Good questions can help cut through the lies, distractions, and conspiracy theories being spread by Fox News/AM radio about Trump and his role in Ukraine. Questions also help keep focus and counter one of the most common Republican tactics of changing the subject. I ask a lot of questions when I’m talking with people, especially conservatives, because it helps them come to their own conclusions.
In my recent conversations with conservatives, here are the 7 best questions I’ve found along with short examples or explanations to illustrate why these questions work so well.
1. Why was Trump talking about Joe Biden with the president of Ukraine?
This may sound obvious but it’s actually difficult to answer with a straight face because there’s no good reason for Donald Trump to be talking about Joe Biden with the president of Ukraine.
Every answer sounds like some kind of spin.
Occam’s razor states that the simplest answer is probably the correct one. And the simplest answer, in this case, is that Joe Biden is running against Trump in the 2020 election and Trump wanted help beating him.
Reason for asking: To establish the obvious answer. During any subsequent discussion, if the obvious answer doesn’t surface, you can bring it up.
2. If Trump wanted to fight corruption in Ukraine, why didn’t he enlist the Department of Justice?
I have to give credit for this question to the reporters below.
Worth 21 seconds.
Trump claims corruption in Ukraine.
Reporters repeatedly ask Trump whether he asked Bill Barr or anyone at DOJ to investigate the Bidens. If not, why ask Ukraine?
Trump, in a panic tries to get reporters to shut up.
Trump is so guilty. Watch this pic.twitter.com/ITTUG7oEs6
— ☇RiotWomenn☇ (@riotwomennn) November 11, 2019
Of course Trump didn’t ask the Department of Justice. He didn’t ask the Department of Justice because he never cared about fighting corruption in Ukraine. He cares about winning the 2020 election.
Reason for asking: One of the many lies told by Trump and his administration is that he was contacting Ukraine in order to fight corruption. This question points out how big of a lie this story is.
3. If this is about fighting corruption, why single out a company that Hunter Biden worked for? What other corruption was Trump looking to fight?
This is a good follow-up question to either question 1 or 2. And again, the obvious answer is that it’s about politics and has nothing to do with “fighting corruption.”
It’s very difficult to put together an answer that makes sense on this question.
Another variation of this question was asked by reporter Jeff Mason at a press conference in Finland: “What did you want President Zelensky to do in regard to Joe and Hunter Biden?”
4. What do you think Trump meant when he said, right after Mr. Zelensky said Ukraine was ready to purchase American Javelin anti-tank missiles to repel Russian fighters, “I would like you to do us a favor though”?
Right after the favor statement from the White House-released call summary, President Trump asks Zelensky to open an investigation into a conspiracy about the origins of the Mueller investigation. He then goes on and asks him to look into Hunter Biden’s role:
The other thing, there’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it… It sounds horrible to me.
Reason for asking: The White House story is that Trump was pursuing some kind of national policy. “I would like you to do us a favor” doesn’t sound like White House policy. It sounds like a personal favor. Especially in regards to investigating a political rival.
5. Giuliani appears on TV all the time. Why won’t he testify before Congress?
I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that the reason is that Giuliani is literally incapable of appearing before Congress and not lying. Even some Republicans are starting to suggest that Giuliani is so unbelievable that he may need to go under the bus.
Reason for asking: One of the other Republican talking points is that some of the witness information is secondhand. Of course this is because Giuliani is ignoring a subpoena to testify. It’s also a good opportunity to ask why Giuliani received $500,000 from Fraud Guarantee, the company of the two arrested Ukrainians, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who were detained before they could leave the country. The payment means Giuliani’s firm was earning $500,000 from Fraud Guarantee just as Giuliani began working to dig up dirt on Democrats in Ukraine.
Former national security advisor John Bolton and White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney also have direct knowledge. They are also ignoring subpoenas. In fact, the president ordered federal government employees not to comply with subpoenas. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper had agreed to testify until Trump’s order.
6. Which Trump spin do you prefer?
I like to ask this question with a bit of a wink using multiple-choice answers that point out just how disjointed the spin has been.
Here’s some examples of spin the administration has actually used:
- It didn’t happen.
- It did happen but there was no quid pro quo.
- Joe Biden did it too.
- It’s bad, even illegal, but not impeachable.
- Everyone does this all the time. Buying election help from foreign countries is normal.
- It’s a conspiracy by Democrats and the liberal media.
- It’s best to just change the subject because it’s obvious he’s guilty.
- I’m going to take names of Democrats and make them sound like they’re part of a Jewish conspiracy … like that shifty Jew Adam Shifty Schiff.
Reason for asking: To point out the multiple stories being told by Republicans and Fox/AM radio. One good way to tell the truth is that a true story doesn’t change with each news cycle. A question like this helps point out in a semi-humorous way (it’d be a lot funnier if it weren’t so real) all the spin being used.
7. If Trump’s ideas for the country are so good, why all the lying, spin, and attempts to rig elections?
This final question is extremely important. Among the conservatives I talk to, everyone knows he’s guilty. It’s obvious and they’re not stupid.
Why are they willing to fight for him then?
The answer is that they tend to have bought into his “Make America Great” con. They believe all that corporate special interest nonsense about cutting taxes for the rich creating jobs and they think that government is the problem. They like what he’s doing and/or they hate liberals so they defend him.
This question cuts through to this underlying point. If what he’s doing is so good, why all the corruption?
Reason for asking: To get past the surface and address one of the underlying reasons conservatives defend Trump.
As always, I tell people to value their relationships first. Push where you can but don’t waste your time or destroy any relationships you value.
Remember that the people you know aren’t the pundits on TV. Save your hate for the pundits behind the propaganda and remember that the people you know tend to make decisions based on whether they like you or not. Questions are often a good way to raise issues because it lets people form their own conclusions.
David Akadjian is the author of The Little Book of Revolution: A Distributive Strategy for Democracy (ebook also available).