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Capone, Bucca, Warner and llewellyn on pragmemes and "i hope you will let flynn go"

Brian E. Butler

pp. 587-594

In this volume, Alessandro Capone and Antonino Bucca's essay makes a case, based upon the theory of pragmemes and socio-pragmatics, for taking Donald Trump's statement to Comey, "I hope you will let Flynn go," as an attempt of the President to get the then Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Comey to illegitimately drop the Russian probe, therefore being an illegal act of obstruction of justice. Their argument rests upon the claim that in this specific case, deniers of obstruction of justice claims, when faced with Trump's statements, must adopt a false theory of language in order to justify their conclusions. In his response, Richard Warner argues that though much of Capone and Bucca's claims are convincing, and that much of the analysis of language in their article is accurate, even accepting their pragmeme and socio-pragmatic driven analysis, the content of Trump's statement to Comey is not unequivocal enough to warrant certainty as to the obstruction claim. In this chapter one conclusion will be that Capone, Bucca and Warner all offer very important arguments useful in the accurate interpretation of Trump's statement, and for interpretation in law generally. This conclusion will be supported and made more explicit by reading the essays in relation to Karl Llewellyn's own constitutional theory, a theory that sees the constitution as an institution just partially, even minimally, based upon a purportedly "literal" reading of text. A further conclusion will be that theories of language, implicit or explicit, do indeed inevitably influence the analysis of statements like Trump's at a very deep and profound level. Yet, thought this is all correct, I will argue that Trump's statement, in context, cannot be read with such specificity so, in itself, it is sufficient evidence of obstruction of justice.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-00973-1_33

Full citation:

Butler, B. E. (2019)., Capone, Bucca, Warner and llewellyn on pragmemes and "i hope you will let flynn go", in A. Capone, M. Carapezza & F. Lo Piparo (eds.), Further advances in pragmatics and philosophy II, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 587-594.

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