“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
—- Alice in Alice in Wonderland
To believe the ongoing defense arguments in the Impeachment Trial of Donald John Trump, it would help to be in Alice’s shoes. Although, with the information coming out over the weekend, I’m not sure that even that would help.
Two revelations in particular make the president’s defense increasingly difficult to believe. One is the roughly 80 minute long video and audio tape released by Mr. Lev Parnas — the “associate” of Mr. Rudy Giuliani in the Ukrainian shakedown scheme — where he discusses the firing of the then U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. The second, and most important, is the report detailing the interactions between the president and his National Security Adviser John Bolton concerning the shakedown of Ukraine.
In the audio tape, Mr. Parnas and Mr. Trump discuss Ambassador Yovanovitch and the president is told that she is “bad-mouthing” him. The response?
“Get rid of her! Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. Okay? Do it!”
In addition to sounding like a bad mob movie, this is troubling in at least two ways. While the president’s defense is true, that he can hire and fire whomever he wants as an Ambassador, it wasn’t what happened as much as how it happened.
Mr. Trump claims he doesn’t know Mr. Parnas. This is just another one of his over 16,200 documented lies to date in office. Listening to the tape, he clearly does know him. The context is a general discussion about Ukraine and U.S. support to that fledgling democracy locked in a hot war with Russia. Note that he doesn’t say “we need to look into that,” or tell an aide that he needs more information or talk to Secretary of State Pompeo about what to do. Instead, on the spot, he commands her immediate removal.
This happens for one of two reasons. It could be that there already had been long discussions about how the Ambassador refused to “play ball” in the scheme and in fact was acting to end corruption — by opposing the actions of Giuliani and Associates.
The other reflects the president’s decision making style. Assume he really did not know Mr. Parnas. Then that means anyone could walk into the president’s inner circle (the recording was made during an intimate sit down dinner of about ten people), say any old outrageous thing and the president would bring the most powerful office in the land to bear on the spur of the moment and act on it without study, knowledge, strategy or process. That may be the scarier of the two prospects.
But now, as Alice would say, the situation is getting “curiouser and curousier.”
Mr. Bolton apparently is ready and willing to testify to what is in the manuscript of his upcoming book. Specifically, that in mid-August, as all government agencies were pushing for the release of about $400 million in desperately needed assistance to Ukraine, the president told him that he would not do so until the Ukrainians provided information on the Bidens and on Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election. These two conspiracy theories have been thoroughly and repeatedly debunked by his own administration’s officials.
The manuscript puts the lie to everything that the president, his lawyers and his cult followers in Congress have claimed since the whole mess became public.
The manuscript also reportedly shows the full depth and breadth of the conspiracy to extort Ukraine by illuminating the involvement of the Secretary of State, Attorney General and the Acting Chief of Staff. The whole place seems to be rotting from within.
Here is the kicker. The draft book was given to the White House staff on 30 December 2019. That means that the president, his defense attorneys and others in the administration knew about the testimony Mr. Bolton was ready to give and therefore, not only did they continue to knowingly lie when they said no one could testify to the president’s direct involvement, they knew it when the Senate voted not to have any witnesses or documents produced at the trial.
Let that sink in.
I would postulate that as a minimum, Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (TR-Ky) knew it too when he set the rules for the trial. Clearly, they were ready to jam through a vote to preclude witnesses knowing that there was at least one person that could provide exceedingly damaging testimony about the president’s real intentions.
A total sham and whitewash of a trial executed with malice of forethought.
My theory is that they knew the facts would come out eventually, but they did not care. The argument would be that the president was already acquitted and so, while “troubling”, too bad, so sad, we can’t do anything about it now. The House should have done their job (another canard among many), but they didn’t and so now we just have to live with it. Oh well. On to the election!
Only they got caught.
On Saturday I was convinced that the trial would end without any additional evidence or witnesses. They almost got away with it, but now I think that as many as eight or nine Republican Senators will vote for witnesses. What form that takes, and how many witnesses get called, I have no idea, but I would speculate that it is about a 60-40 chance that at least Mr. Bolton testifies. It is also possible, of course, that Mr. McConnell (aka Midnight Mitch, aka Moscow Mitch) might pull a legislative rabbit out of his hat to protect Mr. Trump, but there also may be enough pressure from his own caucus that he relents.
Much attention focused on four Republican Senators and how they might vote. In my view, and the view of several political analysts, there were never going to be four Senators joining the Democrats to vote for witnesses. There needed to be safety in numbers of at least six or seven in order that no one of them is accused of having “caved” to the Democrats and been the deciding vote. Otherwise, the Red Queen would have tweeted “Off with their heads!”
It is early in the proceedings, even if Mr. Trump and his accomplice in the Senate Mr. McConnell hoped to have it wrapped up by the end of this week. But as we have seen so often in these proceedings, even twenty-four hours is an eternity in the current political environment. Who knows what will happen?
I turn to Alice for one more parting piece of advice to the public and to those in Congress that may still care about holding this administration accountable.
“It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to go someplace else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”