The House continues to move step-by-step toward the impeachment of Donald Trump with the procedural vote for public hearings this week. Much of the elements of the case against him have already been well laid out and heavily debated. The core allegations against him are well understood and will continue to be analyzed for the next month and beyond. During a July 10 National Security meeting between John Bolton and his opposite number from Ukraine, U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland established a quid pro quo requirement for Ukraine to publicly announce investigations into the 2016 election and Hunter Biden in exchange for a one-on-one meeting between Ukrainian President Zelensky and Trump. On July 25 Zelensky and Trump spoke on the phone and Trump repeated the request for investigations while responding to Zelensky mentioning Javelin missiles with “we need you to do us a favor, though.”
This was an abuse of power. This was a solicitation for an illegal foreign campaign contribution. This was extortion and also bribery to the tune of $400 million in military aid which Trump was holding back in reserve until he got his promised announcement of investigations. It was a crime. A high crime and misdemeanor.
The question before us now is: is it sufficient to remove a sitting White House resident from office? Different people may honestly answer that question in different ways. There are those who may be disgusted by this behavior, but not find it sufficient for removal. They may find it objectionable, they may even find this behavior criminal, but will they find it to be enough?
There are, of course, additional issues, such as the lies and obstruction that the White House has engaged in. Trump continues to proclaim the call was “perfect” while trying to block witnesses from testifying. They claimed the rough transcript was “word for word” and complete while we learned from Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman that elements of the conversation were missing.
I believe that in order to ensure not only impeachment but also removal that Democrats need to broaden the focus of the inquiry and the charges. If the question comes down to this one event to solicit investigations from Ukraine, the ultimate result in the Senate is doubtful. There are even those in the Senate who refuse to admit that what has been alleged was even improper. They cant’t even admit that it was wrong, not to mention criminal and a betrayal of American values for personal gain.
The corner cutting, the lack of empathy, and the basic callous cruelty of this administration is a key feature of it, not a bug. It’s not a flaw in this administration, it is the center of it.
We recently passed the one year anniversary of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and he Tree of Life massacre in Pittsburgh and there was absolutely no reaction, no comment from the White House. None.
That happened because Trump doesn’t care about those events. He’s more into establishing military contracts with Saudi Arabia than he is worried about corruption and murder by their regime. Allegations are that Crown Prince Muhammed Bin Salman staged a violent coup with challengers in his country, imprisoning them within a Ritz Carlton and torturing them until they promised to support his rule and coughed up billions specifically after he was given a heads up to Jared Kushner using information about his rivals which came from a presidential daily briefing.
Sources have told DailyMail.com that the prince – known by his initials MBS – has been boasting about his close relationship with the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, and the intelligence which he has told his circle Kushner passed to him.
The crackdown on ‘corruption’ in the Saudi kingdom was led by MBS and began in November, days after he had met Kushner for talks in Riyadh.
But it saw allegations of torture as hundreds were rounded up, including princes from rival parts of the Saudi royal family and some of the country’s wealthiest businessmen.
DailyMail.com revealed a photograph showing the detainees sleeping on the floor of a ballroom at the Riyadh Ritz Carlton, and disclosed that some had been tortured.
The New York Times later reported that one of the detainees had died from his injuries.
Most are said to have reached ‘settlements’ with the Saudi government, and MBS himself boasted in a 60 Minutes interview that the government had regained at least $100 billion from them.
Kushner claims this exchange didn’t happen. Sure it didn’t.
Trump has claimed that he was only concerned with “corruption,” well that situation right there was pretty corrupt. Additionally, the Saudis and the UAE were involved in a scheme to implement a blockade of Qatar in order to force them into providing funds for the Kushner companies. First they began a blockade based on false evidence which was provided by Russian hackers alleging Qatar was allied with ISIS.
In a statement to NBC News, the Qatari government said it had been victimized by a “well-coordinated smear campaign designed to damage the image and reputation of Qatar. And the smear campaign, in turn, set the stage for the blockade and the ultimatum that followed in June.”
At the center of the dispute between Qatar and other Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, are reports that that the Qatari emir had praised Hamas and called Iran “an Islamic power,” and that Qatar had paid nearly a billion dollars in ransom to al Qaeda for the release of a Qatari hunting party.
Both stories are false and apparently planted, say senior U.S. officials.
In the most recent case, a U.S. intelligence official said that the quotes attributed to Qatar’s ruler were phony and part of a campaign to hurt Qatar. Several officials confirmed the report in the Washington Post that someone working for the United Arab Emirates government hacked into Qatari news sites and social media on May 24 to plant the false comments attributed to Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani.
Even though U.S. intelligence sources stated that hacked information and claims were false, Trump supported the blockade. This all occurred after the Kushner companies had reached out to the Qatari Investment Fund looking for a donation and were turned down.
THE REAL ESTATE firm tied to the family of presidential son-in-law and top White House adviser Jared Kushner made a direct pitch to Qatar’s minister of finance in April 2017 in an attempt to secure investment in a critically distressed asset in the company’s portfolio, according to two sources. At the previously unreported meeting, Jared Kushner’s father Charles, who runs Kushner Companies, and Qatari Finance Minister Ali Sharif Al Emadi discussed financing for the Kushners’ signature 666 Fifth Avenue property in New York City.
The 30-minute meeting, according to two sources in the financial industry who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the potential transaction, included aides to both parties, and was held at a suite at the St. Regis Hotel in New York.
A follow-up meeting was held the next day in a glass-walled conference room at the Kushner property itself, though Al Emadi did not attend the second gathering in person.
The failure to broker the deal would be followed only a month later by a Middle Eastern diplomatic row in which Jared Kushner provided critical support to Qatar’s neighbors. Led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, a group of Middle Eastern countries, with Kushner’s backing, led a diplomatic assault that culminated in a blockade of Qatar. Kushner, according to reports at the time, subsequently undermined efforts by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to bring an end to the standoff.
Again, Kushner here deliberately undermined the goals of Secretary of State Tillerson with Trump’s backing to have this bogus blockade against Qatar implemented, and ultimately these strong-arm tactics did manage to push the QIA into investing in Kushner properties.
Last August, an economic miracle occurred. Eleven years after a young Jared Kushner purchased an aging skyscraper that would become an albatross around his family’s neck, and six months before the Kushners would have to cough up the $1.4 billion that was due on the mortgage for 666 Fifth Avenue, a Canadian asset-management company swooped in and agreed to take a 99-year lease on the building, paying a near-century’s worth of rent upfront. The bailout was surprising for a few reasons, chief among them being comments by the Kushners’ previous partner that 666 Fifth “would be worth a lot more if it was just dirt,” plus the fact that the family had spent two years trying to get new partners or financing to no avail. Also, there was the matter of the Qatar Investment Authority being a major investor in the company, Brookfield Asset Management, and Kushner’s support of a Saudi- and U.A.E.-led blockade of Qatar. To some, it sure sounded like a foreign government was trying to influence policy by greasing the president’s son-in-law’s wheels! At the time, Brookfield told reporters that the Qataris “had no knowledge of the deal before its public announcement”—apparently they don’t read The New York Times—and now that the deal has officially gone through, Doha is doubling down, insisting, somewhat curiously, that the government had absolutely nothing to do with the 666 debacle.
After pulling off a deal like this, why exactly would Trump be shy about trying to strong-arm Ukraine using the military aid money in exchange for helping him in to 2020 election? This type of below the belt swings are how they play the game. It’s how they do business. It’s how Trump does business.
We can see this same behavior happening on our border, where Trump repeatedly calls UN treaties that we ratified 50 years ago with the Convention on the Treatment of Refugees as nothing more than “loopholes” that can be easily changed, or ignored. Just like with Khashoggi, like with MBS, like with his pullout of our troops protecting the Kurds to protecting the oil in Syria, he doesn’t care about the human cost of his policies. He doesn’t care about the collateral damage, he cares about the niceties and the details, he’s just about getting to the bottom line, he’s about getting the desired result.
The fact is that it is legal, under U.S. Law, for a refugee to cross the border at any point in order to apply for asylum doesn’t matter to him.
Any alien who is physically present in the United States or who arrives in the United States (whether or not at a designated port of arrival and including an alien who is brought to the United States after having been interdicted in international or United States waters), irrespective of such alien’s status, may apply for asylum in accordance with this section or, where applicable, section 1225(b) of this title.
And yet, Trump has been arresting and warehousing asylum seekers by the thousands at the border and then using strong-arm measures to force our neighboring countries to restrict the flow of immigrants just as Trump’s chief of staff Mick Mulvaney admitted last week when he confirmed the quid pro quo arrangement with Ukraine.
Mulvaney: What I found out was that zero or near zero dollars for Ukraine in lethal aid: we give them tanks, and they give them pillows. As vocal as the Europeans are about supporting Ukraine, they are really, really stingy when it comes to lethal aid, and they weren’t helping Ukraine, to this day they still are now, and the president did not like that. I know this is a long answer to your question but I’m still going. Those were the driving factors. Did he also mention to me in passing the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely. No question about that. But that’s it, and that’s why we held up the money. […]
Karl: “But to be clear, what you just described is a quid-pro-quo: the funding will not flow unless you’re getting an investigation into the Democratic server happened as well.”
Mulvaney: “We do that all the time with foreign policy. We were holding up money at the same time to the Northern Triangle countries so they would change their policies on immigration.
The basic criminal inhumanity of these polices doesn’t register with Trump. We were holding up money for Northern Triangle countries to make them change immigration policies, so why wouldn’t we hold up money to Ukraine to get them to change their investigation policies?
What’s the difference? It’s not like we don’t all want less corruption. It’s not like Trump has been blocking other anti-corruption funds for Ukraine.
According to the Post, the Trump administration “has sought repeatedly to cut foreign aid programs tasked with combating corruption in Ukraine and elsewhere overseas” even though the White House has insisted that it is laser-focused on promoting good governance in the country.
Among other things, the White House tried to cut a program called International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement that sent $30 million to Ukraine that helped fund the country’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau and Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office.
Another key program aimed at fighting corruption, the Economic Support and Development Fund, allocated $250 million to Ukraine in 2018 — but the White House requested that funding be cut to just $145 million in 2020.
So corruption is clearly not on the radar of Donald Trump. It’s not a real concern. Blocking investigations here by Democrats while fostering investigation overseas is his concern. Getting reelected is his concern.
This theme is something that was heavily explored during Season One of Star Trek: Discovery. The show started with Star Trek’s trademark optimism and positivity, but after a fateful conflict with the Klingons that optimism quickly began to fade to cynicism and hard-nosed pragmatism. The niceties didn’t matter anymore, only the goal. It didn’t matter what corners you cut, it didn’t matter if you played fairly—you just had to win at all costs. Eventually the ship made a trip to the Mirror Universe where that version of Starfleet had never had any optimism, never had any positivity or hope. Instead they were ruled by fear and authoritarianism, much like the Klingons.
After experiencing this and realizing that their captain had been from the Mirror Universe all along, the crew ultimately stood up and rejected a zero-sum plan to end the war by destroying the Klingon home world. They rejected the win-at-all-costs scenario. They reclaimed their values, their principles and their souls and found another way that didn’t involve genocide. They’d had a front-row seat showing where their current path was headed and having seen that horror they rightly rejected that direction.
We too have now seen where we are headed with this ideology, and we too need to soundly reject it.
We can see that Trump economic polices are empty. Growth is now only 1.9%—hardly any different from the average during the Obama administration. Where exactly is the promised 4-6% growth we were told would happen after he implemented his tax cuts? Meanwhile, the deficit has yet again grown to over $1 trillion. Unemployment is low, but then unemployment was already on a path to become quite low before Trump arrived in office and if anything, it’s dramatically slowed its rate of improvement during his term then it was previously. His promises are lies, as we teeter on the edge of falling back into recession and he flounders, screaming at the Fed for no real purpose. What gains there have been in the economy, have certainly not gone to the “common man.”
In a recent gloomy study of the American economy, Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, and Gabriel Zucman find that between 1980 and today, almost none of the gains from economic growth accrued to the bottom half of the population. They write, “Looking first at income before taxes and transfers, income stagnated for bottom 50% earners: for this group, average pre-tax income was $16,000 in 1980 — expressed in 2014 dollars, using the national income deflator — and still is $16,200 in 2014.”¹ Piketty, Saez, and Zucman also found that incomes of the top 1% tripled over the same time period.
New York Times columnist David Leonhardt, reacting to this work, concluded “the very affluent, and only the very affluent, have received significant raises in recent decades.”
Last month, Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz wrote in the New York Times:
Some 90 percent have seen their incomes stagnate or decline in the past 30 years.
Claims like these are not new. Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman wrote in 2014 that “Wages for ordinary workers have in fact been stagnant since the 1970s.”² Jared Bernstein wrote in 2014 in the New York Times, “for middle-income households earnings have declined in real terms 7 percent from 1979 to 2010. Writing in Vanity Fair in 2011, Stiglitz wrote: “All the growth in recent decades — and more — has gone to those at the top.”
Trump told us that the problem was immigrants. He told us that our problems come from overseas trade. He has not solved those problems; both of them are worse. Some jobs may be back, but wages are not. We still have manufacturers like Harley-Davidson under severe trade pressure, and rather than trying to help, Trump berates and attacks them.
Harley-Davidson today posted a hefty 27% decline in earnings, specifically citing European tariffs that have been levied against the iconic American company’s motorcycles by the European Union in retaliation for tariffs levied on European goods by Donald Trump’s White House.
In a conference call on Tuesday, Harley chief executive Matt Levatich confirmed the company’s performance had been hit by tariffs, both in terms of imported raw materials and on European sales. Tariffs on Harley’s motorcycles have jumped from 6% to 31% and are scheduled to rise again to 56% in June 2021.
“The big impact for us is European Union tariffs,” Levatich said. He added that Harley could not afford its growth potential in Europe to be “hamstrung by incremental tariffs” and described the situation as “unfortunate”.
We can see from the Mueller report that Trump doesn’t care about playing by the rules. He repeatedly told Jeff Sessions to “unrecuse” himself when it was clear he couldn’t reasonably oversee an investigation of the Trump campaign when he was a member of the Trump campaign. He tried to get then White House Counsel Don McGahn to tell Sessions to “Get rid to Mueller” without just cause. When McGahn refused to do it and refused to lie about it to the press Trump asked Corey Lewandowski to pass a note to Sessions asking him to change the Mueller investigation to focus on the future 2020 election rather than 2016, which made no sense at all. Lewandowski stalled on it, and tried to pawn the note off to Rick Dearborn who refused to give it to Sessions.
All of that was obstruction of justice. Telling White House staff not to testify before Congress without having a legitimate cause for executive privilege is obstruction of Congress. Using Lewandowski to work outside the system when those inside wouldn’t “play ball,” just like he used Rudy Giuliani to circumvent the system, is a pattern. Strong-arming foreign governments for his own personal gain is a habit. Ignoring the good sense and recommendations of career diplomats and staff on Qatar, on Russia, and on Ukraine is not an accident.
Trump has made all of these moves before. He will absolutely try to make them again. This all has to be placed in context, and it needs to be shown incontrovertibly that Ukraine is not an isolated incident. It’s all part of a dark, sad, selfish plan. And that’s why he needs to be impeached and removed from office.