“I Hope You Will Let Flynn Go”: Trump, Comey, Pragmemes and Socio-pragmatics (A Strawsonian Analysis)

  • Alessandro CaponeEmail author
  • Antonino Bucca
Part of the Perspectives in Pragmatics, Philosophy & Psychology book series (PEPRPHPS, volume 20)


In this paper, we discuss an utterance/pragmeme/pract by Donald Trump addressed to FBI Director Comey: ‘I hope you will let Flynn go’ (The complete original utterance as reconstructed by Comey is ‘I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go.” (Camp E, The hot potato of interpretative responsibility., 2017)). We consider the explicature of this utterance (I hope you will drop the Russian investigation concerning Flynn) and its illocutionary and perlocutionary effects. We argue that while Republicans opt for an Austinian or Searlian analysis, in the attempt to deny that this utterance constitutes an attempt to influence Comey, there are reasons for adopting a Strawsonian analysis, casting it in the framework of pragmemes, worked out by (Mey JL, Pragmatics. Oxford, Wiley, 2001) to cast a socio-pragmatic analysis of utterance interpretation in context. According to this analysis, Trump illicitly tried to persuade Comey to drop the Russian investigation, interfering with the judiciary power. A case can be made for obstruction of justice.


  1. Allan, Keith, Capone, Alessandro, Kecskes, Istvan, eds. 2017. Pragmemes and theories of language use. Cham, Springer.Google Scholar
  2. Atlas, Jay. 2005. Logic, meaning and conversation. Semantical underdeterminacy, implicature, and their Interface. Oxford, OUP.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Austin, John. 1975. How to do things with words. Harvard, Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Camp, Elisabeth. 2017. The hot potato of interpretative responsibility.
  5. Capone, Alessandro. 2005. Pragmemes. Journal of Pragmatics 37:1355–1371.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Capone, Alessandro. 2009. Are explicatures cancellable? Toward a theory of the speaker’s intentionality. Intercultural Pragmatics 6 (1):55–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Capone, Alessandro. 2013. Explicatures are not cancellable. In A. Capone, F. Lo Piparo, M. Carapezza, eds. Perspectives on linguistic pragmatics, Cham, Springer, 131–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Capone, Alessandro. 2016. The pragmatics of indirect reports. Cham, Springer.Google Scholar
  9. Capone, Alessandro, Poggi, Francesca, eds. 2016. Pragmatics and Law. Philosophical perspectives. Cham, Springer.Google Scholar
  10. CNN. 2017. Report: Mueller wants to talk to current and former Trump administration officials.
  11. Danner, C. (2017, June 11). Donald Trump Jr. may have accidentally confirmed part of Comey’s testimony. Retrieved July 29, 2017
  12. Editorial Board. (June 8, 2017). James Comey and the fear of being alone with Donald Trump. The New York Times.Retrieved July 29 from
  13. Editorial Board. (June 8, 2017).Mr. Comey and all the President’s lies. The New York Times. Retrieved July 29 from
  14. Goffman, E. 1981. Forms of talk. Philadelphia. University of Pennsylvania Press.Google Scholar
  15. Goldberg, Sanford. 2015. Assertion. On the philosophical significance of assertoric speech. Oxford, OUP.Google Scholar
  16. Horn, L.R. 1989. A natural history of negation. Chicago, Chicago University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Jaszczolt, Kasia. 2016. Meaning in linguistic interaction. Semantics, metasemantics, philosophy of language. Oxford, OUP.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kecskes, Istvan. 2013. Intercultural pragmatics. Oxford, OUP.Google Scholar
  19. Mey, Jacob L. 2001. Pragmatics. Oxford, Wiley.Google Scholar
  20. Levinson, Stephen. 2000. Presumptive meanings. The theory of generalized conversational implicature. Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Peacocke, Christopher. 2014. The mirror of the world. Subjects, consciousness, and self-consciousness. Oxford, OUP.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Searle, John. 1969. Speech acts. An essay in the philosophy of language. Cambridge, CUP.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Strawson, Peter. 1964. Intention and convention in speech acts. The Philosophical Review 73/4, 439–460.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Poggi, Francesca, Capone, Alessandro, eds. 2016. Pragmatics and law. Practical and theoretical perspectives. Cham, Springer.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Cognitive ScienceUniversity of MessinaMessinaItaly

Personalised recommendations