Even before the upcoming public impeachment hearings, we know the facts. Despite the blizzard of falsehoods issued by Presidential tweet to cover up the crime – it was a “perfect call”, there was no quid pro quo — all these have been discredited, one by one, then abandoned. Most recently, Ambassador Gordon Sondland changed his earlier testimony and now remembers that he did tell a Ukrainian diplomat that military aid would be withheld if there were no investigation of Hunter Biden’s company.
We know this: the President used our money, not his own, to squeeze a desperate country into providing political dirt on Joe Biden, Trump’s possible opponent in the 2020 election. This extortion was intended to benefit himself, not the country. The military assistance he withheld in this shakedown had been allocated by our representatives in Congress for the fight against Russia in eastern Ukraine. Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Zelensky was so improper – so illegal – that even White House staffers were shocked and attempted a cover up. So the question is not what happened. Rather, the question is what are we going to do about it?
Trump’s apologists are flailing. One assertion is that the whole impeachment inquiry is tainted because we do not know the identity of the original whistleblower, and that person might be hostile to Trump. But it is completely irrelevant how the inquiry began or the sentiments of the person who began it if the inquiry has produced the truth – and it has. All of the major allegations in the whistleblower complaint have been corroborated by actual witnesses to the call.
Another argument is the standard “whataboutism.” What about Joe Biden? Why didn’t “they” do something about Biden when he publicly threatened consequences for Ukraine if a corrupt prosecutor were not removed? But Trump is President and Biden never was. Biden never took action on any such threat, if one were actually made, while Trump did. Whataboutism is simply an attempt to deflect attention from the conduct of the President with an argumentative tactic used on elementary school playgrounds.
Trump’s enduring support among his partisan base suggests that many people may simply be rejecting the plain facts. After all, politics operates at an emotional level at least as much as an intellectual one. Some of Trump’s supporters will be loyal no matter what. He is the leader of their team, their tribe. This causes them to reject uncomfortable actual facts and accept “alternative” facts. It has been happening this way nearly every day during Trump’s Presidency.
There is another segment who are beginning finally to acknowledge the facts about what Trump did – they have little choice. But they argue that Trump has committed only a small “political” offense that should not result in his impeachment or removal from office. As a general matter, it is legitimate to debate the seriousness of an offense when determining the punishment. In this case, however, Trump’s offense is not trivial. It involves corruption and abuse of power.
But wait, there’s more. The nation has just come through a contentious debate over the Mueller Report on interference in the 2016 election. Part of what Mueller and his team investigated was whether the Trump campaign or individuals close to the President conspired with Russia to produce and use unfavorable information against his then opponent Hilary Clinton. On July 25 could there have been any doubt in Trump’s mind that soliciting a foreign government to interfere in our elections was a seriously wrong thing to do? Yet this is exactly what Trump did in his call with Ukrainian President Zelensky.
I have written earlier that a special circle in hell is reserved for Congressmen and Senators who are smart enough know the damage Trump is actually inflicting on our system, yet who spin the facts to defend him or remain silent. It is said that these people fear the political consequences if they honestly evaluate the facts and conclude that Trump crossed the line. They are calculating what they stand to lose from holding Trump accountable even if they believe the Constitution and the good of the nation requires it. This is corrupt in itself.
Those of us in this part of West Virginia are relying on three elected officials to make the right call on this important matter: Congressman Alex Mooney and Senators Shelly Moore Capito and Joe Manchin. It will probably be the most important vote they take in their political lives.
Expecting Congressman Mooney to be a fair judge of the facts is a fool’s errand. He has taken every opportunity to cling to Trump’s coattails. He recently barged into a secure hearing room to disrupt a deposition that was not open to the public. Mooney’s claim that the procedures were unfair is absurd since they were basically the same procedures used in previous impeachment inquiries and Republican committee members were participating in the deposition. So now I expect Congressman Mooney to produce some other equally shallow reason to oppose holding Trump accountable. He’s just waiting for someone in the Republican leadership to tell him what that is.
Despite Congressman Mooney’s antics, it seems likely that the House will vote to impeach the President. That means a trial will be held in the Senate, where both of our Senators – one Republican and one Democrat – will have a vote.
Writing in the Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin said:
When a politician demands a private benefit (opposition research for a politician’s private use) in exchange for performing public act (releasing aid), that is called soliciting a bribe. That sort of mixing private gain with public conduct is precisely the definition of corruption. It is this sort of corrupt dealing that the impeachment clause in the Constitution contemplated when it refers to “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
If these facts are confirmed in a Senate trial, the only way our Senators could spare Trump from removal is if they conclude that the offense is not serious enough to justify removing the President. This is essentially what happened when President Clinton was impeached for illegal conduct that did not amount to a breach of national trust.
At this present moment we have a different situation. If Trump is not removed he will be emboldened to do more of the same to preserve his power and future Presidents may be as well. We know the facts. They are bad. What are we going to do about it?