A Sober AssessmentPosted: September 29, 2019
With Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) decision to open an impeachment inquiry into the actions of the president, a new chapter of American history is about to be written. This is serious business and it should be approached soberly by all of us.
Recognizing that I have used this space before to call for an impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump’s activities, I still caution everyone, Democrat, Republican, Independent or Undecided to pay attention to events as they unfold and not to jump to any conclusions until all of the facts are known and fully understood. Such an inquiry should not be taken lightly and the full consequences for our democracy should be fully understood and everyone must conduct themselves appropriately.
Please keep in mind, as well, that the inquiry is only the first step of many as the Congress moves forward. An inquiry determines if the House of Representatives considers there to be sufficient evidence to formulate Articles of Impeachment. If they so decide that the evidence exists, then through the Judiciary Committee they formulate the Articles and the entire House votes on each Article as to whether it should be referred to the Senate. The vote is on a simple majority. Should Articles be approved, the matter is referred to the Senate for a trial. It takes a two-thirds majority in the Senate to convict on any particular Article. Think of the House as a grand jury. They investigate and if they find sufficient evidence they refer it to trial in the Senate. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides at the trial, although the Majority Leader of the Senate can formulate the process by which the trial proceeds.
In my view, the inquiry is fully appropriate. Forget for the moment (if such is possible) the results of the Mueller Report, the misappropriation of funds, the declarations of National Emergencies where none exist, the violation of campaign laws and the rest of it. The information that became available in the course of last week concerning Mr. Trump’s interactions with the president of Ukraine is sufficient, in and of itself, to warrant investigation.
If you remember nothing else, note that the Russian interference involved the 2016 election. Mr. Trump was working to solicit interference in the 2020 election. After all we learned about the past, Mr. Trump intended to move ahead with a bigger and better plan to throw the next election. Note that his now famous phone call took place the day after Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller testified before Congress. In the phone call Mr. Trump is quoted as saying, “As you saw yesterday, that whole performance ended with a poor performance by a man named Robert Mueller, an incompetent performance, but they say a lot of it started with Ukraine.” In Mr. Trump’s mind there was no consequence to his actions in 2016 so he decided to do it again.
The information in the public domain was released by the Trump Administration itself. The memorandum for the record of the 25 July conversation (read it here) and the unclassified version of the whistle-blower’s complaint (read it here) were not “leaked” or otherwise released by nefarious means. Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Trump have themselves validated that the events occurred as depicted in those documents. And more.
It is the “and more” that adds context to the matter and illustrates the depth of the alleged abuse of office. The problem is way more concerning than one phone call, although in itself it is quite serious.
Without going into every twist and turn, the big picture indicates that Mr. Giuliani began working with the Ukrainian government to dig up dirt on former Vice President Biden and his son Hunter in late 2018, as soon as it became apparent the Mr. Biden would run for president and be a serious threat to Mr. Trump’s re-election. He worked with discredited and then current Ukrainian prosecutors of the government of President Poroshenko. In January, February, and March of this year he continued to pressure them to investigate the Bidens and to promote disproved conspiracy theories concerning the Democratic National Committee emails and servers and the then Ambassador from the U.S. to Ukraine, claiming that they worked to interfere in the 2016 election (not the Russians).
All was going well from Mr. Giuliani’s stand point until on 21 April Volodymyr Zelensky beat all predictions by defeating Mr. Poroshenko in the presidential election. Mr. Zelensky ran on a platform of eliminating corruption in the Ukrainian government and nearly all new prosecutors were appointed. Much of Mr. Giuliani’s work went to waste and they needed to start over in trying to co-opt the Ukrainians. That process began with a congratulatory phone call to the winner.
In May the president permanently recalled U.S. Ambassador Masha Yovanonitch, a career State Department employee, because she was trying to counter Mr. Giuliani’s attempts at co-opting the new government. She was, in essence, fired for working to protect the national security interests of the United States.
Later in May, Mr. Trump cancelled Vice President Mike Pence’s trip to the Ukrainian president’s inauguration, an embarrassing blow to the new president. In the whistle-blower’s complaint the reason was to withhold favors for Mr. Zelensky until they could determine if he would “play ball” with Mr. Trump through Mr. Giuliani — presumably meaning that they would work to discredit the Bidens and to support conspiracy theories about former Secretary Hillary Clinton’s emails.
In July of this year, the Office of Management and Budget, on the direction of the president himself, according to the whistle-blower, withheld much needed military and other aid for Ukraine. When State Department and Pentagon officials tried to find out the reason, they were stonewalled. On 25 July the president made his phone call and on the 26th, envoys of the U.S. met with President Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials to help them “navigate the demands the president had made” the previous day.
Other outrageous details of improper behavior can be found in the complaint that the Intelligence Community (IC) Inspector General (IG) and the Acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) both testified was “credible.” Both individuals were appointed by Mr. Trump.
It might also be noted quickly that Ukraine is in a fighting war with Russia. 13,000 Ukrainians have died in the fight and the Russians helped to shoot down Malaysian Air Flight 17 with the loss of all 298 people onboard. Any delay or cancellation of arms to Ukraine helps Russia in its efforts.
In the grand tradition of Washington DC, a cover-up occurred. As a minimum, the details of the phone call and other activities were over-classified and stored on a computer designed to be used for only the highest classified compartmented information. This was a decision designed to protect Mr. Trump from embarrassing domestic political activity. We do not know how many other conversations or documents are improperly classified in order to protect the president from his own actions and words by hiding them from the public and government officials that might object to such activity.
These are serious allegations that cannot be brushed away. They certainly deserve a full investigation. One can than decide for oneself whether or not the facts as they are uncovered deserve impeachment or not.
In that discussion, remember that a lot of smoke is going to be blown to try and hide the real transgressions. Some will take a narrow legal approach that no U.S. laws were actually broken. Others will argue that a president has the Constitutional right to conduct foreign policy in any manner that they choose. Some will argue it was “just a phone call” to a country that no one cares about. Others will argue that we as citizens are naive if we don’t think that this is how it is always done. Some will simply argue that there is nothing to see here, please move along.
We have a national security interest in Ukraine because if Russia gets away with its aggression, Russia has ambitions concerning other “traditional” Russian areas such as the Baltic states. As members of NATO, any attack on the Baltic states is an attack on all members of NATO, including the U.S.
I simply say that the President of the United States, by his own admission and corroborated by Mr. Giuliani and others, used his office to involve a foreign government in our national elections in an attempt to personally benefit from another nation’s activities at the expense of our own national security.
To ignore it is to condone it.