The Courage of Our Convictions (for Perjury)

It seems pretty likely that Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently committed a felony, which is a pretty compelling reason to remove him from his position at the head of our nation’s justice system. Specifically, it appears that he committed perjury by lying under oath. Under any reasonable interpretation, the case against him is pretty straightforward. During his confirmation hearings, he said, “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that [i.e., the Trump] campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.” But he did have communications with the Russians, in that he met with the Russian ambassador at least twice during the Trump campaign. This sounds a lot like perjury.

In the real world, perjury cases are pretty difficult to prove, which is probably usually a good thing. This article gives a pretty good rundown of the difficulties of pinning a perjury charge on Sessions for this issue. The long and short of it is that language is full of ambiguity. Did Sessions mean that he didn’t meet with the Russians as a Trump surrogate? Did he just forget about the meeting, like an idiot?1  These distinctions matter, from a legal standpoint.

Still, there was one famous case not too long ago in which these ambiguities were widely ignored by our legislative branch. The impeachment of Bill Clinton in 1998 rested largely on a perjury charge, in circumstances that were also fairly ambiguous—this is where we got Clinton’s famous line that “It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is”.2 But at the time, a lot of our legislators believed that ambiguities were not important, and that Clinton should be removed from office. Perhaps we should encourage our current Senators and Representatives to take a page from then-Alabama-Senator Jeff Sessions, and find now-Attorney-General Jeff Sessions guilty of perjury.

Fortunately, nine of the Senators who voted Clinton guilty of perjury are still in office. In the House, there are 26 remaining Representatives who cast the equivalent of “guilty” votes on a perjury charge.3   Their names appear below, along with contact information. We can safely assume that they all believe strongly in a very broad interpretation of this law, so it would be very unfortunate if they missed the chance to convict Sessions for meeting with Russian officials and then claiming under oath that he did not meet with Russian officials. To that end, if any of these people represents you (you can check your representative here), or if you have a phone, it only makes sense to contact them and urge them to hold fast to the principles they demonstrated in the Clinton era: find Jeff Sessions guilty of perjury, and do everything they can to remove him from office. To quote a longtime perjury-hawk, “the American people believe no one is above the law.”

Chamber Person Represents Phone Number for D.C. Office Other Contact Info
Senate John McCain Arizona (202) 224-2235 https://www.mccain.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/contact-form
Senate Mike Crapo Idaho (202) 224-6142 http://www.crapo.senate.gov/contact/email.cfm
Senate Chuck Grassley Iowa (202) 224-3744 http://www.grassley.senate.gov/contact
Senate Pat Roberts Kansas (202) 224-4774 https://www.roberts.senate.gov/public/?p=EmailPat
Senate Mitch McConnell Kentucky (202) 224-2541 http://www.mcconnell.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=contact
Senate Thad Cochran Mississippi (202) 224-5054 https://www.cochran.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/email-me
Senate Jim Inhofe Oklahoma (202) 224-4721 https://www.inhofe.senate.gov/contact
Senate Orrin Hatch Utah (202) 224-5251 http://www.hatch.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/contact?p=Email-Orrin
Senate Mike Enzi Wyoming (202) 224-3424 http://www.enzi.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/office-locations
House Don Young Alaska at-large 202-225-5765 http://donyoung.house.gov/
House Jim Sensenbrenner Wisconsin 5 202-225-5101 http://sensenbrenner.house.gov/contact/info.htm
House Hal Rogers Kentucky 5 202-225-4601 https://halrogers.house.gov/office-info
House Chris Smith New Jersey 4 202-225-3765 http://chrissmith.house.gov/contact/
House Joe Barton Texas 6 202-225-2002 https://joebarton.house.gov/
House Lamar S. Smith Texas 21 202-225-4236 http://lamarsmith.house.gov/
House Fred Upton Michigan 6 202-225-3761 http://upton.house.gov/contact/zipauth.htm
House John Duncan Tennessee 2 202-225-5301 http://duncan.house.gov/
House Dana Rohrabacher California 48 202-225-2415 https://rohrabacher.house.gov/contact/offices
House Ileana Ros-Lehtinen Florida 27 202-225-3931 https://ros-lehtinen.house.gov/contact-me
House Sam Johnson Texas 3 202-225-6673 http://samjohnson.house.gov/
House Ken Calvert California 42 202-225-1986 http://calvert.house.gov/contact/
House Bob Goodlatte Virginia 6 202-225-5431 https://goodlatte.house.gov/
House Ed Royce California 39 202-225-4111 http://royce.house.gov/contact/stopby.htm
House Frank Lucas Oklahoma 3 202-225-5565 https://lucas.house.gov/contact-me
House Rodney Frelinghuysen New Jersey 11 202-225-5034 https://frelinghuysen.house.gov/contact-us/
House Walter B. Jones Jr. North Carolina 3 202-225-3415 https://jones.house.gov/contact-me
House Frank LoBiondo New Jersey 2 202-225-6572 https://lobiondo.house.gov/contact-me
House Mac Thornberry Texas 13 202-225-3706 http://thornberry.house.gov/contact/
House Robert Aderholt Alabama 4 202-225-4876 https://aderholt.house.gov/
House Kevin Brady Texas 8 202-225-4901 http://kevinbrady.house.gov/contact/
House Kay Granger Texas 12 202-225-5071 http://kaygranger.house.gov/contact-kay
House Pete Sessions Texas 32 202-225-2231 https://sessions.house.gov/contact
House John Shimkus Illinois 15 202-225-5271 https://shimkus.house.gov/
House Steve Chabot Ohio 1 202-225-2216 http://chabot.house.gov/contact/
House Mark Sanford South Carolina 1 202-225-3176 https://sanfordforms.house.gov/contact/

(Note: If you don’t immediately see any useful contact information in the linked sites, try scrolling down to the bottom of the page. A lot of these guys hide their office locations and phone numbers down there.)

Notes


1. This line of defense hinges on the idea that Sessions completely forgot meeting the ambassador of Russia, the country that was then all over the news for its suspicious involvement with the Trump campaign that Sessions was heavily promoting. In other words, Sessions is arguing that he is too stupid to be the Attorney General, rather than too criminal. 

2. Clinton was right about this. He made a present tense statement, “There’s nothing going on between us”, which was true at the time he said it. Compare Sessions’s claim that he meant he never met with the Russians “as a Trump surrogate”, which is not what he said. 

3. I’m referring to everyone who voted “Yea” on Article I of H.Res.611, as recorded here. It appears to me that Article II also dealt with a perjury charge, but since it failed I ignored it. 

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Donald Trump is the Fattest President in 100 Years

Is Donald Trump the fattest President in 100 years? This is, in some ways, not an important question, and it’s cruel to shame people about their weight. Yet, Trump himself thinks it’s very important to judge people on the basis of weight, and he would clearly be infuriated to learn that everyone knows he’s the fattest President in 100 years, which might distract him from killing us all and ruining the world for a little while. So let’s investigate this.

According to his fake medical records, released by handing a grifter a piece of paper on a TV show, Trump is 6’3″ and weighs 236 pounds. This would give him a body mass index (BMI) of 29.5, just shy of the range considered obese (which starts at 30). Where would that place him among U.S. Presidents? Well, it’s tough to get reliable data about weight for Presidents before about WWII, but we can be pretty certain that William Howard Taft was fatter; Wikipedia tactfully notes that “Taft is remembered as the heaviest president; he was 5 feet 11 inches (1.80 m) tall and his weight peaked at 335–340 pounds”. Taking the upper end of that estimate, Taft’s peak BMI would have been about 47.4, which would make him “very seriously obese” according to the Wikipedia BMI page. Trump is nowhere near that, so that gives us a clear limit—104 years ago, there was definitely a fatter President.

What about the intervening century? Only two people strike me as contenders; everyone else was pretty obviously thinner than Trump. Some guy looked into Presidential BMI a few years ago; that writer doesn’t cover everyone, and I think a few of his findings are a little off, but I think he’s close enough on most Presidents that we can safely rule them out. (Harding and Coolidge, the two post-Taft guys he leaves out, were not obviously overweight, either). But for two Presidents I wondered if he was correct.

The first is Bill Clinton, who according to a Phil Hartman impersonation loved to eat fast food. But a quick glance at some photos indicates that he was thinner than I remembered. Here he is in his famous Arsenio Hall appearance; he looks reasonably svelte. In this New Republic article about his health habits, the highest weight they mention is 216 lbs, which, given his 6’2″ height, would indicate a peak BMI of 27.7—overweight, but still shy of Trump.

The other guy is Lyndon Johnson, who is listed in the blogpost above as weighing 200 lbs. But LBJ’s weight fluctuated a lot; he was naturally kind of paunchy but vain enough to diet constantly (and sometimes, apparently, to wear a girdle). One book puts his peak weight as high as 220 lbs; another as “more than 240”. LBJ is usually listed as 6’3.5″ tall (I suspect he was measured very carefully so Lincoln could keep the height record, at 6’4″), so with a weight of, say, 245 lbs, that would give him a maximum BMI of 30.2.

Does that mean LBJ takes the crown from Trump? Is Trump merely the fattest President in the last half century? Not necessarily. Trump’s height and weight records are probably lies. I’m saying that not just because they are claims that Trump made, and not just because any sane person would clearly have released actual medical records if he wasn’t lying, but because the empirical evidence suggests it. Weight changes over time and is difficult to estimate from afar, but Trump’s claim to weigh 236 lbs was met with some healthy skepticism, as in this Washington Post article. It seems plausible that he weighs at least a little more, perhaps in the 240-250 range. But amazingly, the better case has to do with his height. As that article shows, photos of him standing next to other people strongly suggest that he is not 6’3″; Politico also found his driver’s license, which says that he’s 6’2″. Apparently he gets quite angry when people say that he’s 6’2″, but there you have it: Donald Trump is 6’2″. He’s not 6’3″; he’s 6’2″. To be clear: That’s 6’2″ for Donald Trump’s height, which is not 6’3″, and instead is merely 6’2″.

So, even if we don’t change the weight, adjusting to his actual height gives him a BMI of 30.3, nudging him into the obesity range and just past peak-fatness LBJ. When you consider that he probably actually weighs more, the case is that much stronger; at just 240 lbs, he’s up to 30.8. It seems safe to say it: By BMI, Trump is the fattest President in 100 years.

One question remains: Is BMI a good way to measure this? It’s a famously limited metric; a person in great shape might weigh a lot because of muscle mass, so you often get misleading results—e.g., peak Barry Sanders reads as obese on this metric, which is clearly not correct. Could it be that Trump is actually really healthy? After all, in the ludicrous doctor’s note he released during the campaign, the author claims that, “If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the Presidency.” Is there something to this?

No. Obviously not. To find a healthier President among the other 44 you have to go back… one, to Barack Obama, who is 16 years younger and still plays basketball on a regular basis. Is this answer a coincidence, or perhaps too partisan? Well, you could also go back… two, to George W. Bush, who is also younger than Trump even though he left office almost a decade ago, and who famously liked to work out all the time. Even Bill Clinton, who is also younger than Donald Trump, was jogging to those McDonald’s. Trump apparently loves fast food just as much, and in that Dr. Oz appearance with the fake medical records, we have this exchange:

OZ: How do you stay healthy on the campaign trail?

TRUMP: It’s a lot of work. When I’m speaking in front of 15 and 20,000 people and I’m up there using a lot of motion, I guess in its own way, it’s a pretty healthy act. I really enjoy doing it. A lot of times these rooms are very hot, like saunas, and I guess that is a form of exercise and, you know?

He thinks public speaking is a form of exercise, because he moves his arms around and it is sometimes hot in the room. This is not a man who works out, or, indeed, fully grasps the concept of working out. So, while it is possible that the use of BMI unfairly maligns the fitness of some Presidents, it clearly barely scratches the surface of Trump’s unhealthiness.

Conclusion: No matter how you look at it, Trump is the fattest President of the last 100 years. Spread the word.

 

 

P.S.: He’s also 6’2″.