I honor and applaud Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s
service to his country. He’s a hero. I also respect his decision to testify at
the impeachment proceedings. I suspect neither his service nor his testimony
But I also know the liberties that Lt. Col. Vindman fought on
the battlefield to preserve permit for a free and honest debate in America, one
that can’t be muted by the color of uniform or the crushing power of the state.
So I want to exercise my right to debate Lt. Col. Vindman about
the testimony he gave about me. You see, under oath to Congress, he asserted all
the factual elements in my columns at The Hill about Ukraine were false, except
maybe my grammar
all the key elements were false,” Vindman testified.
Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y, pressed him about what he meant. “Just so I understand what you mean when you say key elements, are you referring to everything John Solomon stated or just some of it?”
elements that I just laid out for you. The criticisms of corruption were false….
Were there more items in there, frankly, congressman? I don’t recall. I haven’t
looked at the article in quite some time, but you know, his grammar might have
Such testimony has been injurious to my reputation, one earned during 30 years of impactful reporting for news organizations that included The Associated Press, The Washington Post, The Washington Times and The Daily Beast/Newsweek.
And so Lt. Col. Vindman, here are the 28 primary factual elements in my Ukraine columns, complete with attribution and links to sourcing. Please tell me which, if any, was factually wrong.
Fact 1: Hunter Biden was hired in May 2014 by Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian natural gas company, at a time when his father Joe Biden was Vice President and overseeing US-Ukraine Policy. Here is the announcement. Hunter Biden’s hiring came just a few short weeks after Joe Biden urged Ukraine to expand natural gas production and use Americans to help. You can read his comments to the Ukrainian prime minister here. Hunter Biden’s firm then began receiving monthly payments totaling $166,666. You can see those payments here.
Fact 3: Vice President Joe Biden and his office were alerted by a December 2015 New York Times article that Shokin’s office was investigating Burisma and that Hunter Biden’s role at the company was undercutting his father’s anticorruption efforts in Ukraine.
Fact 4: The Biden-Burisma issue created the appearance of a conflict of interest, especially for State Department officials. I especially refer you to State official George Kent’s testimony here. He testified he viewed Burisma as corrupt and the Bidens as creating the perception of a conflict of interest. His concerns both caused him to contact the vice president’s office and to block a project that State’s USAID agency was planning with Burisma in 2016. In addition, Ambassador Yovanovitch testified she, too, saw the Bidens-Burisma connection as creating the appearance of a conflict of interest. You can read her testimony here.
Fact 5: The Obama White House invited Shokin’s prosecutorial team to Washington for meetings in January 2016 to discuss their anticorruption investigations. You can read about that here. Also, here is the official agenda for that meeting in Ukraine and English. I call your attention to the NSC organizer of the meeting.
Fact 6: The Ukraine investigation of Hunter Biden’s employer, Burisma Holdings, escalated in February 2016 when Shokin’s office raided the home of company owner Mykola Zlochevsky and seized his property. Here is the announcement of that court-approved raid.
Fact 7: Shokin was making plans in February 2016 to interview Hunter Biden as part of his investigation. You can read his interview with me here, his sworn deposition to a court here and his interview with ABC News here.
Fact 8: Burisma’s American representatives lobbied the State Department in late February 2016 to help end the corruption allegations against the company, and specifically invoked Hunter Biden’s name as a reason to intervene. You can read State officials’ account of that effort here
Fact 9: Joe Biden boasted in a 2018 videotape that he forced Ukraine’s president to fire Shokin in March 2016 by threatening to withhold $1 billion in U.S. aid. You can view his videotape here.
Fact 10: Shokin stated in interviews with me and ABC News that he was told he was fired because Joe Biden was unhappy the Burisma investigation wasn’t shut down. He made that claim anew in this sworn deposition prepared for a court in Europe. You can read that here.
Fact 11: The day Shokin’s firing was announced in March 2016, Burisma’s legal representatives sought an immediate meeting with his temporary replacement to address the ongoing investigation. You can read the text of their emails here.
Fact 12: Burisma’s legal representatives secured that meeting April 6, 2016 and told Ukrainian prosecutors that “false information” had been spread to justify Shokin’s firing, according to a Ukrainian government memo about the meeting. The representatives also offered to arrange for the remaining Ukrainian prosecutors to meet with U.S State and Justice officials. You can read the Ukrainian prosecutors’ summary memo of the meeting here and here and the Burisma lawyers’ invite to Washington here.
Fact 13: Burisma officials eventually settled the Ukraine investigations in late 2016 and early 2017, paying a multimillion dollar fine for tax issues. You can read their lawyer’s February 2017 announcement of the end of the investigations here.
Fact 14: In March 2019, Ukraine authorities reopened an investigation against Burisma and Zlochevsky based on new evidence of money laundering. You can read NABU’s February 2019 recommendation to re-open the case here, the March 2019 notice of suspicion by Ukraine prosecutors here and a May 2019 interview here with a Ukrainian senior law enforcement official stating the investigation was ongoing. And here is an announcement this week that the Zlochevsky/Burisma probe has been expanded to include allegations of theft of Ukrainian state funds.
Fact 15: The Ukraine embassy in Washington issued a statement in April 2019 admitting that a Democratic National Committee contractor named Alexandra Chalupa solicited Ukrainian officials in spring 2016 for dirt on Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort in hopes of staging a congressional hearing close to the 2016 election that would damage Trump’s election chances. You can read the embassy’s statement here and here. Your colleague, Dr. Fiona Hill, confirmed this episode, testifying “Ukraine bet on the wrong horse. They bet on Hillary Clinton winning.” You can read her testimony here.
Fact 16: Chalupa sent an email to top DNC officials in May 2016 acknowledging she was working on the Manafort issue. You can read the email here.
Fact 17: Ukraine’s ambassador to Washington, Valeriy Chaly, wrote an OpEd in The Hill in August 2016 slamming GOP nominee Donald Trump for his policies on Russia despite a Geneva Convention requirement that ambassadors not become embroiled in the internal affairs or elections of their host countries. You can read Ambassador Chaly’s OpEd here and the Geneva Convention rules of conduct for foreign diplomats here. And your colleagues Ambassador Yovanovitch and Dr. Hill both confirmed this, with Dr. Hill testifying this week that Chaly’s OpEd was “probably not the most advisable thing to do.”
Fact 18: A Ukrainian district court ruled in December 2018 that the summer 2016 release of information by Ukrainian Parliamentary member Sergey Leschenko and NABU director Artem Sytnyk about an ongoing investigation of Manafort amounted to an improper interference by Ukraine’s government in the 2016 U.S. election. You can read the court ruling here. Leschenko and Sytnyk deny the allegations, and have won an appeal to suspend that ruling on a jurisdictional technicality.
Fact 19: George Soros’ Open Society Foundation issued a memo in February 2016 on its strategy for Ukraine, identifying the nonprofit Anti-Corruption Action Centre as the lead for its efforts. You can read the memo here.
Fact 20: The State Department and Soros’ foundation jointly funded the Anti-Corruption Action Centre. You can read about that funding here from the Centre’s own funding records and George Kent’s testimony about it here.
Fact 21: In April 2016, US embassy charge d’affaires George Kent sent a letter to the Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office demanding that Ukrainian prosecutors stand down a series of investigations into how Ukrainian nonprofits spent U.S. aid dollars, including the Anti-Corruption Actions Centre. You can read that letter here. Kent testified he signed the letter here.
Fact 22: Then-Ukraine Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko said in a televised interview with me that Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch during a 2016 meeting provided the lists of names of Ukrainian nationals and groups she did want to see prosecuted. You can see I accurately quoted him by watching the video here.
Fact 23: Ambassador Yovanovitch and her embassy denied Lutsenko’s claim, calling it a “fabrication.” I reported their reaction here.
Fact 24: Despite the differing accounts of what happened at the Lutsenko-Yovanovitch meeting, a senior U.S. official in an interview arranged by the State Department stated to me in spring 2019 that US officials did pressure Lutsenko’s office on several occasions not to “prosecute, investigate or harass” certain Ukrainian activists, including Parliamentary member Leschenko, journalist Vitali Shabunin, the Anti-Corruption Action Centre and NABU director Sytnyk. You can read that official’s comments here. In addition, George Kent confirmed this same information in his deposition here.
Fact 25: In May 2018, then-House Rules Committee chairman Pete Sessions sent an official congressional letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asking that Yovanovitch be recalled as ambassador to Ukraine. Sessions and State confirmed the official letter, which you can read here.
Fact 26: In fall 2018, Ukrainian prosecutors, using a third party, hired an American lawyer (a former U.S. attorney) to proffer information to the U.S. government about certain activities at the U.S. embassy, involving Burisma and involving the 2016 election, that they believed might have violated U.S. law. You can read their account here. You can also confirm it independently by talking to the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan or the American lawyer representing the Ukrainian prosecutors’ interests.
Fact 27: In May 2016, one of George Soros’ top aides secured a meeting with the top Eurasia policy official in the State Department to discuss Russian bond issues. You can read the State memos on that meeting here.
Fact 28: In June 2016, Soros himself secured a telephonic meeting with Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland to discuss Ukraine policy. You can read the State memos on that meeting here.
Lt. Col. Vindman, if you have information that contradicts
any of these 28 factual elements in my columns I ask that you make it publicly
available. Your testimony did not.
If you don’t have evidence these 28 facts are wrong, I ask that you correct your testimony because any effort to call factually accurate reporting false only misleads America and chills the free debate our Constitutional framers so cherished to protect.
The House Judiciary Committee voted Friday morning along party lines to impeach President Donald Trump, sending two charges to the House floor for what is expected to be another party-line vote next week to set up a Senate trial in January.
Now attention turns to the 31 House Democrats who were elected last year in congressional districts Trump won in 2016. Democrats can lose no more than 17 “yes” votes in order to impeach Trump.
“For the third time in a little over a century and a half, the House Judiciary Committee has voted articles of impeachment against the president for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The House will act expeditiously,” Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., told reporters in brief remarks after the committee votes.
In two separate actions following 14 hours of contention Thursday between the committee’s Democrats and Republicans, the panel voted 23-17 Friday to approve two articles of impeachment: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
The committee first voted to impeach Trump for abuse of power over his July 25 phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. During the conversation, the two leaders talked briefly about Trump’s interest in Ukraine’s investigating the conduct of former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, as a highly paid board member of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma while the senior Biden was President Barack Obama’s point man for Ukraine policy.
Democrats contend Trump was trying to pressure and coerce the newly elected Zelenskyy to announce a politicized investigation at a time when Trump had put a hold on $391 million in U.S. military assistance to Ukraine.
However, both Trump and Zelenskyy insist there was no pressure. Trump released the aid in September.
Speaking to the press pool after the committee votes, Trump said the actions will “trivialize” impeachment from this point forward.
“To be using this for a perfect phone call where the president of that country [Ukraine] said there was no pressure at all, didn’t even know what we were talking about. It was perfect,” Trump said, adding:
The relationship [with Zelenskyy] was perfect. I’ve done much more for them than Obama did for them. It’s a scam. It’s something that shouldn’t be allowed, and you are trivializing impeachment. And I’ll tell you what, someday there will be a Democrat president and there will be a Republican House, and I suspect they are going to remember it. That’s what happens when you use impeachment for absolutely nothing—other than to try and get political gain.
In its second action, the Judiciary Committee voted to impeach Trump for obstruction of Congress for not allowing subpoenaed administration witnesses to testify and otherwise not cooperating with House Democrats’ impeachment investigation.
Two Democrats had joined all Republicans in opposing the House’s formal impeachment inquiry.
The committee’s votes come after a two-month House investigation led by Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
The Judiciary Committee debated the two articles for about 14 hours Thursday during a “markup” session that lasted until almost midnight.
Friday morning, Nadler essentially gaveled in, held the two votes, and gaveled the meeting to a close in about 10 minutes.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham called the votes a “desperate charade” by House Democrats.
“This desperate charade of an impeachment inquiry in the House Judiciary Committee has reached its shameful end,” Grisham said. “The president looks forward to receiving in the Senate the fair treatment and due process which continues to be disgracefully denied to him by the House.”
Some moderate Democrats are expected to defect in the House floor vote next week, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi needs only a simple majority to approve articles of impeachment.
In the Senate, 67 votes—a two-thirds majority—are needed to convict and remove a president.
If the House approves articles of impeachment next week, Trump will become only the third president in American history to be impeached.
In 1868, the House impeached President Andrew Johnson for firing a Cabinet official without Senate approval—a violation of the Tenure of Office Act. Johnson survived a Senate trial by one vote.
In 1998, the House impeached President Bill Clinton for perjury and obstruction of justice in connection with his attempts to cover up an affair with a White House intern. Neither article of impeachment gained a Senate majority.
The House Judiciary Committee approved three articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon in 1974 related to the Watergate scandal, but Nixon resigned before the full House voted.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s private lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was at the White House on Friday, the same day that a Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives panel approved impeachment charges against Trump.
Giuliani, who has emerged as central figure in the Democratic-lead impeachment investigation, was caught on television cameras entering the West Wing.
The White House did not immediately provide a reason for the visit and a lawyer for Giuliani declined to comment on the reason.
Trump has asked Giuliani to brief Republican senators and the Justice Department about information he collected on a visit to Ukraine last week. Giuliani has played a key role in trying to collect dirt on a potential Democratic political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, in the 2020 elections.
Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway told reporters she was not sure why Giuliani was at the White House but noted he is one of Trump’s personal attorneys and had just returned from Ukraine.
Trump faces impeachment by the full House next week on charges that he abused his power to pressure Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son Hunter Biden, who was a board member of a Ukrainian gas company.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that when Giuliani returned to New York from Ukraine on Saturday, the president called him as his plane was still taxiing down the runway.
“‘What did you get?’” Giuliani said Trump asked, according to the Journal. “More than you can imagine,” the former New York mayor replied. He told the newspaper he is putting his findings into a 20-page report.
Reporting by Steve Holland, additional reporting by Karen Freifeld; editing by Ross Colvin, Jonathan Oatis and Dan Grebler
More than $20 million of the Pentagon aid at the center of the impeachment fight still hasn’t reached Ukraine.
The continued delay undermines a key argument against impeachment from President Trump’s Republican allies and a new legal memo from the White House Office of Management and Budget.
Initially, Trump directed officials to withhold roughly $400 million in assistance to Ukraine as he and aides pressured its new government under President Volodymyr Zelensky to open investigations into Trump’s political rivals. The White House released the hold on the aid in September, but not before sparking a whistleblower complaint that led to the impeachment inquiry.
On Thursday, as lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee debated articles of impeachment, Republicans on the panel continued to assert that Trump did not abuse his power because the aid was released before Ukraine’s new government announced any investigations.
“They got the money on Sept. 11,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said of Ukraine in the Thursday hearing. “That’s what happened. You can make up all the things you want, but those are not the facts.”
But $20.2 million of the Pentagon’s $250-million portion of the aid has yet to reach Ukraine and remains in U.S. accounts, according to the Department of Defense and Senate aides.
The OMB also released a new legal memo Wednesday night arguing it did not violate the law because the aid to Ukraine was released after a temporary pause “to study whether the spending complied with U.S. policy.”
“At no point during the pause” did Defense Department lawyers tell the OMB that the hold on the Ukrainian funding “would prevent DOD from being able to obligate the funds before the end of the fiscal year,” according to the memo, first reported by the Washington Post. Accordingly, the memo asserts, withholding the aid had little impact.
Several OMB officials resigned in part due to their concerns that the withholding was illegal, and witnesses from the Defense Department and other parts of the administration testified publicly in the impeachment inquiry that there was widespread concern that the aid could not be spent by Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year, and would expire.
About $15 million has since been contracted out, leaving $20.2 million remaining in U.S. accounts, according to the Pentagon and Senate aides.
Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Carla M. Gleason told The Times on Thursday that the remaining Ukraine aid that has yet to be transferred to the U.S. military services and contracted out “will be implemented as quickly as possible in accordance with contracting procedures and applicable law,” echoing earlier statements from October and November.
“We still don’t have a clear understanding of why this is taking so long,” one Senate aide said.
Gleason said the delay was due to requirements in the law that granted the Pentagon the extension to spend the Ukraine aid.
“Specifically, we needed to reach out to prospective vendors to obtain updated pricing data,” she said. “Delays in obtaining this information is impacting our overall time lines.”
But Senate staffers said that law contained no such requirements for the Pentagon to essentially start over on contracts.
Meanwhile, the Ukraine aid remains a political football in the impeachment fight.
At Thursday’s hearing, where members are expected to approve forwarding the impeachment articles for a full House vote, Republicans continued to argue that Trump was doing his job by withholding aid because of corruption concerns.
Several Democrats noted that Trump didn’t hold up millions of dollars in similar congressionally approved aid for Ukraine in his first two years in office. And the attempts to get Ukraine to investigate Ukrainian energy company Burisma and board member Hunter Biden, former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, only began after polls showed the elder Biden beating Trump in the 2020 presidential election, Democrats said.
“He released aid in 2017, he released aid in 2018 and suddenly he became concerned in 2019 right after Vice President Biden announced that he was going to run,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said.
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) responded that what changed is that Ukraine elected a new president, and Pentagon assurances that the money would be properly spent came under the previous administration. He said Trump released the aid on Sept. 11 after Zelensky had signed new anti-corruption policies a few days before.
“There was a concern whether Mr. Zelensky was the real deal,” Biggs said.
The Defense Department certified to Congress on May 23 that Ukraine had made the progress on corruption that was legally required to get the aid released — more than a month after Zelensky won the presidency and days after his inauguration. That was two months before his July call with Trump that kicked off the historic events expected to culminate in a vote next week by the Democratic-led House to impeach the U.S. president.
After nearly a month of hearings and contentious debate, the Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee moved to approve articles impeachment of President Trump, moving the impeachment process into full gear. The votes Friday fell along party lines, passing 23 to 17.
“Today is a solemn and sad day. For the third time in a little over a century and a half, the House Judiciary Committee has voted articles of impeachment against the president — for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The House will act expeditiously,” Nadler said in a brief statement to reporters after the vote.
The full House of Representatives will move to vote on the articles — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — sometime next week, making it all but certain that Mr. Trump will become the third U.S. president in history to be impeached.
The White House slammed the move by the House panel, calling it a “desperate charade of an impeachment inquiry.”
“The President looks forward to receiving in the Senate the fair treatment and due process which continues to be disgracefully denied to him by the House,” White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.
The committee passed the procedural amendment that precedes the final vote on the two articles shortly before midnight on Thursday by a voice vote.
Ranking Member Doug Collins condemned the postponement as inappropriate” on Thursday evening, and argued that Democrats only moved the vote to get greater media attention.
“The chairman’s integrity is gone,” Collins told reporters after the meeting. “Words cannot describe how inappropriate this was.”
Democratic Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, who is a member of the Judiciary Committee, argued Friday morning that “the American people deserve an impeachment vote in the light of day.”
While the White House continues to play defense against the Democratic caucus, they appeared to give him a small win this week with the announcement of a tentative deal on the United States Mexico Canada (USMCA) trade agreement.
The trade agreement, signed by the leaders of those countries last year but not yet approved by Congress, is a revamp of NAFTA and a fulfillment of a key campaign promise by the president who has vowed to take down the long-held trade pact during his tenure in office.
On top of the achievement for Mr. Trump and the Democrats — the White House announced Friday that the United States and China have agreed on a trade agreement in principle after months of back-and-forth retaliatory tariffs. The “Phase One” trade deal requires structural reforms and other changes to China’s economic and trade regime in the areas of intellectual property, technology transfer, agriculture, financial services, and currency and foreign exchange, according to White House negotiators.
And as part of the U.S.-China trade deal, the White House will leave 25% tariffs on $250 billion in imports in place, while cutting some existing tariff rates to 7.5%. The pact still requires a final signature from key administration officials.
While it’s yet to be seen if the administration will comply with Congressional budget negotiators in order to avert a government shutdown next week, the trade successes signal another win for the administration that Mr. Trump will hail victory on just weeks before the holiday break.
“Face the Nation” Guest Lineup:
And, as always, we’ll turn to our political panel for some perspective on the week:
How to watch “Face the Nation”
Date: Sunday, December 15, 2019
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Democracy depends on the consent of the losers. For most of the 20th century, parties and candidates in the United States have competed in elections with the understanding that electoral defeats are neither permanent nor intolerable. The losers could accept the result, adjust their ideas and coalitions, and move on to fight in the next election. Ideas and policies would be contested, sometimes viciously, but however heated the rhetoric got, defeat was not generally equated with political annihilation. The stakes could feel high, but rarely existential. In recent years, however, beginning before the election of Donald Trump and accelerating since, that has changed.
“Our radical Democrat opponents are driven by hatred, prejudice, and rage,” Trump told the crowd at his reelection kickoff event in Orlando in June. “They want to destroy you and they want to destroy our country as we know it.” This is the core of the president’s pitch to his supporters: He is all that stands between them and the abyss.
In October, with the specter of impeachment looming, he fumed on Twitter, “What is taking place is not an impeachment, it is a COUP, intended to take away the Power of the People, their VOTE, their Freedoms, their Second Amendment, Religion, Military, Border Wall, and their God-given rights as a Citizen of The United States of America!” For good measure, he also quoted a supporter’s dark prediction that impeachment “will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal.”
Trump’s apocalyptic rhetoric matches the tenor of the times. The body politic is more fractious than at any time in recent memory. Over the past 25 years, both red and blue areas have become more deeply hued, with Democrats clustering in cities and suburbs and Republicans filling in rural areas and exurbs. In Congress, where the two caucuses once overlapped ideologically, the dividing aisle has turned into a chasm.
As partisans have drifted apart geographically and ideologically, they’ve become more hostile toward each other. In 1960, less than 5 percent of Democrats and Republicans said they’d be unhappy if their children married someone from the other party; today, 35 percent of Republicans and 45 percent of Democrats would be, according to a recent Public Religion Research Institute/Atlantic poll—far higher than the percentages that object to marriages crossing the boundaries of race and religion. As hostility rises, Americans’ trust in political institutions, and in one another, is declining. A study released by the Pew Research Center in July found that only about half of respondents believed their fellow citizens would accept election results no matter who won. At the fringes, distrust has become centrifugal: Right-wing activists in Texas and left-wing activists in California have revived talk of secession.
Recent research by political scientists at Vanderbilt University and other institutions has found both Republicans and Democrats distressingly willing to dehumanize members of the opposite party. “Partisans are willing to explicitly state that members of the opposing party are like animals, that they lack essential human traits,” the researchers found. The president encourages and exploits such fears. This is a dangerous line to cross. As the researchers write, “Dehumanization may loosen the moral restraints that would normally prevent us from harming another human being.”
Outright political violence remains considerably rarer than in other periods of partisan divide, including the late 1960s. But overheated rhetoric has helped radicalize some individuals. Cesar Sayoc, who was arrested for targeting multiple prominent Democrats with pipe bombs, was an avid Fox News watcher; in court filings, his lawyers said he took inspiration from Trump’s white-supremacist rhetoric. “It is impossible,” they wrote, “to separate the political climate and [Sayoc’s] mental illness.” James Hodgkinson, who shot at Republican lawmakers (and badly wounded Representative Steve Scalise) at a baseball practice, was a member of the Facebook groups Terminate the Republican Party and The Road to Hell Is Paved With Republicans. In other instances, political protests have turned violent, most notably in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a Unite the Right rally led to the murder of a young woman. In Portland, Oregon, and elsewhere, the left-wing “antifa” movement has clashed with police. The violence of extremist groups provides ammunition to ideologues seeking to stoke fear of the other side.
What has caused such rancor? The stresses of a globalizing, postindustrial economy. Growing economic inequality. The hyperbolizing force of social media. Geographic sorting. The demagogic provocations of the president himself. As in Murder on the Orient Express, every suspect has had a hand in the crime.
But the biggest driver might be demographic change. The United States is undergoing a transition perhaps no rich and stable democracy has ever experienced: Its historically dominant group is on its way to becoming a political minority—and its minority groups are asserting their co-equal rights and interests. If there are precedents for such a transition, they lie here in the United States, where white Englishmen initially predominated, and the boundaries of the dominant group have been under negotiation ever since. Yet those precedents are hardly comforting. Many of these renegotiations sparked political conflict or open violence, and few were as profound as the one now under way.
Within the living memory of most Americans, a majority of the country’s residents were white Christians. That is no longer the case, and voters are not insensate to the change—nearly a third of conservatives say they face “a lot” of discrimination for their beliefs, as do more than half of white evangelicals. But more epochal than the change that has already happened is the change that is yet to come: Sometime in the next quarter century or so, depending on immigration rates and the vagaries of ethnic and racial identification, nonwhites will become a majority in the U.S. For some Americans, that change will be cause for celebration; for others, it may pass unnoticed. But the transition is already producing a sharp political backlash, exploited and exacerbated by the president. In 2016, white working-class voters who said that discrimination against whites is a serious problem, or who said they felt like strangers in their own country, were almost twice as likely to vote for Trump as those who did not. Two-thirds of Trump voters agreed that “the 2016 election represented the last chance to stop America’s decline.” In Trump, they’d found a defender.
In 2002, the political scientist Ruy Teixeira and the journalist John Judis published a book, The Emerging Democratic Majority, which argued that demographic changes—the browning of America, along with the movement of more women, professionals, and young people into the Democratic fold—would soon usher in a “new progressive era” that would relegate Republicans to permanent minority political status. The book argued, somewhat triumphally, that the new emerging majority was inexorable and inevitable. After Barack Obama’s reelection, in 2012, Teixeira doubled down on the argument in The Atlantic, writing, “The Democratic majority could be here to stay.” Two years later, after the Democrats got thumped in the 2014 midterms, Judis partially recanted, saying that the emerging Democratic majority had turned out to be a mirage and that growing support for the GOP among the white working class would give the Republicans a long-term advantage. The 2016 election seemed to confirm this.
But now many conservatives, surveying demographic trends, have concluded that Teixeira wasn’t wrong—merely premature. They can see the GOP’s sinking fortunes among younger voters, and feel the culture turning against them, condemning them today for views that were commonplace only yesterday. They are losing faith that they can win elections in the future. With this come dark possibilities.
The Republican Party has treated Trump’s tenure more as an interregnum than a revival, a brief respite that can be used to slow its decline. Instead of simply contesting elections, the GOP has redoubled its efforts to narrow the electorate and raise the odds that it can win legislative majorities with a minority of votes. In the first five years after conservative justices on the Supreme Court gutted a key provision of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, 39 percent of the counties that the law had previously restrained reduced their number of polling places. And while gerrymandering is a bipartisan sin, over the past decade Republicans have indulged in it more heavily. In Wisconsin last year, Democrats won 53 percent of the votes cast in state legislative races, but just 36 percent of the seats. In Pennsylvania, Republicans tried to impeach the state Supreme Court justices who had struck down a GOP attempt to gerrymander congressional districts in that state. The Trump White House has tried to suppress counts of immigrants for the 2020 census, to reduce their voting power. All political parties maneuver for advantage, but only a party that has concluded it cannot win the votes of large swaths of the public will seek to deter them from casting those votes at all.
The history of the United States is rich with examples of once-dominant groups adjusting to the rise of formerly marginalized populations—sometimes gracefully, more often bitterly, and occasionally violently. Partisan coalitions in the United States are constantly reshuffling, realigning along new axes. Once-rigid boundaries of faith, ethnicity, and class often prove malleable. Issues gain salience or fade into irrelevance; yesterday’s rivals become tomorrow’s allies.
But sometimes, that process of realignment breaks down. Instead of reaching out and inviting new allies into its coalition, the political right hardens, turning against the democratic processes it fears will subsume it. A conservatism defined by ideas can hold its own against progressivism, winning converts to its principles and evolving with each generation. A conservatism defined by identity reduces the complex calculus of politics to a simple arithmetic question—and at some point, the numbers no longer add up.
Trump has led his party to this dead end, and it may well cost him his chance for reelection, presuming he is not removed through impeachment. But the president’s defeat would likely only deepen the despair that fueled his rise, confirming his supporters’ fear that the demographic tide has turned against them. That fear is the single greatest threat facing American democracy, the force that is already battering down precedents, leveling norms, and demolishing guardrails. When a group that has traditionally exercised power comes to believe that its eclipse is inevitable, and that the destruction of all it holds dear will follow, it will fight to preserve what it has—whatever the cost.
Adam Przeworski, a political scientist who has studied struggling democracies in Eastern Europe and Latin America, has argued that to survive, democratic institutions “must give all the relevant political forces a chance to win from time to time in the competition of interests and values.” But, he adds, they also have to do something else, of equal importance: “They must make even losing under democracy more attractive than a future under non-democratic outcomes.” That conservatives—despite currently holding the White House, the Senate, and many state governments—are losing faith in their ability to win elections in the future bodes ill for the smooth functioning of American democracy. That they believe these electoral losses would lead to their destruction is even more worrying.
We should be careful about overstating the dangers. It is not 1860 again in the United States—it is not even 1850. But numerous examples from American history—most notably the antebellum South—offer a cautionary tale about how quickly a robust democracy can weaken when a large section of the population becomes convinced that it cannot continue to win elections, and also that it cannot afford to lose them.
The collapse of the mainstream Republican Party in the face of Trumpism is at once a product of highly particular circumstances and a disturbing echo of other events. In his recent study of the emergence of democracy in Western Europe, the political scientist Daniel Ziblatt zeroes in on a decisive factor distinguishing the states that achieved democratic stability from those that fell prey to authoritarian impulses: The key variable was not the strength or character of the political left, or of the forces pushing for greater democratization, so much as the viability of the center-right. A strong center-right party could wall off more extreme right-wing movements, shutting out the radicals who attacked the political system itself.
The left is by no means immune to authoritarian impulses; some of the worst excesses of the 20th century were carried out by totalitarian left-wing regimes. But right-wing parties are typically composed of people who have enjoyed power and status within a society. They might include disproportionate numbers of leaders—business magnates, military officers, judges, governors—upon whose loyalty and support the government depends. If groups that traditionally have enjoyed privileged positions see a future for themselves in a more democratic society, Ziblatt finds, they will accede to it. But if “conservative forces believe that electoral politics will permanently exclude them from government, they are more likely to reject democracy outright.”
Ziblatt points to Germany in the 1930s, the most catastrophic collapse of a democracy in the 20th century, as evidence that the fate of democracy lies in the hands of conservatives. Where the center-right flourishes, it can defend the interests of its adherents, starving more radical movements of support. In Germany, where center-right parties faltered, “not their strength, but rather their weakness” became the driving force behind democracy’s collapse.
Of course, the most catastrophic collapse of a democracy in the 19th century took place right here in the United States, sparked by the anxieties of white voters who feared the decline of their own power within a diversifying nation.
The slaveholding South exercised disproportionate political power in the early republic. America’s first dozen presidents—excepting only those named Adams—were slaveholders. Twelve of the first 16 secretaries of state came from slave states. The South initially dominated Congress as well, buoyed by its ability to count three-fifths of the enslaved persons held as property for the purposes of apportionment.
Politics in the early republic was factious and fractious, dominated by crosscutting interests. But as Northern states formally abandoned slavery, and then embraced westward expansion, tensions rose between the states that exalted free labor and the ones whose fortunes were directly tied to slave labor, bringing sectional conflict to the fore. By the mid-19th century, demographics were clearly on the side of the free states, where the population was rapidly expanding. Immigrants surged across the Atlantic, finding jobs in Northern factories and settling on midwestern farms. By the outbreak of the Civil War, the foreign-born would form 19 percent of the population of the Northern states, but just 4 percent of the Southern population.
The new dynamic was first felt in the House of Representatives, the most democratic institution of American government—and the Southern response was a concerted effort to remove the topic of slavery from debate. In 1836, Southern congressmen and their allies imposed a gag rule on the House, barring consideration of petitions that so much as mentioned slavery, which would stand for nine years. As the historian Joanne Freeman shows in her recent book, The Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War, slave-state representatives in Washington also turned to bullying, brandishing weapons, challenging those who dared disparage the peculiar institution to duels, or simply attacking them on the House floor with fists or canes. In 1845, an antislavery speech delivered by Ohio’s Joshua Giddings so upset Louisiana’s John Dawson that he cocked his pistol and announced that he intended to kill his fellow congressman. In a scene more Sergio Leone than Frank Capra, other representatives—at least four of them with guns of their own—rushed to either side, in a tense standoff. By the late 1850s, the threat of violence was so pervasive that members regularly entered the House armed.
As Southern politicians perceived that demographic trends were starting to favor the North, they began to regard popular democracy itself as a threat. “The North has acquired a decided ascendancy over every department of this Government,” warned South Carolina’s Senator John C. Calhoun in 1850, a “despotic” situation, in which the interests of the South were bound to be sacrificed, “however oppressive the effects may be.” With the House tipping against them, Southern politicians focused on the Senate, insisting that the admission of any free states be balanced by new slave states, to preserve their control of the chamber. They looked to the Supreme Court—which by the 1850s had a five-justice majority from slaveholding states—to safeguard their power. And, fatefully, they struck back at the power of Northerners to set the rules of their own communities, launching a frontal assault on states’ rights.
But the South and its conciliating allies overreached. A center-right consensus, drawing Southern plantation owners together with Northern businessmen, had long kept the Union intact. As demographics turned against the South, though, its politicians began to abandon hope of convincing their Northern neighbors of the moral justice of their position, or of the pragmatic case for compromise. Instead of reposing faith in electoral democracy to protect their way of life, they used the coercive power of the federal government to compel the North to support the institution of slavery, insisting that anyone providing sanctuary to slaves, even in free states, be punished: The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 required Northern law-enforcement officials to arrest those who escaped from Southern plantations, and imposed penalties on citizens who gave them shelter.
The persecution complex of the South succeeded where decades of abolitionist activism had failed, producing the very hostility to slavery that Southerners feared. The sight of armed marshals ripping apart families and marching their neighbors back to slavery roused many Northerners from their moral torpor. The push-and-pull of democratic politics had produced setbacks for the South over the previous decades, but the South’s abandonment of electoral democracy in favor of countermajoritarian politics would prove catastrophic to its cause.
Today, a Republican Party that appeals primarily to white Christian voters is fighting a losing battle. The Electoral College, Supreme Court, and Senate may delay defeat for a time, but they cannot postpone it forever.
The GOP’s efforts to cling to power by coercion instead of persuasion have illuminated the perils of defining a political party in a pluralistic democracy around a common heritage, rather than around values or ideals. Consider Trump’s push to slow the pace of immigration, which has backfired spectacularly, turning public opinion against his restrictionist stance. Before Trump announced his presidential bid, in 2015, less than a quarter of Americans thought legal immigration should be increased; today, more than a third feel that way. Whatever the merits of Trump’s particular immigration proposals, he has made them less likely to be enacted.
For a populist, Trump is remarkably unpopular. But no one should take comfort from that fact. The more he radicalizes his opponents against his agenda, the more he gives his own supporters to fear. The excesses of the left bind his supporters more tightly to him, even as the excesses of the right make it harder for the Republican Party to command majority support, validating the fear that the party is passing into eclipse, in a vicious cycle.
The right, and the country, can come back from this. Our history is rife with influential groups that, after discarding their commitment to democratic principles in an attempt to retain their grasp on power, lost their fight and then discovered they could thrive in the political order they had so feared. The Federalists passed the Alien and Sedition Acts, criminalizing criticism of their administration; Redemption-era Democrats stripped black voters of the franchise; and Progressive Republicans wrested municipal governance away from immigrant voters. Each rejected popular democracy out of fear that it would lose at the polls, and terror at what might then result. And in each case democracy eventually prevailed, without tragic effect on the losers. The American system works more often than it doesn’t.
The years around the First World War offer another example. A flood of immigrants, particularly from Eastern and Southern Europe, left many white Protestants feeling threatened. In rapid succession, the nation instituted Prohibition, in part to regulate the social habits of these new populations; staged the Palmer Raids, which rounded up thousands of political radicals and deported hundreds; saw the revival of the Ku Klux Klan as a national organization with millions of members, including tens of thousands who marched openly through Washington, D.C.; and passed new immigration laws, slamming shut the doors to the United States.
Under President Woodrow Wilson, the Democratic Party was at the forefront of this nativist backlash. Four years after Wilson left office, the party faced a battle between Wilson’s son-in-law and Al Smith—a New York Catholic of Irish, German, and Italian extraction who opposed Prohibition and denounced lynching—for the presidential nomination. The convention deadlocked for more than 100 ballots, ultimately settling on an obscure nominee. But in the next nominating fight, four years after that, Smith prevailed, shouldering aside the nativist forces within the party. He brought together newly enfranchised women and the ethnic voters of growing industrial cities. The Democrats lost the presidential race in 1928—but won the next five, in one of the most dominant runs in American political history. The most effective way to protect the things they cherished, Democratic politicians belatedly discovered, wasn’t by locking immigrants out of the party, but by inviting them in.
Whether the American political system today can endure without fracturing further, Daniel Ziblatt’s research suggests, may depend on the choices the center-right now makes. If the center-right decides to accept some electoral defeats and then seeks to gain adherents via argumentation and attraction—and, crucially, eschews making racial heritage its organizing principle—then the GOP can remain vibrant. Its fissures will heal and its prospects will improve, as did those of the Democratic Party in the 1920s, after Wilson. Democracy will be maintained. But if the center-right, surveying demographic upheaval and finding the prospect of electoral losses intolerable, casts its lot with Trumpism and a far right rooted in ethno-nationalism, then it is doomed to an ever smaller proportion of voters, and risks revisiting the ugliest chapters of our history.
But it wasn’t just the pragmatists within the GOP who felt this panic. In the most influential declaration of right-wing support for Trumpism, the conservative writer Michael Anton declared in the Claremont Review of Books that “2016 is the Flight 93 election: charge the cockpit or you die.” His cry of despair offered a bleak echo of the RNC’s demographic analysis. “If you haven’t noticed, our side has been losing consistently since 1988,” he wrote, averring that “the deck is stacked overwhelmingly against us.” He blamed “the ceaseless importation of Third World foreigners,” which had placed Democrats “on the cusp of a permanent victory that will forever obviate [their] need to pretend to respect democratic and constitutional niceties.”
The Republican Party faced a choice between these two competing visions in the last presidential election. The post-2012 report defined the GOP ideologically, urging its leaders to reach out to new groups, emphasize the values they had in common, and rebuild the party into an organization capable of winning a majority of the votes in a presidential race. Anton’s essay, by contrast, defined the party as the defender of “a people, a civilization” threatened by America’s growing diversity. The GOP’s efforts to broaden its coalition, he thundered, were an abject surrender. If it lost the next election, conservatives would be subjected to “vindictive persecution against resistance and dissent.”
Anton and some 63 million other Americans charged the cockpit. The standard-bearers of the Republican Party were vanquished by a candidate who had never spent a day in public office, and who oozed disdain for democratic processes. Instead of reaching out to a diversifying electorate, Donald Trump doubled down on core Republican constituencies, promising to protect them from a culture and a polity that, he said, were turning against them.
When Trump’s presidency comes to its end, the Republican Party will confront the same choice it faced before his rise, only even more urgently. In 2013, the party’s leaders saw the path that lay before them clearly, and urged Republicans to reach out to voters of diverse backgrounds whose own values matched the “ideals, philosophy and principles” of the GOP. Trumpism deprioritizes conservative ideas and principles in favor of ethno-nationalism.
The conservative strands of America’s political heritage—a bias in favor of continuity, a love for traditions and institutions, a healthy skepticism of sharp departures—provide the nation with a requisite ballast. America is at once a land of continual change and a nation of strong continuities. Each new wave of immigration to the United States has altered its culture, but the immigrants themselves have embraced and thus conserved many of its core traditions. To the enormous frustration of their clergy, Jews and Catholics and Muslims arriving on these shores became a little bit congregationalist, shifting power from the pulpits to the pews. Peasants and laborers became more entrepreneurial. Many new arrivals became more egalitarian. And all became more American.
By accepting these immigrants, and inviting them to subscribe to the country’s founding ideals, American elites avoided displacement. The country’s dominant culture has continually redefined itself, enlarging its boundaries to retain a majority of a changing population. When the United States came into being, most Americans were white, Protestant, and English. But the ineradicable difference between a Welshman and a Scot soon became all but undetectable. Whiteness itself proved elastic, first excluding Jews and Italians and Irish, and then stretching to encompass them. Established Churches gave way to a variety of Protestant sects, and the proliferation of other faiths made “Christian” a coherent category; that broadened, too, into the Judeo-Christian tradition. If America’s white Christian majority is gone, then some new majority is already emerging to take its place—some new, more capacious way of understanding what it is to belong to the American mainstream.
So strong is the attraction of the American idea that it infects even our dissidents. The suffragists at Seneca Falls, Martin Luther King Jr. on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, and Harvey Milk in front of San Francisco’s city hall all quoted the Declaration of Independence. The United States possesses a strong radical tradition, but its most successful social movements have generally adopted the language of conservatism, framing their calls for change as an expression of America’s founding ideals rather than as a rejection of them.
Even today, large numbers of conservatives retain the courage of their convictions, believing they can win new adherents to their cause. They have not despaired of prevailing at the polls and they are not prepared to abandon moral suasion in favor of coercion; they are fighting to recover their party from a president whose success was built on convincing voters that the country is slipping away from them.
The stakes in this battle on the right are much higher than the next election. If Republican voters can’t be convinced that democratic elections will continue to offer them a viable path to victory, that they can thrive within a diversifying nation, and that even in defeat their basic rights will be protected, then Trumpism will extend long after Trump leaves office—and our democracy will suffer for it.
Yoni Appelbaum is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Ideas section.
There are still wide swaths of documentation kept under wraps inside government agencies like the State Department that could substantially alter the public’s understanding of what has happened in the U.S.-Ukraine relationships now at the heart of the impeachment probe.
As House Democrats mull whether to pursue impeachment articles and the GOP-led Senate braces for a possible trial, here are 12 tranches of government documents that could benefit the public if President Trump ordered them released, and the questions these memos might answer.
Daily intelligence reports from March through August 2019 on Ukraine’s new president Volodymyr Zelensky and his relationship with oligarchs and other key figures. What was the CIA, FBI and U.S. Treasury Department telling Trump and other agencies about Zelensky’s ties to oligarchs like Igor Kolomoisky, the former head of Privatbank, and any concerns the International Monetary Fund might have? Did any of these concerns reach the president’s daily brief (PDB) or come up in the debate around resolving Ukraine corruption and U.S. foreign aid? CNBC, Reuters and The Wall Street Journal all have done recent reporting suggesting there might have been intelligence and IMF concerns that have not been fully considered during the impeachment proceedings.
State Department memos detailing conversations between former U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko. He says Yovanovitch raised the names of Ukrainians she did not want to see prosecuted during their first meeting in 2016. She calls Lutsenko’s account fiction. But State Department officials admit the U.S. embassy in Kiev did pressure Ukrainian prosecutors not to target certain activists. Are there contemporaneous State Department memos detailing these conversations and might they illuminate the dispute between Lutsenko and Yovanovitch that has become key to the impeachment hearings?
State Department memos on U.S. funding given to the George Soros-backed group the Anti-Corruption Action Centre. There is documentary evidence that State provided funding to this group, that Ukrainian prosecutor sought to investigate whether that aid was spent properly and that the U.S. embassy pressured Ukraine to stand down on that investigation. How much total did State give to this group? Why was a federal agency giving money to a Soros-backed group? What did taxpayers get for their money and were they any audits to ensure the money was spent properly? Were any of Ukrainian prosecutors’ concerns legitimate?
The transcripts of Joe Biden’s phone calls and meetings with Ukraine’s president and prime minister from April 2014 to January 2017 when Hunter Biden served on the board of the natural gas company Burisma Holdings. Did Burisma or Hunter Biden ever come up in the calls? What did Biden say when he urged Ukraine to fire the prosecutor overseeing an investigation of Burisma? Did any Ukrainian officials ever comment on Hunter Biden’s role at the company? Was any official assessment done by U.S. agencies to justify Biden’s threat of withholding $1 billion in U.S. aid if Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin wasn’t fired?
All documents from an Office of Special Counsel whistleblower investigation into unusual energy transactions in Ukraine. The U.S. government’s main whistleblower office is investigating allegations from a U.S Energy Department worker of possible wrongdoing in U.S.-supported Ukrainian energy business. Who benefited in the United States and Ukraine from this alleged activity? Did Burisma gain any benefits from the conduct described by the whistleblower? OSC has concluded there is a “substantial likelihood of wrongdoing” involved in these activities.
All FBI, CIA, Treasury Department and State Department documents concerning possible wrongdoing at Burisma Holdings. What did the U.S. know about allegations of corruption at the Ukrainian gas company and the efforts by the Ukrainian prosecutors to investigate? Did U.S., Latvian, Cypriot or European financial authorities flag any suspicious transactions involving Burisma or Americans during the time that Hunter Biden served on its board? Were any U.S. agencies monitoring, assisting or blocking the various investigations? When Ukraine reopened the Burisma investigations in March 2019, what did U.S. officials do?
All documents from 2015-16 concerning the decision by the State Department’s foreign aid funding arm, USAID, to pursue a joint project with Burisma Holdings. State official George Kent has testified he stopped this joint project because of concerns about Burisma’s corruption reputation. Did Hunter Biden or his American business partner Devon Archer have anything to do with seeking the project? What caused its abrupt end? What issues did Kent identify as concerns and who did he alert in the White House, State or other agencies?
All cables, memos and documents showing State Department’s dealings with Burisma Holding representatives in 2015 and 2016. We now know that Ukrainian authorities escalated their investigation of Burisma Holdings in February 2016 by raiding the home of the company’s owner, Mykola Zlochevsky. Soon after, Burisma’s American representatives were pressing the State Department to help end the corruption allegations against the gas firm, specifically invoking Hunter Biden’s name. What did State officials do after being pressured by Burisma? Did the U.S. embassy in Kiev assist Burisma’s efforts to settle the corruption case against it? Who else in the U.S. government was being kept apprised?
All contacts that the Energy Department, Justice Department or State Department had with Vice President Joe Biden’s office concerning Burisma Holdings, Hunter Biden or business associate Devon Archer. We now know that multiple State Department officials believed Hunter Biden’s association with Burisma created the appearance of a conflict of interest for the vice president, and at least one official tried to contact Joe Biden’s office to raise those concerns. What, if anything, did these Cabinet agencies tell Joe Biden’s office about the appearance concerns or the state of the various Ukrainian investigations into Burisma?
All memos, emails and other documents concerning a possible U.S. embassy’s request in spring 2019 to monitor the social media activities and analytics of certain U.S. media personalities considered favorable to President Trump. Did any such monitoring occur? Was it requested by the American embassy in Kiev? Who ordered it? Why did it stop? Were any legal concerns raised?
All State, CIA, FBI and DOJ documents concerning efforts by individual Ukrainian government officials to exert influence on the 2016 U.S. election, including an anti-Trump Op-Ed written in August 2016 by Ukraine’s ambassador to Washington or efforts to publicize allegations against Paul Manafort. What did U.S. officials know about these efforts in 2016, and how did they react? What were these federal agencies’ reactions to a Ukrainian court decision in December 2018 suggesting some Ukrainian officials had improperly meddled in the 2016 election?
All State, CIA, FBI and DOJ documents concerning contacts with a Democratic National Committee contractor named Alexandra Chalupa and her dealings with the Ukrainian embassy in Washington or other Ukrainian figures. Did anyone in these U.S. government agencies interview or have contact with Chalupa during the time the Ukraine embassy in Washington says she was seeking dirt in 2016 on Trump and Manafort?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, thank you very much. It’s great to have the President of Paraguay here. We’re doing a lot of work with Paraguay on terrorism, on drugs, on trade — a lot of different things. And we’ve had a great relationship. So, Mr. President, it’s an honor to have you. Thank you very much.
PRESIDENT ABDO BENÍTEZ: Thank you very much, Mr. President. It is a great honor for us to be here, for my country; I believe also for the region, Mr. President — for the one who stood firmly defending democracy in the region.
And the President of Paraguay here reaffirms our bilateral and our historic friendship.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you very much.
PRESIDENT ABDO BENÍTEZ: Thank you, Mr. President.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Really tremendous. We look forward to the meeting.
I want to congratulate Boris Johnson on a terrific victory. I think that might be a harbinger for what’s to come in our country; it was last time. I’m sure people will be thrilled to hear that, but a lot of people will be, actually — a very big percentage of people. Because this was a tremendous victory last night, and it’s very interesting. The final votes are being tallied right now, but the numbers are tremendous. So I want to congratulate. He’s a friend of mine. It’s going to be a great thing for the United States also, because it means a lot of trade. A tremendous amount of trade. They want to do business with us so badly.
Under the European Union, it was very, very hard for them to do business with us. We just made our big deal, as you know, with Mexico, Canada. We have a tremendous trade deal that’s going through the House now. It’s going to be obviously approved. And it’s tremendous for our country. It’s really tremendous for the region, but it’s fantastic for the U.S.
We have — the China deal, as you know, it was just approved a little while ago. And it’s — to me, it’s not complicated, but that’s what I do. It’s a phenomenal deal. The tariffs will largely remain at 25 percent on $250 billion. And we’ll use them for future negotiations on the phase two deal, because China would like to see the tariffs off, and we — we’re okay with that. But they’ll be used as a negotiating table for the phase two deal, which they would like to start immediately, and that’s okay with me. We were going to wait until the after the election, but they’d like to start them sooner than that, and that’s okay. So we’ll start that negotiation soon.
This is a very large deal — the China deal. It covers tremendous manufacturing, farming — a lot of rules, regulations. A lot of things are covered. It’s a phase one deal, but a lot of big things are covered. And I say, affectionately: The farmers are going to have to go out and buy much larger tractors, because it means a lot of business — a tremendous amount of business.
And we’ve had a very big week. A lot of things have done. Space Force, as you know, was approved. That’s a tremendous — that’s another branch of the military. I mean, very few people have that in their legacy. And we have that, just like the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marines, the Coast Guard. We have another branch of the military, to think of what that means. But very vital. It’s going to be — with time, it’s going to be certainly one of the most important branches.
We’ll have our own representative. It will have its own representative on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It’s a big deal — something that a lot of people thought couldn’t be done. But the Space Force will be a very important component of our defense and, frankly, our offense, and it’ll be very important for our country. So we’re very honored by that.
And we had many other things that we’ve done this week. This has been a wild week. And if you have any questions, please go ahead.
Q Mr. President, your reaction to the vote in the House Judiciary this morning?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, I was actually, believe it or not, finishing up the final — I was doing the final touches on the China deal. And that’s going to be one of the great deals ever. And it’s going to ultimately lead to the opening of China, which is something that is incredible, because that’s a whole, big, untapped market of 1.5 billion people. And so I was actually doing the finals.
But I got to see enough of it, and certainly I spoke to my people. It’s a witch hunt. It’s a sham. It’s a hoax. Nothing was done wrong. Zero was done wrong. I think it’s a horrible thing to be using the tool of impeachment, which is supposed to be used in an emergency. And it would seem many, many, many years apart.
To be using this for a perfect phone call, where the President of that country said there was no pressure whatsoever — didn’t even know what we were talking about. It was perfect; the relationship is perfect. I’ve done much more for them than Obama did for them. It’s a scam. It’s something that shouldn’t be allowed. And it’s a very bad thing for our country.
And you’re trivializing impeachment. And I tell you what: Someday there’ll be a Democrat President and there’ll be a Republican House, and I suspect they’re going to remember it. Because when you do — when you use impeachment for absolutely nothing, other than to try and get political gain —
Now, with that being said, my poll numbers, as you know, have gone through the roof. Fundraising for the Republican Party has gone through the roof. We’re setting records. We’ve never — nobody has ever seen anything like it because the people are disgusted. The people are absolutely disgusted. Nobody has ever seen anything like this.
And I watched yesterday — I got to see quite a bit of it yesterday — and I watched these Democrats on the committee make fools out of themselves. Absolute fools out of themselves. And I also saw them quoting, all the time, incorrectly. They kept saying “me.” It wasn’t about me, it was about us. The word was “us.” So, they would — kept saying “me” instead “us.” “Can you do ‘us’ a favor?” “Our country,” comma, “our country.” Then it talked about seeing the Attorney General of the United States.
For these people to say “me” — they would say “me.” “You said, ‘Do me a favor.’” No, it didn’t say that. It said, “Do us a favor — our country.” Talking about the past election. Talking about corruption.
The other thing nobody remembers and nobody likes to talk about — and I talk about it all the time — is why isn’t Germany, why isn’t France, why aren’t other European countries paying? Because we’re paying. The suckers. You know, for years, we’ve been the suckers. But we’re not the suckers anymore. Big difference.
But why isn’t Germany paying big money? They’re the ones — I mean, they have a much bigger benefit than we do because Ukraine is really a stoppage between Russia and parts of Europe — the major part of Europe. Why aren’t European countries paying? Why isn’t France paying a lot of money? Why is it always the United States? We’re 7,000 miles away. Why is it always the suckers that pay? So we’ve changed that, but nobody brings that up.
I think that the whole impeachment thing — “hoax,” I guess you could call it, because it is a hoax. And Nancy Pelosi and knows it. By the way, they duped her yesterday. She was on an interview, and she said, “We’ve been working on this for two and a half years.” So she’s — she was working on it, in other words, two years before we ever spoke to Ukraine. She said, “We’ve been working on impeachment for two and a half years.” And the reporter was shocked when they got this answer, because it showed she’s a liar.
So it’s — it’s a very sad thing for our country, but it seems to be very good for me, politically. And again, those people — because I watched some of the dishonest, fake media — they’re saying, “Well, the polls have remained the same.” No, the polls have not remained the same. I think you understand that, John. The polls have gone through the roof for Trump. Because peop- — especially with independent voters, and especially in swing states. I could show you numbers that nobody has ever seen numbers like this before.
So the impeachment is a hoax. It’s a sham. It started a long time ago, probably before I came down the escalator with the future First Lady. It started a long time ago.
And when you look at the IG report and you look at these horrible FBI people talking about, “We got to get him out,” “insurance policies” — you know, the insurance policy is just in cases she loses — meaning, Crooked Hillary, who’s crooked as a three-dollar bill. “Just in case Crooked Hillary loses, we’ve got an insurance policy.” But we’ve been going through the insurance policy now for three years, and it’s a disgrace.
Thank you very much everybody. Thank you.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Say it?
Q Can you say how much China will be buying? Will they hit $50 billion?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I think they’ll hit $50 billion in agriculture.
Q Can you say —
PRESIDENT TRUMP: No, much more than 50 [billion], because it’s also manufacturing and other. But I think, in agriculture, they will hit $50 billion. Yes.
Q Next year? Or when? What’s the timeline for that?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Pretty soon. They’ve already stepped it up. My deal with them was two months ago. We had it in pretty good form. I said, “Do me a favor: Start buying agriculture.” And they started. If you look — I mean, they’re already buying. Even before the deal is signed, they’re buying.
Q Are you going to speak about Venezuela, Mr. President?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, we’re with the people of Venezuela 100 percent. It’s so important to us, and we’re going to be discussing Venezuela today. It’ll be a big subject.
Q Mr. President, do you prefer a short process in the Senate or a more extended process?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, I have heard Lindsey Graham, who’s terrific, and I heard his statement, and I like that. And I could also — I can do — I’ll do whatever I want.
Look, there is — we did nothing wrong. So I’ll do long or short. I’ve heard Mitch. I’ve heard Lindsey. I think they are very much on agreement on some concept. I’ll do whatever they want to do. It doesn’t matter.
I wouldn’t mind a long process because I’d like to see the whistleblower, who’s a fraud — the whistleblower wrote a false report, and I really blew it up when I released the transcript of the call.
And then Schiff gets up and he — and I blew him up, too — because he went up in front of Congress and he made a statement about what I said that was totally false. And then a long time after he made it, when he got caught, he said, “Oh, well, that was parody. Parody.”
No, Schiff is a crooked — he’s a corrupt politician and a disgrace. And because of the fact he’s in Congress, he’s got immunity, so you can’t do anything. But he went up there — you know that — he made a totally false statement. The whistleblower wrote a totally false statement. So it’s a fraud.
Then I say, “Where is the informer?” — the one that informed the whistleblower? He had an informer. He disappeared. You know why he disappeared? Because I released the transcript. Had I not released that transcript, we would have had an informer; we would have had another whistleblower.
By the way, where is the second whistleblower? Remember that? “We have a second whistleblower. We have breaking news.”
Look, not all of it, but much of the media is corrupt. These are bad people. They’re sick people and they’re corrupt.
And we’re fighting the Democrats and we’re fighting a lot of the corrupt media. But I ask the corrupt media: Where’s the second whistleblower?
Now, had I not had a transcript — I’m lucky we had this transcript, which, by the way, has now been verified by the Lieutenant Colonel — Lieutenant Colonel, okay? He’s another beauty.
So where is — where is all of this stuff that was going to happen? Once I released it — and I released it quick but — quickly. But once I released it, all of a sudden the second whistleblower disappeared. The first whistleblower, who was all set to testify, he — all of a sudden, he becomes this saint-like figure that they don’t need him anymore. The one that everybody wanted to see, including Schiff, was the whistleblower. Once I released the text of what happened — the transcript — that was the end. Everybody disappeared.
So now there’s no informer. There’s no second whistleblower. Everybody has gone. And, by the way, a guy like Sondland — nobody ever says it — he said very strongly that I said, “I want nothing” and “no quid pro quo.” Nobody says that. That’s what he said. He said it in Congress. Nobody ever says that.
So, look, we’re dealing with a lot of corrupt people. There was nothing done wrong. To use the power of impeachment on this nonsense is an embarrassment to this country. The President just said it. It’s an embarrassment to our country. Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you.