Things for which we’re waiting to see Trump’s ‘convincing evidence’
By Philip Bump March 7 at 1:38 PM
John F. Kelly is a loyal soldier in the administration of President Trump, just as he was a loyal Marine in the United States military. When asked by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer why Trump claimed to have had his phones wiretapped by former president Barack Obama, Kelly, now the head of the Department of Homeland Security, was confident in his response.
“You’re privy to sensitive information,” Blitzer said. “Are you familiar with that? Do you believe that?”
“If the president of the United States said that, he’s got his reasons to say it,” Kelly replied. “He’s got some convincing evidence that that took place.”
The assumption that Trump’s assertions are based on robust evidence is generous, given what we know about the president’s willingness to assert things. But perhaps it is actually that our assumption is ungenerous.
Perhaps Trump does have evidence for his assertions that simply hasn’t yet been shared.
With that possibility in mind, we’ve compiled a short list of things for which we’d happily accept some of the detailed evidence Trump had in his possession before making the claim. The sooner we’re made privy to that evidence, the sooner we can cross these items off our list.
Things for which we’d like to see Trump’s convincing evidence
Trump’s phones having been wiretapped by Obama. Kelly’s confidence in the existence of this evidence seems somewhat at odds with what we know at this point. The Obama White House, the former director of national intelligence and the current head of the FBI all deny that such tapping took place to some extent, but White House adviser Kellyanne Conway also intimated that Trump had some quiet knowledge that wasn’t public.
Rampant voter fraud in 2016. While our research uncovered four demonstrable cases of voter fraud in last year’s election — not all of which involved presidential balloting — Trump has claimed that the real figure is slightly higher. How high? Three million, maybe 5 million.
In support of this claim, Trump has only pointed to the fact that voter rolls include a number of dead people or people who have moved between states. This doesn’t mean that ballots are cast on behalf of those registered voters, but that doesn’t faze the president.
The closest thing he has to evidence that we know about is the claim from a guy named Gregg Phillips, who, a few days after the election, claimed that he and his organization (which makes an app called VoteStand) had uncovered millions of illegal votes. Phillips released precisely zero evidence to bolster this claim, but Trump celebrated it as accurate anyway.
Presumably thanks to his independent evidence.
The raid in Yemen generated important intelligence. During his joint speech to Congress, Trump reiterated a claim that the raid during which Navy SEAL Ryan Owens died had “generated large amounts of vital intelligence.” Press secretary Sean Spicer had earlier said that the raid “gathered an unbelievable amount of intelligence.”
That claim was disputed by reporting from NBC News. Officials who spoke with the network said that they hadn’t seen evidence to support those claims.
The raid has been widely criticized, given the death of Owens, 25 civilians (including nine children) and the loss of an aircraft. Trump’s insistence that intelligence was gathered serves to rebut that criticism — and we look forward to seeing the evidence that critical intelligence was generated.
Anti-Trump protesters are paid. On at least two occasions, Trump has suggested that those participating in protests against him are professionals or are paid.
One might assume that Trump was simply echoing the unfounded allegations of his supporters of conservative media in leveling the charge, but we’re being generous here and assuming he has evidence. For example, we do know that the campaign launch of one of the candidates for president included paid attendees, demonstrating that such things do happen. (That campaign was Trump’s.)
Obama is coordinating the protests. Speaking to Fox News last month, Trump hinted that the protests his administration has faced since inauguration have been guided by his predecessor.
“I think that President Obama is behind it because his people certainly are behind it,” he said. “In terms of him being behind things, that’s politics. It will probably continue.”
Who “his people” are is not clear; we look forward to the presented evidence to help clear this up.
There were 1.5 million people who attended his inauguration. During a speech at the CIA shortly after the inauguration, Trump defended the size of the crowd that saw him be sworn in.
“But we had a massive field of people. You saw them. Packed,” he said. “I get up this morning, I turn on one of the networks, and they show an empty field. I say, wait a minute, I made a speech. I looked out, the field was — it looked like a million, million and a half people. They showed a field where there were practically nobody standing there. … It looked — honestly, it looked like a million and a half people. Whatever it was, it was. But it went all the way back to the Washington Monument.”
He later claimed that his inauguration was the most-watched in history. His evidence for this assertion remains confidential.
In two of the above cases — voter fraud and the wiretapping — Trump has pledged to support investigations that get to the bottom of his claims. Those investigations should be fairly short, though, with Trump simply sliding his convincing evidence across the conference room table.
It’s our hope that the public is similarly made privy to those fascinating documents. Oh, and also that stuff his investigators dug up in Hawaii.
The Washington Post