March 29, 2020

Has He Done Enough?

By Stephen Tuttle | Dec. 7, 2019

We know, for a fact, it is illegal to solicit or receive information from a foreign national or government to influence a federal election. We know that because it's written in black and white in the statutes. 
We know, for a fact, President Donald Trump asked the newly elected president of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter at a time the senior Biden was a declared presidential candidate leading Trump in the polls. We know that because the requests are contained in the transcripts of the call released by the White House.
We also know, for a fact, the president sent off his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to push for an announcement of an investigation of the Bidens in exchange for which we'd release $391 million in military aid previously approved by Congress and the Ukrainian president would get a meeting with Trump. 
We know that because Trump tells the Ukrainian president he's sending Giuliani three separate times in the aforementioned transcripts of their phone call. 
Making things worse, we've now heard testimony that Trump didn't care if Ukraine launched an actual investigation; they just had to announce they were planning one.
So, we're actually left with one of four options here.
First, you believe Trump committed a crime in soliciting help from Ukraine, he should be impeached by the House, convicted by the Senate and removed from office.
Second, you believe Trump committed a crime, but it does not rise to the level of an impeachable offense. This is an especially troublesome position for Republicans who were gung-ho to impeach Bill Clinton because, during his deposition in a civil suit, he lied about his philandering. Most would consider that a lesser offense than asking a foreign government to intercede in our elections. 
Third, you don't believe he did anything wrong despite the president having given us the evidence himself. You have to willfully ignore both the statutes and Trump's own words to accept that position.
Fourth, you believe Trump broke the law, but you just don't care.
The invitation to Ukraine to get involved in our election is the current focus of the House of Representatives but it's hardly the only incident they could investigate. Robert Mueller identified 10 separate occasions in which the president obstructed or attempted to obstruct justice. Then there is the emolument clause of the Constitution that prohibits a president from making money because of his position.
Since impeachment is only an accusation – a trial would be held in the Senate requiring a two-thirds majority for conviction – both the obstruction and emolument issues are also ripe for investigation.  
Has the president done enough to merit impeachment?
President Andrew Johnson was impeached for his dismissal of Secretary of War Edward Stanton. The Senate fell a vote short of convicting him on the first two of the 11 counts and then gave up since they weren't going to change anyone's vote. 
Richard Nixon most certainly would have been impeached and convicted had he not resigned. We now know the Watergate fiasco and cover-up weren't his only issues; he's on tape ordering underlings to break into the Brookings Institute, “blow the safe,” and destroy documents about the Vietnam War inside. It was a carnival of high crimes and misdemeanors in a single sentence. 
Bill Clinton was impeached not because of any policy or issue but because his personal behavior was abominable. He was sued by Paula Jones for what amounted to sexual assault and during that deposition lied about his repugnant behavior with Monica Lewinsky. (He settled the lawsuit with Jones before it came to trial.) 
Trump, by the way, has his own civil suit problems. A woman claiming Trump sexually assaulted her is suing him for defamation because he publicly called her a liar. So far, the courts have determined the suit can go forward despite a blizzard of attempts by the Trump lawyers to have the case dismissed.    
It's easy here to argue Trump was just trying to make another deal; he'd give Ukraine the money we'd already promised and a White House visit in exchange for the appearance of some dirt on Joe Biden. 
Unfortunately, seeking such assistance was illegal and is certainly worthy of him being accused of wrongdoing – the point of impeachment. (There was no dirt on Biden and no investigation was announced or undertaken.) As the process moves forward it will be interesting to note which members of Congress deflect, obfuscate and float schools of red herrings and which engage in actual fact-finding.
This is neither a hoax nor a coup nor a witch hunt; the president's own recklessness has led him to this moment. Some deals can't be made … and no laws should be broken by our president.  


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