Email #132: “the American people’s trust”?

Thank you for your letter in response to my concerns about Russia’s interference in the election of Donald Trump. Your letter, however, only deepened my concerns. You begin by acknowledging the FBI investigation, but then you follow with a non sequitur:

“In this effort, I coauthored a letter on March 24, 2017 … which pressed key intelligence agencies about leaks of classified information and the impact they have on the American people’s trust in vital national security programs.”

I am fully aware of this letter and have already written you about it. While leaks of classified information are a serious concern, they pale in contrast to Russia interfering with the election and the possibility that the Trump campaign colluded in that process.

Setting that self-evident fact aside, in what possible sense does your writing about leaks help “in this effort”? The subject of my letter and your opening paragraph is the Russian investigation. That’s the referent of your phrase “this effort.” Not only does your writing letters about leaks not aid that effort, claiming that it does violates basic logic.

You then discuss leaks for two more paragraphs—in a letter about Russia aiding the election of Donal Trump. More importantly, you don’t even acknowledge that the Trump campaign is under investigation too. This is an extraordinary omission from the member of Congress most responsible for overseeing the executive branch. You instead change the topic again, stating:

“I want to emphasize that the intelligence community has found no evidence that there was any interference in the voting or balloting process in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”

The same is true of President Trump’s claim that he lost the popular vote due to massive voter fraud. But in that case, you appeared on TV to defend his claim—despite having no evidence to support it. As far as Russia, no one has ever suggested that it interfered with balloting. Why then do you “emphasize” a non-issue?

If the goal of your letter to me is to increase the “American people’s trust” in your ability to conduct “rigorous oversight” of the Trump administration, I strongly urge you to rewrite it. At minimum, please correct the typo in the concluding paragraph:

“I appreciate you taking the time contact me.”

Your staff writers left out the word “to.” Some might read that error as Freudian—an unconscious acknowledgement of insincerity. Given its extraordinary omissions, contorted logic, and irrelevant asides, it’s difficult not to read your entire letter as an insincere and surprisingly incompetent exercise in political doublespeak.

Your integrity aside, is this really the best your staff can come up with? That fact alone suggests how profoundly wrong you are about an issue of historic proportion.

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Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an assistant professor of English at Washington and Lee University where he teaches creative writing, contemporary fiction, and comics. He has published two novels, Pretend I'm Not Here (HarperCollins 2002) and School For Tricksters (Southern Methodist University 2011), and two nonfictions, On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa University 2015) and Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury forthcoming 2017).

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