is eerily similar to certain fascist dictatorships circa 1930-40 (minus the mass murder) where nations were mesmerized by cults of personality. It’s really stunning to watch. What’s also similar is how Trump and Barr are attacking the FBI. Cam we all say Brown Shirts?

matts853

I remember some of those stirrings of discontent. Kind of seems like an intra-party impeachment before he was the nominee. Hypocrites all of them.

prg45fan

The democrats have jumped the shark on this Impeachment fiasco. Popcorn. Not Kool-Aid. It would be the better bet. Landslide for Trump in 2020. BTW, They take back a deep House.

phydeaux994

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Efforts_to_impeach_Barack_Obama

jsklinelga

I glanced at the comments briefly. Everything expected. But one comment stuck out. Someone asked me directly how President Trump ordering people not to testify is not obstruction of Justice.

Wow! Are people really that un-knowledgeable about our government. Just in our recent history the last nine President's supported the repeated findings that the Executive Branch was a co-equal Branch of Government and Congress had no power or right to require the Presidential ad visors to testify before Congress. But what is more disturbing is the fact that people seem to have no comprehension of why.

When I heard one of the charges for impeachment was obstruction of Congress I felt like posting ha ha so many times it filled a page. But I will refrain.

matts853

Wow, JSK, are you really that unkowledgeable about current events! A federal judge disagrees with you. Ever heard of Don McGahn? I swear, Trump supporters are clueless.

From the ruling:

However busy or essential a presidential aide might be, and whatever their proximity to sensitive domestic and national-security projects, the President does not have the power to excuse him or her from taking an action that the law requires," Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson wrote.

"Stated simply, the primary takeaway from the past 250 years of recorded American history is that Presidents are not kings," Jackson said.

jsklinelga

matt853

I am not even sure that deserves a rebuttal. But it is consistent with why President Trump has so much support. Activist judges that rule out of emotion and prejudice were a growing epidemic in this country. (The judge would have made an excellent democrat witness.) There is a long precedent that ensures this Judges ruling does not stand a chance on appeal. The obvious reason the impeachment is being rushed and court case are being dropped is that the Democrats stand almost no chance of winning. But it is consistent with: He was assuredly guilty but he obstructed justice. A false victims plea.

matts853

Sometimes I really wish I had the superpower that Trumpeteers have to just wave away, out of hand, facts and evidence critical of the criminal in chief. Y’all are like black holes where truth and light get sucked into, never to be seen again. It’s truly a gift.

Anyway....please share some of this “long precedent” you’ve identified.

hayduke2

jsk - the more you post, the more it appears you just make things up. Your "many people " or the " they say" sound just like the president when he makes up thing....

jsklinelga

matt853

How many times did President Obama refuse congressional subpoenas? And on what grounds?

gabrielshorn2013

Apparently, only once JSK.

"President Barack Obama took the action once in 2012, when his Justice Department refused to turn over documents sought by the Republican-controlled House for a “Fast and Furious” program to track guns. A negotiated settlement was reached in court just weeks ago after seven years, an indication of how long such disputes can take if litigated."

https://www.washingtonpost.com/history/2019/06/12/not-above-law-executive-privileges-contentious-history-washington-trump/

jsklinelga

Gabe

The Obama administration had quite a record of obstruction. Consider the firing of AG Walpin because he would not drop the investigation into the misappropriation of funds by an Obama ally. Or the obstruction and stonewalling in a number of cases including the covert payments to Iran, The IRS scandal, Bengazhi which led to the HRC email scandal etc.The Democrats are travelling down a dangerous road. The only times the courts have ruled against executive privilege was during a criminal investigation.

gabrielshorn2013

JSK, that wasn't the question. You asked how often President Obama refused Congressional Subpoenas. I did some research on exercising Executive privilege, and only came up with that instance.

public-redux

Moving goalposts is how jsk gets his exercise.

jsklinelga

Gabe

1) Investigation was stonewalled and subpoenas fought in the case of voter intimidation by the Black Panthers

2) The WH Social Secretary was instructed not to testify during the investigation into the WH security breach

3) Solyndra Republicans subpoenaed documents but the Obama administration refused on the grounds it would place an unreasonable burden on the President to perform his Constitutional duties

4) The Obama administration refused to release documents concerning Elena . Kagans role in crafting the legal defense for Obamacare as Solicitor General because they did not want her to have to recuse herself as a Justice ruling on the case.

5) David Simas, a director of political outreach was subpoenaed because of a concern the WH was using its resources for political purposes. The WH counsel claimed he was “immune from congressional compulsion to testify on matters relating to his official duties” and thus would not appear before the committee.

6) Treasury official were blocked from testifying about federal subsidies in Obamacare

7) When Ben Rhodes confided in the NYT that the Iran deal was reached under a false narrative he was summoned to testify But the WH countered

“Specifically, the appearance of a senior presidential adviser before Congress threatens the independence and autonomy of the president, as well as his ability to receive candid advice and counsel in the discharge of his constitutional duties,” explained White House counsel Neil Eggleston. This was after the White House previously claimed they wouldn’t hide behind executive privilege.

8) Lois Lerner, director of the IRS twice testified but each time invoking the 5th Amendment

9) Fast and furious

matts853

You tell me, or are you just fishing?

des21

So you base your understanding of the relationship between the Branches on the opinion of one federal judge Matt? Wow, just wow. BTW, McGahn is appealing but I'm sure you know that since you make fun of JSK for "unknowledgeable about current events." I swear, Trump haters are "ignorant."

matts853

JSK thanks you for the inquiry, Des. Since he invoked “recent history” I just wanted to make sure he had the most up to date history on the matter.

matts853

Here you go JSK...Hardy, Har, Har!

https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.cnn.com/cnn/2019/11/25/politics/don-mcgahn-house-subpoena-impeachment/index.html

phydeaux994

Nobody is above the Law jsk. They are subject to the same Laws and Rules as you and I, maybe even more so. They are there to serve the American people, not to cover the misdeeds of Donald Trump. As a Constitutional Scholar that should be crystal clear to you.

veritas

“Facts,” indisputable or otherwise, are irrelevant at this point. The crux of this purely partisan, farcical fiasco is that it has forever lowered the bar for embarking on impeachment proceedings. Contrary to what the Talking Head Liberal Law Professor claimed during his haranguing testimony last week (“If this is not impeachable, nothing is impeachable.”), if this an impeachable offense, anything is an impeachable offense. With such dubious rationale for impeachment, Dems have established a dangerous precedent of weaponizing the process on the flimsiest of charges. The specter of this stupidity will haunt the country from this day forward and history will hold the likes of Schiff, Nadler, Pelosi, et al responsible for it.

matts853

Brilliant analysis, V. Brilliant! Did you copy that straight from the FoxPropaganda Network?

des21

You've become a caricature Matt. I'm saddened.

matts853

I’ll cry for you Des if you cry for me.

public-redux

I agree that Bolton, Pompeo, Perry, Mulvaney, and Giuliani should be allowed to testify under oath so as to set the record straight.

Dwasserba

Absolutely.

matts853

The Republican judiciary members behaved like a gaggle of howler monkeys yesterday. They are disgraceful, especially Collins who was so apoplectic that he sounded like Porky Pig running an auction. All their interruptions and tantrums just proved they know POTUS is guilty and they have no legitimate defense of his actions.

DickD

Nadler also stated a court of law would convict Trump in three minutes.

User1

Shows why Nadler isn’t a practicing attorney! “Undisputed”....yea when he refuses the Republican members to ask questions or call witnesses. You have a one sided “inquiry” and it’s going to be pretty well “undisputed”.

Obadiah Plainsmen

"may reflect my own prejudices". And there lies the problem. Prejudice has come out from hiding behind its thin veil of righteousness. There is a new Tehila in Washington ,If you can't control society, you destroy it.

hayduke2

Nonsense....

threecents

Where there are disputed accounts it is because Trump has subverted the process by not allowing subpoenaed testimony and by having the Dept of State confiscate critical documents and transcripts. As I have said all along his presidency, he is the post-truth presidency, where, as in television, narrative trumps fiction. As a reality show star and producer, that is his calling card. Is anyone surprised that now it is coming out that he improperly prevented Amazon from landing a huge pentagon project that Microsoft ended up getting. It is virtually a new scandal every week with Trump. I think the impeachment distracted him so much that he was falling behind on scandals.

jsklinelga

3cents

Much like the Kavanaugh hearings. Spurious allegations are automatically considered fact. Many Americans have a different take on what are the real scandals and what real abuse of power is occurring. It does not take a rocket scientist to see the long range plans. Impeachment might not prevent his re-election but with the high number of alleged scandals and an impeachment record is he qualified to appoint a Supreme Court judge? It is a shame .Democrats plans have not only failed to this point but their credibility is falling faster then CNN;s and MSNBC;s ratings.

richardlyons

[lol] You crack me up!

awteam2000

Firsthand testimony by Kavanaugh’s sexual assault victim Christine Blasey Ford wasn’t spurious allegations.

In this era of post-truth presidency comes with a lowering of morality, improper behavior and so, so many lies as represented by the guy at the top on a daily bases. That’s undisputed.

User1

First hand testimony? Really? Remember that NOTHING she said was corroborated by ANYONE! Just like anyone can have “first hand” testimony to a outright lie about something you may have done. And you’d take that for gospel?

Thewheelone

awteam, [thumbup][thumbup] you nailed it!!!

gabrielshorn2013

aw, she may have claimed truth, and could have been telling the truth, but without corroborating evidence, her testimony was merely allegation. As such, we don't know it to be the truth.

matts853

But Gabe, we had 17 witnesses corroborate the whistleblower complaint - SEVENTEEN! That’s a slam dunk case against POTUS.

awteam2000

Gab, “corroborating evidence” is applicable in court cases not in confirmation hearing (an interview for a job). It wasn’t a criminal trial where he would have been at risk of legal penalty, but an applicant for a job.

gabrielshorn2013

Matt, aw was talking about Dr. Ford. My response only addressed that claim.

gabrielshorn2013

Aw, you got that talking point down. The "interview " as you call it took place in the various Senators office. If you make a charge of sexual assault in public, you better be able to back it up. That "hearing" was not a job interview, no matter how many times you wished it was. I'm sure you would have maintained your composure when blindsided by such a charge in public that goes against everything you ever did in your career, right? A calm "no sir, that claim is false" would be your reply as folks from the political opposition hurl vile statements and innuendo at you, right?

hayduke2

"Many Americans" seem to be your go to words. Easy to say, hard to prove. It's also funny that you consistenly argue against the "undo influence" of the courts buy your own go to is the Supreme Court and wishing for it to become as tribal as the Republican party is.

hayduke2

but, not buy

olefool

Alas the republicans are attempting to rig another election just like they rigged the confirmation hearing of Kavanaugh. Throw enough against the wall and some might stick.... That's all they have, no facts, nothing but BS.... Apparently jsk missed the famous "what goes around" rant by Kavanaugh. That alone disqualified him to sit on the Court. The similarities between the two issues are telling. It's like I've said before "If you can't dazzle them with your dance step, baffle them with your bullsheet". jsk must have missed the last elections too.

gabrielshorn2013

Olefool, to equate the two situations is silly. You sure like your hyperbole, sir. They are nothing alike. Kavanaugh was blindsided by allegations that could not be backed up, and that went against everything he did in his career. Somebody comes out of the blue with a 30+ year old allegation, and suddenly the man is satan incarnate? No. That hearing was a political sideshow to try and prevent the President from his Supreme Court nominee. That is a done deal, now in the past. Let it go.

Thewheelone

JSK, please tell me how the president ordering people not to testify is not obstruction of justice?

Comment deleted.
richardlyons

Logic is not your forte.

Comment deleted.
threecents

Kavanaugh was not proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Trump, however, has been proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. See the difference?? You could argue whether it is impeachable and convictable, but even Republicans seem to be conceding some guilt.

awteam2000

Speaking of post-truth presidency: The FBI Director Chris Wray said, “the FBI has no information that would indicate that Ukraine tried to interfere in the 2016 presidential election," When asked about the claim, Wray said’

“Well, look, there's all kinds of people saying all kinds of things out there. I think it's important for the American people to be thoughtful consumers of information, to think about the ‘sources’ of it and to think about the support and predication for what they hear," he said. "And I think part of us being well protected against malign foreign influence is to build together an American public that's resilient, that has appropriate media literacy and that takes its information with a grain of salt."

User1

Sorry Three....he can declare “Presidential Privilege” as his right. He also has the right to refuse demands for testimony and documents and defer to the the courts to determine what can or cannot be given. BUT as Shiffless stated “we cannot wait for the courts therefore it’s obstruction of congress”. Cannot be called “obstruction” if allowing the courts to decide.

matts853

A federal judge disagrees with you User...

https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.cnn.com/cnn/2019/11/25/politics/don-mcgahn-house-subpoena-impeachment/index.html

threecents

User, He cannot declare presidential privilege just to protect himself politically.

jsklinelga

Several unprecedented things have occurred. Although the call did not provide "undisputed facts" backing the Democrat allegations the transcript should have never been released. It set a bad precedent. Subpoenaing presidential advisers also is precarious. Any future president could be subjected to political harassment by a majority party, with the flimsiest of allegations. and with little protection. And every move and counsel would be monitored by the expansive surveillance apparatus of the US Government. Talk about a deep state!

The other extraordinary, unprecedented, event was the highly respected and famously tight lipped John Durham speaking out against the conclusions of the IG report. Wow!

awteam2000

And with all the bs coming out of this administration and trump cronies, “People are flushing toilets 15 times.”🤷‍♂️ Super wow! The “deep state” (EPA) is investigating the extraordinary, unprecedented numbers of flushes.

DickD

Aw, when you have a mouth full, maybe you need to worry about flushing.

MRS M

WOW, jsk! Extraordinary! Unprecedented! Another political appointee of the corrupt and lying president of the United States, and his lap-dog Attorney General, who has been Unprecedented! Extraordinary! in his legal protections of the president, (while continuing to undermine and disparage his own Justice Department employees, and their work) has risked his career and his reputation to allow the desperate "deep state conspiracy" hawkers to live another day. Almost makes you wish for ol' Jeff Sessions, who, unpredictably, and to the great disappointment of Donald, possessed a surprising ethical core and refused to lie for, or go down for, the president's need for personal legal protection. Simply unprecedented! No, "Extraordinary"!

hayduke2

IG report was accurate but didn't fit the President's view. His personal attorney who masquerades as the AG will make sure it is sullied so you and others have more "deep state" conspiracy theories to push.

olefool

Durham has exposed his subservience to Barr and Trump even though it slaughtered his previously fairly good reputation for good judgment. It seems to be the new normal for republicans. If you can't win on the square... cheat, lie, deflect, obfuscate and bend over for Trump...

hayduke2

Your last senstence is proven daily.

matts853

Congress didn’t just decide on a whim to investigate the president and issue subpoenas. You forget there was a legitimate whistleblower complaint filed with the IG office that was found to be credible and things followed from there. The credibility of that complaint has been validated by 17 witnesses, and public comments by the POTUS chief of staff, Rudy, and even POTUS himself. This is a legitimate impeachment, just like the IG found the Meuller report was a legitimate investigation that did indeed find POTUS obstructed justice and Russia interfered in 2016. But the POTUS and his pocket FoxPropagamda network have you and all the other Trump supporters fooled into believing the President is the victim all this. No, America is the victim of this chaotic presidency. I’m sick of the lies and misrepresentation by this president and his surrogates that are deceiving a huge swath of the electorate and dividing this nation while playing into Putin’s hands. Wake up!

hayduke2

Matt - [thumbup][thumbup]

Comment deleted.
hayduke2

User - do you not understand the concept of whistleblower and the protections afforded one as a whistleblower? Keep up your immature attacks. See https://oig.justice.gov/hotline/whistleblower-protection.htm

Comment deleted.
matts853

HD, Trump supporters don’t respect the rule of law, especially when it comes to federal protections of people that stand up to this president. They’d prefer justice be carried out the really old fashioned way. But most importantly, they are die hard hypocrites who’d be even more enraged if this was a Democrat president who did all this.

If it wasn’t for double standards, the Trump trolls here wouldn’t have any.

BunnyLou

‘Trump appears’ that is all the dems are hanging their hats on. Prof. Turley was correct ‘wafer thin’. The left says he wants Joe investigated, impeach him. He was asking Ukraine to investigate corruption of which Joe is a part of. Not impeachable.

bosco

Hate destroys the vessel it's carried in. Look what hate is doing to the Democrats. They seem hell-bent on handing the election to Trump.

DickD

There you go again, Bosco, espousing hate while supporting Trump who promotes hate at all of his rallies.

olefool

You seem to be one of it's victims too bosco. You're ready to concede your fellow Americans to the Russians??

Comment deleted.
richardlyons

She spanked that reporter.

hayduke2

bosco - hate is not a Democratic trait....

gary4books

There is a school of thought to hate the "sin" and not the "sinner."

olefool

You're up to your hips in BS bunny. But it appears you like the experience but that's where most of your friends are too.

matts853

Hop along now...hop along...

Dwasserba

"People who know a lot about what happened between Trump and Zelenskiy — Bolton, Pompeo, Perry, Mulvaney, Giuliani — have been forbidden by Trump from testifying." It's a gyp. It matters.

BunnyLou

Executive Privilege, ever hear of it?

threecents

"The Supreme Court broadly established the reach and limits of executive privilege: the president can apply it when asked to share information pertaining to presidential decision-making that he believes should remain confidential, but it is not absolute and is subject to a balance of competing interests and needs of the respective branches of government. For Nixon, the interest of a criminal trial overcame his invocation of executive privilege, resulting in him having to hand over the tapes that brought down his presidency."

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