Plausible deniability is a crucial component of any ongoing violation of laws or norms. If you’re going to intentionally engage in nefarious deeds, you have to have your story straight for when the eventual scrutiny (such as, let’s say, impeachment) comes.
That which you are straightening is indeed a “story” because it is, by definition, not a true reckoning of whatever drug deal you’re up to. It is at best a quasi-believable version of events that counts on the listener giving you the benefit of the doubt. At worst, it’s a thinly veiled lie.
It’s like yelling, “WHERE THE HOES AT?!” then saying that was simply done in an effort to steer clear of the ladies of ill repute, lest they sully your reputation and/or beglitter your trousers. One needs to maintain acute knowledge of the whereabouts of hoes in these troubled times, after all.
If your friend/spouse/employer gives you full (deserved or undeserved) deference, they’ll decide that it is at least possible that you’re telling the truth in re hoes. Maybe you’re doing your level best to avoid temptations of the flesh. After all, you didn’t say, “where art thou hoes, for I should like to fornicate with thee.”
I simply asked their location! That’s not a crime! I could have been asking it for any number of reasons other than dipping my McNugget in their Szechuan sauce! And I gave a reason, albeit a suspicious one! Where’s my due process!
THIS IS A WITCH HUNT!
READ THE TRANSCRIPT!
I DON’T LIKE BEING PEED ON BECAUSE I’M A GERMAPHOBE!
DID I ALREADY SAY READ THE TRANSCRIPT?!
ENVIRONMENTALLY-FRIENDLY LIGHT BULBS MAKE ME LOOK ORANGE, EVEN WHEN I’M OUTSIDE!
NO QUID PRO QUO!
Sorry, I have a rare condition that causes me to randomly yell out psyche-revealing objections that have absolutely nothing to do with what’s being discussed.
It’s plausible that I’m telling the truth, no matter how far-fetched it is.
And I’m using my story to deny the otherwise negative inference (read: obvious assumption) an accuser could make.
If someone is prone to think I’m lying, they at least have to now confront and overcome my alibi. If someone leans toward believing me, I’m giving them semi-intellectual cover to do so.
In criminal law, the prosecutor has to meet a certain burden of proof, almost always “beyond a reasonable doubt,” in order to convict the defendant. If you’re a Trump voter, you know what a “defendant” is because (a) you are at home from the hours of 11 am to 4 pm watching Judge Judy, Judge Mathis, Judge Reinhold, The People’s Court, etc., and (b) you’ve absolutely been a defendant. Taking Oxy that isn’t prescribed to you is still a crime, Buford, even if the “doctor” sold you that prescription pad fair and square. Sad!
Don’t worry, though, I’m sure coal will come back any day now and you’ll be back to work.
The prosecutor’s burden (or stated conversely, the defendant’s presumption of innocence) means the jury cannot convict unless they are unanimous in their certainty beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime.
That’s not to say the jury has to be certain beyond all doubt. They just have to be sure that there’s no other reasonable explanation for the events at hand besides the defendant’s alleged acts.
“Reasonable” is, with a few caveats, whatever the jury unanimously decides is reasonable. It might actually be a reasonable explanation that you were just holding that scrip pad for your learned doctor friend, even though you don’t know a single person who ever got beyond eighth grade.
That’s why both sides in a trial get to participate in choosing the members of the jury. Once the jurors are seated, they’re the referees who’ll use their judgment of what is reasonable to decide if they believe the defendant’s alibi—that is, the embodiment of reasonable doubt that she committed the crime—or the prosecutor’s theory of the case.
In other words, the jury decides if the defendant’s plausible deniability is, indeed, plausible.
Current Trends In Lying One’s Ass Off: A Primer
Which brings me to the current state of affairs in Washington, DC.
The House Committee on the Judiciary voted on Articles of Impeachment last week. The full House of Representatives voted on the Articles yesterday, and both articles passed on a party line vote. Donald Trump has been impeached. In the oft uttered words of Nelson Muntz, “Ha ha.” Now, it’s on to the Senate for a trial on the matter.
Sidebar: Full House of Representatives could be a great spinoff to Full House and Fuller House. It could follow the improbable ascent to Congress of Kimmy Gibbler. And we could all learn a few lessons about the meaning of friendship along the way.
Donald Trump is accused of abusing the power of his office and obstructing Congress’s investigation of the matter. Both fall under the “high crimes and misdemeanors” verbiage of the Impeachment Clause of Article II, Section 4, of the United States Constitution. Without getting into too much common law from the time of the actual drafting of the Constitution, “high crimes and misdemeanors” is a term of art from our English forbears that means “crimes against the Sovereign.” In a democratic republic such as ours, the sovereign is “We The People.” So, crimes against the people of the United States are grounds for removal from office.
It’s further generally understood that a “high crime” is one that the average Joe on the street can’t commit; that is, it needs to be a crime against the American people that can only be carried out by virtue of one’s office. Thus, the remedy is to remove the bad actor from that office.
THAT’S HEARSAY! YOU WEREN’T AT THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION IN 1789, THUS YOU CAN’T KNOW WHAT THEY MEANT! ALSO, BIRDS AREN’T REAL, AND CONTRAILS CAUSE MESOTHELIOMA, FOR WHICH YOU MIGHT BE ENTITLED TO A SUBSTANTIAL CASH SETTLEMENT!
Sorry, my rare condition also causes me to yell out random objections to my own assertions on behalf of imaginary antagonists. And stuff I saw on commercials during The Hot Bench.
You all know the story by now, so I’ll sum it up very briefly: Trump is accused of improperly conditioning a White House visit and military aid for Ukraine upon the Ukrainian president’s announcement of an investigation into Trump’s perceived chief political rival for the 2020 election, Joe Biden.
In other words, he is accused of using the power of his office for personal gain.
Then, he blocked everyone he could from responding to impeachment inquiry subpoenas and refused to turn over almost all of the documents that Congress requested. In short, he is alleged to have abused his power and then blocked Congress’s investigation of that abuse.
The Republicans in Congress have trotted out every alibi and obfuscation imaginable in light of the facts. Order today and you’ll hear such hits as:
- The President was just pushing a corrupt country to investigate corruption! IT WAS A PERFECT CALL!
- “We do it all the time, get over it.” – Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick “You NEVER Go Full Mulvaney” Mulvaney.
- If it was a bribery plot, it was a pretty lousy one, because the aid went through anyway!
- “I’m in the waste management business.” – Tony Soprano
- “Hunter Biden was hand-delivering cocaine to Ukrainians using a briefcase he dug up from a secret compartment in the basement of the Capitol. Adam Schiff gave him the treasure map on the back of the Declaration of Independence.” Rep. Matt “Barney Gumble Without The Charm” Gaetz (R-Florida).
- He said there was no quid pro quo! That PROVES there was no quid pro quo! And my 3-year-old covered in magic marker has NO IDEA who got into the magic markers. CASE CLOSED!
- “I like watching boys wrestle.” – Rep. Jim “The Jacketless Jackal” Jordan (R-Ohio).
- He never said “bribery!” You can’t commit crimes without saying the crime’s name out loud. Everyone knows that.
- “The American people are bored to tears by these hearings; thus, we should acquit the president of any wrongdoing. Boredom is the proper threshold for public accountability.” – Rep. Devin “New Phone Who Dis” Nunes (R-California).
- Zelensky himself said he didn’t feel pressured! In related news, so-called “victims of domestic violence” everywhere just fell down the stairs, they said so themselves! No need to dig further.
- “I’M A-YELLIN’. WHOEVER YELLS LOUDEST WINS. THAT’S IN THE CONSTITUTION, Y’ALL. LOOK IT UUUUP.” – Rep. Doug “Tom” Collins (R-Georgia).
The people—as represented by 100 United States Senators—are now asked to consider whether the President’s alibis or the prosecutors’ accusations make more sense.
Is it likely that Donald Trump—a man who has cheated and lied his way through 73 years of life—was suddenly deeply concerned about corruption in Ukraine?
Or is it a lot more likely that he was once again trying to get foreign assistance in taking down a rival?
Is it likely that Donald Trump, in speaking with Ambassador Sondland, randomly and coincidentally decried the very thought of there being a quid pro quo in Trump’s dealings with Ukraine?
Or is it significantly more likely that he became aware of the whistleblower’s accusation and thus started trying to get everyone’s stories aligned?
Is it likely that Donald Trump—father of three blatant grifters and a grifter-in-law—was deeply troubled by the idea of the son of the former VP making money on a sweetheart gig in a foreign land?
Or is it infinitely more likely that he salivated at the news that Joe Biden’s kid had a sketchy job and immediately and instinctively mapped out a way to leverage that news to his personal benefit?
In criminal court, juries are instructed specifically to refrain from abandoning common sense when evaluating the reasonableness of the relative facts, assertions, and connections about which they learn. Not every alibi is reasonable. We have to give the defendant the benefit of the doubt; however, we don’t have to believe every word they say, especially if their words seem to be blatant lies.
Impeachment isn’t a criminal trial, and to that end, there is no burden of proof, other than the satisfaction of the alleged consciences of the Senators. There are no rules of evidence, no hearsay rules, and no “prior bad acts” exclusions. The Senators can take into account literally anything in casting their votes. They swear a special oath as quasi-jurors to do “impartial justice according to the Constitution and the laws,” but that’s it.
The House Managers (the name for the impeachment prosecutors’ role) don’t have to prove anything beyond a reasonable doubt. They just have to get votes to convict, irrespective of what gets the Senators to vote that way.
During an impeachment trial, the President isn’t assumed to be innocent, other than to the extent our common law traditions make that a norm.
The House Managers can introduce his bad behavior, his tweets, articles about him, his ex-wife’s hairdresser’s cousin’s opinion…it’s all fair game.
That’s right: unlike criminal court, the “jurors” in an impeachment trial can take into account the entirety of the President’s life in deciding whether to convict him of his alleged impeachable acts and remove him from office. That means they can consider his body of work, bankruptcies, shady dealings, business style, affinity for hamberders, refusal to share tax returns, judgments, divorces, orangeness, draft avoidance, and anything else they’d like to consider to make an educated decision on his fate.
And this isn’t a bunch of intellectual lightweights making the decision. Unlike the American people they represent, the members of the United States Senate are all well educated. All 100 of them have a bachelor’s degree, and 76 of them hold degrees beyond that. Fifty-five of them are attorneys, well versed in the ins and outs of the Constitution the President is currently using to wipe mayo from the corner of his mouth. Most of them are upper middle class. All of them have unlimited access to information from sources well beyond the old Google machine.
Where Do We Go From Here?
So here’s the big question: knowing all of that, what does it imply when a United States Senator believes Trump’s “plausible deniability” alibi instead of the prosecutor’s allegations?
What does it mean when “the benefit of the doubt” requires a gaggle of well-educated and wealthy people to accept patently foolish explanations for objectively obvious wrongdoing?
Maybe we have a deliberative legislative body chock full of morons who literally can’t tell the difference between the truth and a hastily put together post-hoc alibi.
Or maybe we have a group of senators who prioritize their own party’s short-term victories over the legitimacy and sovereignty of We The People.
Given my ability to make my decision on any and all evidence available, I’m going to assume the latter.
Need some more Hitting The Trifecta right now? Try this one: These Are The People In Your Neighborhood. Sorry. Or how about this one? The Millennials Are Alright. I like this one, too: My Eye! I’m Not Supposed To Get Measles In It!