English teachers beginning in the earliest grades demand that students writing essays or research papers support assertions with fact or expert opinion. Part of becoming a thoughtful, engaged citizen, the argument goes, is being able to make an argument and back it up with credible sources. An English teacher will often write in the margin of a draft of a research paper “It looks like you lack support for this assertion,” or “How did you draw this conclusion?”
Candidate Trump often employed unearned assertions throughout the campaign against his primary opponents and Hillary Clinton. As President of the United States, Donald Trump can no longer make unfounded assertions and a number of his most remarkable assertions demand evidence and further investigation.
- My tax returns won’t reveal anything interesting – Trump has promised to release his tax returns, backed away from the promise, and then conceded through his advisers that he would ultimately do so after his audit is complete. There are, in fact, many, many Americans interested in his taxes and no one will know if there’s anything interesting until he does so.
- Melania worked in the US legally in 1996 – Melania Knauss worked in the US in 1996 as a model but her legal employment status is not clear. The crackdown on undocumented workers by ICE the past few days could very well have targeted a non-citizen like Melania Knauss in 1996.
- I lost the popular vote because of millions of illegal votes – Donald Trump again repeated his claim that extensive voter fraud led to his loss in the popular vote, this time to a group of senators last week. A number of Attorneys General and election officials from states across the country have asked for proof and tried to substantiate the claim. Most recently, Federal Election Commissioner Ellen L. Weintraub demanded that President Trump provide evidence of voter fraud so that it can be investigated.
There are many other baseless assertions that Trump has made even since winning the election in November. The three above speak most to central issues surrounding his administration: fiduciary responsibility, legal employment, and legitimacy.
Both the press and Jason Chaffetz, who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, have a responsibility to aggressively demand evidence so that concerns of inappropriate or illegal behavior can be investigated and put to rest.