Trust, but Verify

by Jim McCarthy

Thirty-five years ago this past December, President Ronald Reagan asserted U.S. policy with respect to international nuclear arms controls was to be guided by “Trust, but Verify” (TBV). Mikhail Gorbachev who led Russia from 1985-1991 through dissolution of the Soviet Union had led the promotion of glasnost, a policy of openness and transparency, as that nation’s initiative in global activities. Capitalizing upon these dynamics, Reagan co-opted a Russian rhyming proverb – doveryai, no proveryai or trust, but verify – to appeal to and connect with the Russian ethos to create a common understanding and criterion in nuclear arms control.

For the most part, TBV has been limited as an axiom within the international order of public policy and has achieved little traction within the U.S. national politisphere. TBV might have better informed Georgia voters about Herschel Walker and New Yorkers about George Santos. Essentially, however, John Q. Public is left to his own devices with respect to assessing trust by way of verification. Too often, however, trust results from acute or even painful experiences, e.g. Nigerian princes phishing emails, robo calls from IRS agents, crypto Ponzi schemes.

Prior to the events of January 6, 2021, the election results from the November campaign had been challenged by more than 60 failed lawsuits and confirmed by multiple re-counts among several states. Despite such verification, mistrust and distrust persisted across a broad spectrum of doubters including thousands who assembled at the Capitol on the day Congress was in session to verify the results submitted by the states. Of the thousands who protested, over 950 (January 6 Capitol Riot Arrests at have been criminally charged and over 450 have entered guilty pleas.

Forty-three Virginians are numbered in the totals.

In some cases, defendants alleged that their presence and actions on January 6th were motivated in response to invitations or commands to join the protest, a kind of variation of the Nuremberg defense of culpability in obedience to superior authority. What scintilla of responsibility fell to these individuals to assess or verify the reasons to engage in the conduct for which they have been criminally prosecuted? The failed lawsuits and manifold electoral recounts were widely publicized in the media. The deadly vitriol directed at the vice president on January 6th ought to have been a signal that some quantum of verification would have been wise.

Between January 6 and 7, 147 members of Congress, including four of Virginia’s 11-member House delegation, voted to reject the electoral results from Arizona and Pennsylvania. Each subsequently offered a written statement to explain his vote.

Rep. Ben Cline declared:

But in the months preceding the 2020 election, those rules and procedures established by the state Legislatures were deliberately changed by a number of individuals, including governors, secretaries of state, elections officials, judges, and private parties. These changes are in direct violation of Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the Constitution. That usurpation of the Legislatures’ constitutional authority was a primary reason why the 2020 election became riddled with an unprecedented number of allegations of irregularities and improprieties.

No federal or state court had concluded that state legislative authority had been usurped. An “unprecedented number of allegations” is precisely that – allegations.

Rep. Morgan Griffith joined a group of House members in an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court concerning the electoral results of several states but acknowledged the following:

As it pertains to our constitutional duty as Members of Congress on January 6, we have no express authority or ability to independently prove the many allegations of fraud in the subject states.

No proof of the “many allegations” existed. Nonetheless, Griffith voted to reject the electoral results of two states.

Rep. Rob Wittman’s rationale mirrored that of his colleagues:

That [Constitutional] oath led me to vote against certifying the electors from Pennsylvania because of unconstitutional changes to the administration of the 2020 general election, which bypassed the constitutionally vested power of the state legislature and fundamentally changed the state’s election procedures. Simply put, the evidence is clear that Pennsylvania failed to follow the laws and constitutional tenets that govern its elections.

Wittman asserted his opinion that the “evidence is clear” that “unconstitutional changes” occurred in Pennsylvania to support his vote to reject. In November 2020, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled against such allegations.

Rep. Bob Good’s statement was more comprehensive than those of his colleagues:

It is Congress’ constitutional responsibility to evaluate the validity of electoral votes and either accept them as legitimate casts or object to them as questionable or unreliable. Last night, I continued with my objection to the submission of electors’ from six states in question (Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin).

Good’s “evaluation” of the validity of electoral votes submitted by states is contrary to the Constitutional authority ascribed to the states in administering election procedures. In any event, even were the 31 electoral votes from Arizona  and Pennsylvania to be rejected, the Electoral College outcome would have been 275 to 263 assuming all 31 were credited to the runner-up.

In the face of the failed lawsuits and recounts, verification did not exist to underwrite the votes of the four Virginia  representatives. By their own words, it seems clear that each trusted to an individual interpretation of Constitutional responsibility while relying upon swirling allegations of electoral misconduct to reject the results from two states.

Publication of testimonial interviews by the Jan 6th Committee has exposed that the four Virginia Congressmen were not alone in their unverified convictions concerning the electoral results from 2020. Ginni Thomas, a prominent Virginia political personality, acknowledged in testimony before the Committee that:

I can’t say that I was familiar at the time with any specific evidence. I was just hearing it from news reports and friends on the ground, grassroots activists who were inside of various polling paces that found things suspicious.

Based upon this foundation, Thomas had texted White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on November 10, 2020 as follows:

Help This Great President stand firm, Mark!!!…You are the leader, with him, who is standing for America’s constitutional governance at the precipice. The majority knows Biden and the Left is attempting the greatest Heist of our History.

Later, in a January 10, 2021 text to Meadows; Thomas wrote:

Most of us are disgusted with the VP and are in listening mode to see where to fight with our teams.

The Thomas texts are among hundreds exchanged between Meadows and others concerning the 2020 election. She testified that her knowledge of fraud was not “very deep” and her lobbying of Meadows was based upon “what I believed off of people I trusted and news that I trusted.”

From the “following commands” defense of the Jan 6th participants, to unconvincing statements by experienced members of Congress, to the testimony of sophisticated insiders, trust rested largely upon personal instincts while verification was ignored or disregarded. Mistrust or distrust supplanted reason and any modicum of verification within the civic cosmos.

How many more Virginians than these forty-eight remain to bid upon the purchase of a bridge in Brooklyn?

Jim McCarthy, a former New York attorney, resides in Northern Virginia.

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14 responses to “Trust, but Verify”

  1. Virginia Gentleman Avatar
    Virginia Gentleman

    147 members of Congress should be held accountable for their vote. We still have idiots in Congress and in our own Virginia legislature who claim that the election was rigged/stolen. At what point, does a political party have the obligation to correct the story? This isn’t a difference of opinion or policy – this is blatant lie. No amount of spin can make these allegations true. TFG knew it and lied anyway. It is frankly disgusting that we as a country can’t agree to right this wrong.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      The problem is , it’s what the GOP base believes and in districts like Goode’s and even Whitman, if they come out and say it’s simply not true, they risk getting booted by their constituents who “trust” the media on the right that is promulgated these lies more than the elected representatives.

      Only after Dominion systems filed a defamation lawsuit against FOX and others, did some of them back off but their viewers still believe it and in turn
      expect their representative to act accordingly.

    2. James McCarthy Avatar
      James McCarthy

      Righting this wrong may not be possible. Restoring public confidence in the nation’s institutions is the issue. Mistrust or distrust will survive so long as leaders and media undermine public confidence.

      1. Virginia Gentleman Avatar
        Virginia Gentleman

        Perhaps I am in fantasyland, but shouldn’t a working Democracy require truth by a political body? I realize that there are facts and interpretations that may differ, but there is no disputing this. The facts have been presented and those 147 members have been proven wrong. And anyone who continues to push this series of lies should be called out by all parties. Crazies like Amanda Chase and MTG need to be corrected by those who know better from their own party. Their silence is deafening.

        1. James McCarthy Avatar
          James McCarthy

          No disagreement. But….politicians respect only being voted out of office. That ultimately is our task. Leaders, especially elected ones, have feared voters since the nation’s founding, viz., the Electoral College, US Senators selected by state legislatures, bicameral legislatures, among a few.

  2. William O'Keefe Avatar
    William O’Keefe

    Too many seemed to have not understood what their responsibility is. Rob Whitman who use to be my representative was a big disappointment to me because he knew better. None of the 147 have a guiding North Star much less the courage to do what is right.
    As Mark Twin said, the opposite of progress is Congress.

  3. Eric the half a troll Avatar
    Eric the half a troll

    “…and fiends on the ground…”

    Freudian slip…?

  4. James C. Sherlock Avatar
    James C. Sherlock

    You talk about lawbreakers.

    Then you criticize the four Virginia Congressmen who, in exercise of their public office, made what you and I both think was a serious mistake.

    Fair game in both cases.

    But then you then include in the flow criticism of Mrs. Thomas for expressing her opinion on the same matter. I disagree with that opinion as well, but her opinion is not a matter of law breaking, public policy debate or public votes by elected representatives.

    Yet you segue from criminals and the votes of Congressmen to the views of a private citizen who you describe as “a prominent Virginia political personality.”

    I find that Irrelevant to the matter at hand and too cute by half.

    What could possibly motivate you to include her in this company? Are you in the habit of criticizing the spouses of political figures? Or just the wife of Justice Thomas?

    1. Mrs. Thomas provided more ‘quotable’ material than those boring politicians.

      1. James McCarthy Avatar
        James McCarthy

        It was clearly more honest than the assertions of others. And to her credit, Ms. Thomas testified that she regretted some of her communications.

        1. Charles D'Aulnais Avatar
          Charles D’Aulnais

          I believe she said she regretted the exposure of some of het communications.

          “I don’t know how many of you would want your texts to become public on the front page of The Washington Post,” Thomas told congressional investigators. “Certainly, I didn’t want my emotional texts to a friend released and made available.”

    2. James McCarthy Avatar
      James McCarthy

      As usual, your insight, inference, or ESP fail in appreciating the point. Criminals and non-criminals shared in belief versus reason. No, I don’t think I have ever criticized the spouse of a political figure. Again, you must have missed the fact that the article does NOT mention Justice Thomas or connect Ms. Thomas to him. Her testimony stands on its own. She is merely included in the cohort of Virginians sharing characteristics.

      Please while you are at it, recall your insulting attempt at humor a number of months ago in a supposed parody about Irish names.

  5. Eric the half a troll Avatar
    Eric the half a troll

    Edit suggestion – you wrote:

    “No federal or state court had concluded that state legislative authority had been usurped. An “unprecedented number of allegations” is precisely that – allegations.”

    Indented and in italics. Don’t think you meant to…

    1. James McCarthy Avatar
      James McCarthy

      Thanx. Failed to remove italics.

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