Being a legal analyst in this rage-filled age often invites criticism, particularly if you challenge widely held narratives. I rarely respond to such stories, which falls into the category of complaining about the weather in Washington. Unfortunately, even stories that I view as manifestly distorted, tend to be replicated on hostile sites. In that vein, I thought that I would respond to a misleading story at Mediaite, which suggested that I recently changed my view of Donald Trump’s call to Georgia. (The site was founded by ABC Legal Analyst Dan Abrams). The article by Alex Griffin compares my comments this week with a tweet that I sent out on January 2, 2021. The suggestion is that my view of the call evolved after Trump was indicted. The original story omitted the fact that I stated the current position the next day when the transcript became available and that the tweet was based on an erroneous article in the Washington Post. I have maintained the same position since the release of the transcript.
I have repeatedly criticized Trump for both his Ukrainian and his Georgia calls. I did so this week. I have long disagreed with the former president’s rhetoric and I am still critical of the call to the Georgia election officials, which included disproven allegations of voter fraud.
I was not contacted before the article ran and could have corrected the factual claims.
The tweet cited in the article was from Jan. 3, 2021 based on the Washington Post account, which indicated that Trump told the officials to just “find” the votes. The transcript presented a sharply different context and meaning. The next day, I gave interviews on those differences and I then ran a column stating that the transcript shows a clear alternative meaning. Indeed, I continued to write about the errors in the original Post account of the calls. To its credit, the Post admitted the errors in its original story. I stated, as I have continued to state, that reasonable people can disagree on that meaning.
I continued to criticize the call (as I did this week) but stressed that the transcript offers a viable and compelling defense. I made that observation the same week as the cited tweet. There was no change or recent evolution of my views on the call. I actually later wrote a column on the errors in the Post account of the calls.
Putting aside my statement the next day in light of the transcript, there is also a difference between criticism of the language and the view of language as part of a criminal case. After reading the full transcript, I concluded that that defense is strong and that Trump was referring to what he needed to overcome the deficit in votes. Any “evolution” that occurred was limited to the span of a few hours between the erroneous Post article and my view of language in context in 2021. (Notably, there was no article on how the Post’s view of the call “evolved”). I have maintained the same position on the call after my first response to the original (later corrected) Post article.
I reached out to Mediaite and I appreciate that Alex did get back to me soon after I saw the article. I explained that the article is in error and creates a false impression. However, I did value the opportunity to respond, if belatedly. I am told that Mediaite is considering a change to the article, which I also appreciate. However, I wanted to post this response to have a contemporaneous and corrected account.