These politicians are using the 'witch hunt' defense

Lead Panel 4 live Jake Tapper_00010317
Lead Panel 4 live Jake Tapper_00010317


    MO Gov takes page from Trump book, decries 'witch hunt'


MO Gov takes page from Trump book, decries 'witch hunt' 06:52

(CNN)Three or more is a trend, so it's worth noting the various people using what we can appropriately call here the "witch hunt" defense to explain away a troubling investigation or allegation.

President Donald Trump is the most notably persecuted, at least on his own Twitter feed.
He first used the term "witch hunt" to refer to reports of Russian meddling in the 2016 US election after he was elected but before he became President, on January 10, 2017, on Twitter.
"FAKE NEWS - A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!" he tweeted (caps and emphasis are his).
    In the intervening year and change, he's used the term at least 26 other times on Twitter.
    Some of the tweets are specifically in regard to a storyline, as when he was defending his since-fired national security adviser Michael Flynn or touting a particular Fox News segment.
    Other times he's just wanted to sound his frustration and get it off his chest, as in May, when he tweeted, "This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!" or most recently on April 10, when he tweeted, "A TOTAL WITCH HUNT!!!"
    For the record, he hasn't been accused of any wrongdoing by special counsel Robert Mueller, although a number of his former aides and campaign officials have pleaded guilty to lying to federal officials or have been indicted. It's not clear how the Mueller investigation will end, but Trump has worked hard to taint it before it can get close to him.
    Trump's warnings, for consistency and resolve, are the gold standard of witch hunt warnings.
    But he has followers.
    Roy Moore, the candidate for US Senate in Alabama who upended the GOP primary but failed in late 2017 to defeat Democrat Doug Jones, used the witch hunt defense, too.
    Moore had a defender in Trump, but they were facing very different types of witch hunts. Trump calls the special counsel investigation into Russian election meddling and possible collusion by his campaign the witch hunt. For Moore, it was reporters uncovering allegations that he had sexually abused young women and girls. The Washington Post won a Pulitzer Prize for that reporting this week.
    Moore repeatedly denied the allegations. His campaign released a statement at the time that said of the attorney for one of his accusers, "Gloria Allred is a sensationalist leading a witch hunt."
    Back in February, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed a widening corruption probe as a media-propelled "witch hunt" and said he had done nothing wrong, according to CNN reports from Oren Liebermann.
    The latest politician to employ the strategy is Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, who is accused of mistreating a woman with whom he was having an affair, blindfolding her and taking embarrassing pictures of her to use as blackmail.
    Greitens yelled "witch hunt" when the GOP-controlled state legislature impugned his alleged actions and released testimony that appeared to confirm them. Greitens made a pre-emptive denial, calling it a "political witch hunt" and saying he would be vindicated by a court.
    There is a major irony in the fact that the witch hunts of the 17th-century Salem variety were mostly geared at persecuting women, as The Washington Post pointed out last year, whereas the persecuted ones in the witch hunt defense today are, for the most part, powerful men. An exception is Norway's now-former justice minister, who invoked the witch hunt defense earlier this year.
    A witch hunt or "they're all out to get me" defense is not ideal as a strategy and is to be used only in the absence of something more solid. It's been employed by Greitens and Moore when even members of their own party turned against them. In the cases of Trump and Netanyahu, it's been used to ward off official government investigations that seem likely to be politically damaging.
    Though the President has repeatedly said there was no collusion between his campaign and Russia, he can't refute the allegations of Mueller since we haven't seen anything official yet. It may never come at all. But the President has already made it known that he thinks Mueller is out to get him.
    Just like the Netanyahu corruption allegations. Or the Greitens probe in Missouri. Or the many Moore accusers. The witch hunt defense is to be used only when it becomes hard to believe that at least some of the allegations aren't true.