June 12, 2017

There's an old saying about lawyers: When you have the facts, argue the facts. When you don't, pound the table!

Here's former Gov. John Sununu, rhetorically pounding the table on CNN this morning. Notice how the argument eventually centers around the idea that the media and other enemies of the president are twisting the word "hope" to make it mean intimidation.

Why, that's just crazy talk!

Alysin Camerota asked what he thought about the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel.

Sununu said Mueller's "not a bad choice."

"You know, you can always find things that you would criticize one individual or another. If this is leading up to what would I recommend to the president and his folks, I think Lindsey Graham and Ari Fleischer is right, leave him alone and deal with whatever comes out at the end," he said.

Camerota asked if he agreed that Trump was headed into "a giant perjury trap."

Sununu said, "If you leave it alone, the president will be vindicated by Mueller. Leave him alone. don't put pressure on him to have to justify his existence by stretching things to find something wrong."

"So when you say it appears to you that the president will be, you know, cleared of this cloud and fully vindicated, how do you make sense of what came out in the James Comey testimony the president asked his AG, son-in-law and chief of staff to leave the room so he could say to the head of the FBI, I sure wish that you could back off this investigation of --" Camerota said.

"No, he didn't say hope," Sununu said.

"'I hope could you back off this investigation of michael flynn'?"

"No, he didn't say that. He said 'I hope this Flynn thing will go away. Let me give you two --"

"What is the difference?" she asked,

"The difference is that you have put a different spin on it," he said. (Naughty Alysin!)

He argued there was nothing wrong or unusual about a president asking others to leave the room, and said if Comey was uncomfortable, he should have said something.

"Secondly, Comey going into that certainly had to know that the president hoped that the Flynn situation would go away, and therefore, why is there any pressure or if the president merely repeats in an aspirational way what Comey already knew going in?

"This idea that somehow that sentence implies pressure is ridiculous. The only pressure that could have been implied there is because Comey didn't have the backbone if he felt there was pressure to tell the president that that's not right."

As Camerota pushed, he responded, "That's the problem. You keep spinning it to an ask, instead of an expression of an aspirational expression. Trump's lawyer was absolutely correct. Senator Risch from Idaho was absolutely correct in questioning Comey. The point is, every time you try to talk about it, you try to make "I hope that this Flynn thing will go away" a pressure point.

"It is not a pressure point, but if comey took it as a pressure point, even incorrectly took it as a pressure point, he should have said something in the private conversation that the president had the courtesy to give him."

Camerota responded with the exact language. "We can both be clear, this is from the James Comey prepared statement, he then said, 'I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.' James Comey saw that as a directive," she said.

"And the president saw that as an expression of a hope, and that's the difference here. And that's the problem when people try to overparse or adjust semantics to reflect their bias, and try and create a case where there isn't one.

"If that sentence is supposedly all that James Comey has to accuse the president of obstruction, this thing will go away quickly."

Now, if I knew nothing at all about politics or law, I might believe think Sununu's impassioned defense made sense. But I do, and I have these legal cases as reminders:


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