“People have already decided,” claimed Danielle Pletka (VP at American Enterprise Institute) on Meet the Press this week (17 November 2019) about Donald Trump’s impeachment guilt. This may be correct, but I suspect that’s not good news for Trump. Peggy Noonan (columnist at The Wall Street Journal) summarized the charges made against him this week:
The people who testified were people of stature and accomplishment. What they said was believable. Brick by brick, they made a case backing the charge that the President muscled an ally to get a political gift that he wanted. So, this was not good for him.
I think this is exactly what the American people believe, and I think the majority (if not the vast majority) think this is grounds for his removal.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), Chair of the Homeland Security Committee, had the unenviable task of defending Trump this week. His performance was ineffective. It started with this illogical statement:
Generally, we solve our political differences at the ballot box, not in the streets or through impeachment. … That’s the divide that is tearing this country apart.
Impeachment is a process for elected officials. He should try to remember that members of Congress are elected at the ballot box. Also, it’s the way the Republicans have been governing that is damaging to the country, not impeachment. Impeachment is a remedy for an official who abuses his office. It’s the fix to the damage caused by that official.
As is his Republican duty, he whined about the process, saying that he wanted to point out:
…the damage that is being done to our country through this entire impeachment process. It’s going to be very difficult for future presidents to have a [mumbled] conversation with a world leader because we’ve now set the precedence of leaking transcripts.
Republicans hold that if only we didn’t have impeachment everything could have been fixed behind the scenes. It’s just these Democrats, impeaching, that are causing this whole problem. This is one place where Chuck Todd did push back:
Todd: You seem to blame this on everybody but the President. It was the President’s actions—
Johnson: I’m not blaming anybody, Chuck.
Todd: Well, you are. You’re blaming everybody else for the reason we are in this situation, other than the President. Isn’t the President’s own behavior, which raised all these yellow and red flags—isn’t that why we’re here?
Todd: You are the one who brought up this idea that impeachment was something that the left wanted to do immediately. [Quotes Johnson, referring to Hillary Clinton, “She purposefully circumvented [the law], this was willful concealment and destruction. … I would say yes, high crime or misdemeanor…”] You were talking about impeachment [of her]. How should viewers not look at what you’re doing here and you’re just reacting as a partisan, that if Trump were a Democrat, you’d be ready to convict him?
Johnson: [talks] I don’t think I said “impeachment” right there, at all.
You might notice that “high crime or misdemeanor” is a way of saying “impeachment” without actually uttering the word.
Full disclosure: I’m in charge of the left, and I can say authoritatively that “the left” didn’t want to do impeachment at all. We wanted, and still want, to fix this country’s critical problems, like man-made climate change and a discriminatory healthcare system that leaves millions of people without essential healthcare.
We only have impeachment because the right overreached and gave us Trump. And, frankly, they are benefiting from Trump, because he’s providing an enormous distraction from critical problems they don’t want fixed. Fixing those problems would cost them money, and they also profit from those problems. They are hoping to keep Trump in office as long as possible, where he can provide further distractions, but even if he’s removed, they will have gotten what they want out of him. And he’s expendable, from their POV. It’s purely to their benefit to have impeachment. No, the left didn’t bring us impeachment; the right brought us impeachment. And, they are loving it, because it isn’t a problem for them. It’s only a problem for the country.
Also, on a personal level, I hate impeachment. It eats up my time. As a proud and responsible citizen of the United States, I have to pay attention and participate in the discussion. But it’s an enormous waste of my time to deal with something that isn’t solving critical problems. Not only is Donald Trump apparently siding with an aggressive adversarial foreign power against the U.S., but he’s wasting my time. And the publics’. In the pantheon of unforgivable sins, his waste of Americans’ time is near the zenith. If it weren’t for the fact what he did weren’t probably treasonous, that would top the list.
[Well, technically, I’m not in charge of the left. But my point still stands!]
Johnson also suggested the whistleblower failed:
If the whistle blower’s goal was to improve our relationship with Ukraine he utterly and absolutely [crosstalk] failed.
I think it’s important to understand why this is a failed argument. Johnson is making a wild assertion about the whistle blower’s motives. We have no idea whether that person was trying to help Ukraine or not.
In fact, I think helping Ukraine is unlikely the motivation, and I’m going to offer my own unfounded assertion. I think the motive was that the whistleblower wanted to stop corrupt behavior and behavior that is not just illegal, but detrimental to the security of the United States. I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest the whistleblower is a patriot, who did something that helps us clear out corruption at the heart of our government. I’m going to suggest the whistleblower is praise-worthy.
Todd’s interview with Johnson was followed by his interview with Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT). Murphy did a good job batting back many of Johnson’s points, but I leave it as an exercise to go listen to their exchange. (Again, see here.) However, one part of this interview stood out:
Todd: Are you uncomfortable that it sounds like you’ve made up your mind as a juror?
Murphy: I think it’s okay with the facts on the table.
Todd: You think there’s enough to convict?
Murphy: I think that if this isn’t impeachable, I’m not sure what is. Obviously, I’ve got to wait for the exact articles of impeachment to be sent to me. But the conduct I have seen has to be impeachable in a democracy.
Fine, but here’s another point I think Democratic Senators should make: Donald Trump hasn’t made his defense in the Senate, yet. It is entirely possible he could bring up exculpatory evidence that would show he was actually acting on the country’s behalf in all this, and that he didn’t try to enrich himself with his office or extort favors from parties in other countries. That he didn’t abuse the powers of his office. You know, that he’s innocent.
So, as a Senator, I think Murphy and others should simply say that Trump hasn’t made his defense in the Senate yet, and he may yet offer evidence that he’s not guilty. Until that time, they will withhold judgment. But as of now, it sure looks like he’s guilty as sin.
[Quotes from Meet the Press are my transcriptions, which are slightly edited for clarity.]
Once again, I think the narrative is clear. I think this is the real story. It has elements of speculation, but you tell me where it’s wrong:
Vladimir Putin wanted Donald Trump to withhold military aid to Ukraine to make it easier for him to use military force to take over parts or all of Ukraine. Donald Trump wanted his cut, so he used a demand for investigations of Joe Biden and Ukrainian backing of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 elections as a reason to hold up that aid. This corruption caused someone in the foreign service to blow the whistle on him. Trump had the means, the motive, and the opportunity to commit this impeachable offense. Trump is corrupt and abused power. He damaged our national security in the process.