The Best Place to Hide the Truth

… and the cherry-picking Truth in Testimony non-Sequitur

Yesterday during James Comey’s testimony, including from the mouth of the chief witness, we heard of a prosecutor’s maxim: you can’t cherry-pick a witness’ testimony. You take it all as reliable truth, or you abandon it all. Under such a construct, since Mr. Comey said some things that were self-incriminating or self-effacing, and others that were known as true, then his whole testimony must be true.

This reasoning persisted in subsequent post-game talking-head analysis. How could the President’s lawyer take some of what Comey admitted (the leaking, for instance) as truth, but not the more damming (for the president) pieces of the testimony? Clearly inconsistent, right?

If you smell a stench, may I suggest it comes from typical, quintessential lawyerly non sequitur “logic.”

First, give it the common sense test. In your everyday life, have you ever had anyone deal honestly with you ninety-nine percent of the time, only to let you down on a rare occasion? If you haven’t had that experience, count yourself most blessed. If you live in the real world, however, chances are even the most truthful person has fibbed on you (or others) upon occasion. Heck, that most truthful person might well be you, if you care to stop and exercise self-honesty. And being under oath doesn’t magically dissipate this trait of the human condition.

Add to this that one of the tools in a disinformation campaign involves the cloaking of lies and half-truths inside mountains of truth, and you ought to be very skeptical when politicians and pundits alike feed you the “don’t cherry-pick” witness testimony fallacy. In fact, the best place to hide a lie is inside the truth. Evidence: reportedly, last summer’s massive DNC email spill included a few modified or manufactured emails in the midst of thousands of actual emails.

Is this to say that James Comey wasn’t one hundred percent factual in what he said? Not at all. He may well have. He is also a human being, prone to error due to a spectrum of benign to nefarious reasons. In any case, to assess the level of accuracy in his or anyone’s testimony, you must employ other methods of verification rather than relying on flawed, hand-waved logic. For instance, think critically about why he went public with his grievances a few days after he lost his job vs. a few days before, when presumably, he already had the same information and knowledge in hand.