Coffee-free zone. ABC News video
The U.S. House of Representatives found no evidence of any crime committed by President Trump. So it forwarded two made-up articles of impeachment, neither of which is about a crime.
There is no foundation for impeachment. In deciding when to release aid to Ukraine (the so-called “abuse of power” article), Trump was exercising his constitutional prerogatives in foreign policy. In invoking executive privilege (the so-called “obstruction of Congress” article), he was asserting a privilege established in longstanding precedent, including both usage and judicial rulings.
If Congress disagrees with Trump’s priorities or interpretations, it has equally longstanding remedies, which it can attempt to use. Congress may not have the political unity to overrule the executive in the case of those disagreements. That doesn’t constitute an emergency. The ultimate remedy is to make a case to the public that the voters need to elect a different president, or change the majority-minority balance in Congress with the next election.
Since the House forwarded two articles of impeachment that have no foundation as criminal matters, the Senate is under no obligation to go rooting around with new witnesses and additional “evidence” to try to manufacture criminal charges. There are no criminal charges. It’s not the Senate’s job to come up with them.
The Senate has a choice. It can dismiss the articles of impeachment once the briefs from the House delegation and the president’s legal team have been heard. Doing that would be perfectly in order, given that there is no crime at issue.
Or it can proceed with a sort of quasi-trial ritual in which it rehashes what the House based its articles of impeachment on.
Apparently the latter is the direction the Senate is headed. Some senators foresee the need for additional testimony from witnesses to support such a rehashing. Others don’t. Since none of this is about an actual crime, there is no standard in statute to guide them in that regard. Either way, they’re making it up as they go along.
The Senate is making discretionary decisions, for the most part outside the constraints of statute. If Chief Justice Roberts weighs in much, we ought to be surprised. This Senate trial isn’t about judicial standards. There’s no actual crime at issue.
The Democrats are bloviating as vociferously as they can to create an appearance of crime and judicial requirements. But the blunt reality is that those elements don’t exist.
The House Democrats voted to impeach Trump not because they found a crime, but because they want to inflict damage on him any way they can. It doesn’t even matter what they expect about the outcome. Some of them may think Trump can be hounded from office outside of the electoral cycle. Others may have the electoral cycle in mind, and hope to prevent Trump’s reelection, and/or prejudice the voters against Republicans in the 2020 congressional vote.
It’s possible some of them just want to keep dangling Trump with defamatory allegations as long as possible. Some legislators have actually said that they’ll find a way to impeach Trump again if the Senate dismisses or votes down the current articles of impeachment.
As for the actual rights and wrongs of what happened to bring us to the current pass, here’s the short version. Democrats used Ukraine as one of their sources for manufactured allegations against Trump’s campaign team in 2016. This was at the same time a Democratic administration was pumping foreign aid into Ukraine, some billions of dollars of which went missing, and in the years since has been suspected by Ukrainian investigators of going into the pockets of Ukrainians who were doing business with Americans. Some of those Americans, including the Biden family, were directly connected to the U.S. administration at the time (Obama’s).
Ukrainians were investigating these matters on their own initiative. Some Americans in key positions, including our former ambassador, were reportedly trying to discourage those investigations.
When Ukraine elected a new president in 2019 who emphasized reform and fighting corruption, President Trump let him know that he (Trump) supported the investigations and hoped to see them pursued. The specific concern he cited in the July 2019 phone call with President Zelensky was the 2016 election connection.
The public became aware of this because a CIA employee who had no firsthand knowledge of the phone call participated in a plan to introduce this event as an allegation against the president, by submitting a brief written by a team of lawyers in the guise of a “whistleblower” complaint.
The plan was orchestrated by, among others, Rep. Adam Schiff, who met with the CIA employee before the brief was submitted, received a copy of it before it went to the Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG), and then ran the House’s inquiry into the matter.
Schiff is now heading the House management team for the impeachment articles as they are considered by the Senate.
We don’t know how the Senate trial will come out. But it can have a just outcome in either case; i.e., whether the articles of impeachment are dismissed quickly, or are considered at length.
If they are dismissed quickly, the patience and resources of the American people need not be tried too high. There is merit in that.
If they are considered at length, then it is those articles that should be considered, under any moral standard of justice. That means the Senate should look closely into what happened with Ukraine, from the election cycle that started in 2015 to today. The president’s team must be allowed to present all the evidence it has of what Trump and his officials actually did and what their intentions were. They must also be allowed to present evidence of what prompted Trump’s concern – concern he is constitutionally obligated to have – regarding the activities of Democrats in connection with Ukraine from at least 2015 to 2019.
It’s not Trump’s fault, or his problem, that the underlying series of events in this matter involves Democrats. If the Democrats didn’t want their Ukraine-related activities to become an issue of state relations with Ukraine under a future president, they had numerous opportunities to alter the nature of those activities.
With billions of dollars of aid missing, Ukraine wanting investigations in its own right, and Trump’s obligation to watch over the American taxpayers’ interest in what happens to our foreign aid dollars, Trump’s policy was fully justified. His legal team must in justice have the opportunity to clarify that with facts and evidence.
The provenance of the “whistleblower” complaint should in justice be clarified for the Senate and the public as well. The American people have every right to be permanently dissatisfied if it is not. No anonymous complaint should ever produce the excruciating expense for the people of an impeachment trial.
If the House believes it has a basis for impeaching Trump on actual crimes, it may do so at any time. But that is not the job of the Senate. Calling witnesses or introducing “evidence” to generate new allegations is not what the trial in the Senate is for.
I believe it will be both necessary and appropriate for the Senate process to expose everything the Democrats have been doing, and I am satisfied to have it reveal whatever it’s going to about the Trump administration. I see the argument for dismissing the articles up front, but I don’t think that is in the best interest of the Republic. It would sweep too much under the rug that we can no longer afford to not see. We have reached the point where what we don’t see will, in fact, kill us.
The fight for the truth is the priority now. It is the fight for America’s future. It, and nothing else, is the fight for our national security and our national soul. Other things will have to wait. We have to have this fight for the truth. If the Democrats and the media are determined to keep pushing against Trump, let that drive it. They only continue to draw an arrow that points at themselves.