On Tuesday morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and six House Democrat committee chairman jointly announced two articles of impeachment to oust President Donald Trump from office on charges that he abused the powers of the presidency by asking the president of Ukraine to launch an investigation that would interfere in the US 2020 presidential election, and then obstructed efforts by congressional committees to obtain evidence of that abuse from his administration. The Democrat leaders promised to hold a full House vote on the articles of impeachment no later than next week.
“Today, in service to our duty to the Constitution and to our country, the House Committee on the Judiciary is introducing two articles of impeachment, charging the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, with committing high crimes and misdemeanors,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said.
“Our president holds the ultimate public trust,” Nadler said. “When he betrays that trust and puts himself before country, he endangers the Constitution, he endangers our democracy, and he endangers our national security.”
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said the evidence against Trump was “overwhelming and uncontested,” and argued that Democrats were forced to move immediately on the impeachment articles without the benefit of witnesses and documents the Trump administration is withholding because the next presidential election campaign has already begun. “The argument ‘why don’t you just wait?’ amounts to this: why don’t you just let him cheat in one more election?” said Schiff. “Despite everything we have uncovered, the president’s misconduct continues to this day, unapologetically and right now.”
The central impeachment allegation is that Trump abused his authority by asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a July 25 phone call to launch a corruption investigation into the Ukrainian activities of then-vice president Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, who was being paid by a Ukrainian gas company. Joe Biden is Trump’s leading Democrat opponent for re-election next year. In the second article of impeachment, Trump is accused by Democrats of trying to obstruct the effort by House committees to conduct a thorough investigation of that abuse by withholding subpoenaed documents and witness testimony.
WHITE HOUSE AND REPUBLICAN REACTION
Shortly before Pelosi’s announcement, President Trump, in a tweet, called it “sheer political madness” to impeach him for having done “nothing wrong,” and pointed to statements by Ukrainian leaders denying that he had pressured them to investigated Joe Biden and his son.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham accused Democrats of “manufacturing an impeachment inquiry and forcing unfounded accusations down the throats of the American people.” She also said that the real goal of the impeachment effort is to weaken Trump’s chances for re-election next November.
Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy responded to Pelosi’s announcement later Tuesday by defending the president and condemning as grossly unfair the one-sided process which House Democrats used to build their impeachment case.
THE RUSSIAN CONNECTION
Democrats sought to portray Trump’s actions in Ukraine as part of a broader pattern of misconduct that began with his campaign’s alleged collusion with the Russians during the 2016 election and still continues today. The Russian collusion theory was decisively debunked by the findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, but Democrats still refuse to drop the false accusation. Democrats considered, but eventually decided against adding an article of impeachment claiming that Trump tried to obstruct justice by interfering with Mueller’s investigation.
To simplify their case, Democrats decided against drafting an article of impeachment that would have accused Trump of bribery for temporarily holding hostage the transfer of $391 million of US military aid to Ukraine pending the announcement of the corruption investigation against the Bidens he had requested in the July phone call.
The House is expected to approve the articles of impeachment on a strictly party line vote with no Republican support. Trump is widely expected to be exonerated after an impeachment trial in the Republican-controlled Senate because Democrats are highly unlikely to be able to muster the necessary 2/3 majority vote to convict the president.
PELOSI AND NADLER HAD WANTED A CONSENSUS
Pelosi and Nadler had both predicted that trying to impeach President Trump could be a disaster for Democrats unless they could convince the bulk of the American people, including many Republicans, that the radical step of removing a sitting president from office was justified and necessary.
In an interview on MSNBC in November 2018, less than three weeks after Democrats won control of the House in the midterm election, Nadler said that for an impeachment proceeding to be seen as legitimate, the president’s offenses would have to be so serious and the evidence of his guilt be so clear, that even most of his supporters would have to concede that impeachment was necessary.
“You don’t want half the country to say to the other half for the next 30 years, ‘We won the election. You stole it from us,’” Nadler said at that time. “You have to be able to think at the beginning of the impeachment process that the evidence is so clear, of offenses so grave, that once you’ve laid out all the evidence, a good fraction of the opposition, the voters, will reluctantly admit to themselves ‘They have to do it.’ Otherwise, you have a partisan impeachment, which will tear the country apart.”
A year before the 2018 midterm election, in November 2017, Pelosi spoke out against a TV ad sponsored by liberal activist Tom Steyer calling for Trump’s impeachment. When she was asked in a CNN interview whether Democrats should push for Trump’s removal were they to win control of the House in the next election, she said, “It’s not someplace that I think we should go. I believe that whatever we do, we have a responsibility to first and foremost to unify the nation.”
In a March 2019 interview with the Washington Post, Pelosi declared, “I’m not for impeachment. Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path because it divides the country. And [Trump’s] just not worth it.”
DEMOCRATS PLUNGE AHEAD
Yet last week, both Nadler and Pelosi were trying to defend an impeachment process which had clearly failed to acquire the necessary level of bipartisan support that both of them had publicly stated was necessary for it to be legitimate.
Six weeks of one-side hearings by the House Intelligence Committee, under the leadership of its chairman, Adam Schiff, featuring the testimony of 17 critics of Trump’s Ukraine policy, had failed to break the roughly 50-50 partisan deadlock in public opinion over whether Trump’s policies towards Ukraine justified his impeachment. In fact, Trump’s prospects for re-election next year seemed to improve as the public seemed to grow weary of Schiff’s hearings.
While Schiff, Pelosi and Nadler have continued to rail in the media against Trump, their hearings have failed to produce any direct evidence that Trump was guilty of “abuse of power” or “bribery.” On the contrary, Trump and his supporters insist that he was acting within his authority when he temporarily withheld US military aid from Ukraine, and asked the president of Ukraine to investigate questionable activities in that country by Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
Last week, when Pelosi ordered House committee chairmen to begin drafting articles of impeachment, she claimed to do so reluctantly. “Our democracy is what is at stake. The president leaves us no choice but to act. Because he is trying to corrupt, once again, the election for his own benefit.”
RUSSIAN COLLUSION DELUSION CONTINUES
The words “once again” were a broad hint by Pelosi that the current impeachment effort is not just about what Trump said to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in their phone call, but is also based upon the Russia-Trump 2016 election conspiracy theory which was thoroughly debunked in the first part of the Mueller report.
Nadler’s Judiciary Committee held its first formal impeachment hearing last week, in which four legal scholars were asked their opinions on whether the allegations of wrongdoing by Trump in his dealings with Ukraine met the Constitutional requirements for impeachment. In his opening statement at that hearing, Nadler accused Trump of obstructing both the Ukraine probe and the Russia investigation, and seemed to emphasize the latter.
“When his own Justice Department tried to uncover the extent to which a foreign government had broken our laws,” Nadler said of the Russia probe, “President Trump took extraordinary and unprecedented steps to obstruct the investigation, including ignoring subpoenas, ordering the creation of false records, and publicly attacking and intimidating witnesses. Then, as now, this administration’s level of obstruction is without precedent.”
Nadler also said at the end of the hearing that he considered Trump’s actions to be a “direct threat” to constitutional government.
According to media reports, House Democrats are seriously considering expanding the articles of impeachment to include at least five possible instances of “obstruction of justice” by Trump that were cited by Mueller in the second half his report. If they do, Democrats will be asked how they can base articles of impeachment on hints in the second half of Mueller’s report while rejecting the clear conclusions exonerating Trump in the first half of that same report.
PELOSI’S SELF RIGHTEOUSNESS
Speaker Pelosi is also now eager to go forward. On the morning before last week’s Judiciary committee hearing, she asked a closed-door meeting of House Democrats whether they were ready to go ahead with an aggressive schedule culminating in a vote on articles of impeachment before Congress’ end-of-year adjournment. According to several participating Democrats, the caucus responded with shouts of approval.
When Pelosi announced that her caucus was proceeding with articles of impeachment, she self-righteously proclaimed that she was doing so only to protect the constitutional form of government. “If we were not to proceed, it would say to any president, any future president, whoever she or he may be, Democratic or Republican, that our democracy is gone … the president is king.”
At the news conference at which Pelosi announced the next steps on impeachment, she said she was acting “with confidence and humility, with allegiance to our founders and a heart full of love for America.” She also insisted that the effort to impeach Donald Trump has “absolutely nothing to do with politics.”
But then she succumbed once again to the Russian collusion delusion when she blurted out, “All roads lead to Putin.”
Pelosi was extremely sensitive to questions about her motives for suddenly reversing her position on impeachment after resisting calls from progressives for such action for most of this year. She reacted sharply to James Rosen, a reporter for the Sinclair Broadcast Group, when he cited Doug Collins, the ranking Republican member of the Judiciary Committee, who “suggested that the Democrats are doing this simply because they don’t like the guy [Trump].”
Rosen asked his question just at the end of Pelosi’s news conference, as she was leaving the room. “I think the president is a coward when it comes to helping our kids who are afraid of gun violence,” Pelosi said, while walking back to the lectern to give her answer. “I think he is cruel when he doesn’t deal with helping our Dreamers, of which we’re very proud. I think he’s in denial about the climate crisis. However, that’s about the election. Take it up in the election. This is about the Constitution of the United States and the facts that lead to the president’s violation of his oath of office.
“And as a Catholic, I resent your using the word ‘hate’ in a sentence that addresses me,” Pelosi continued. “I don’t hate anyone. I was raised in a way that is a heart full of love, and always pray for the president. And I still pray for the president. I pray for the president all the time. So don’t mess with me when it comes to words like that.”
The vehemence of Pelosi’s answer and her nervous body language was clearly out of proportion to the reporter’s question. President Trump responded in a tweet challenging her claim that he is in her daily prayers, and suggesting that, “Nancy Pelosi just had a nervous fit.”
PELOSI IS RIGHT TO BE NERVOUS
Speaker Pelosi is right to be nervous. She knows that the Democrats’ Ukraine impeachment case lacks direct evidence of Trump’s guilt. As it stands now, impeachment is doomed to fail because the Republican majority in the Senate will not vote to convict their president. It is also likely to cost enough Democrats their House seats for her party to lose its majority in next year’s election. But Pelosi is now committed to the impeachment effort, and she knows that it is too late to turn back now.
President Trump believes that he has the advantage, and that the weak case the Democrats are pushing against him has boomeranged, and is actually working to his political advantage. He tweeted, “If you are going to impeach me, do it now, fast, so we can have a fair trial in the Senate, and so that our country can get back to business.”
Democrats tried to salvage their position by calling on liberal legal experts to explain why the Constitution should not be taken literally when it says that presidents can only be impeached if they can be convicted by a 2/3 majority of the Senate of having committed “treason, bribery of other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
LIBERAL LEGAL BIAS
Three of the four legal experts who testified before Nadler’s committee last week were chosen by Democrats on the committee. To nobody’s surprise, all three agreed that Trump deserved to be impeached for what he was alleged to have done.
Harvard Law School professor Noah Feldman, Stanford University professor Pamela Karlan and University of North Carolina law professor Michael Gerhardt testified that Trump committed bribery and other impeachable crimes when he allegedly conditioned $391 million in military aid for Ukraine and a red carpet White House visit for Zelensky on the Ukrainian president’s agreement to launch a corruption investigations into Trump’s likely reelection opponent next year, Joe Biden.
“Ultimately, the reason the Constitution provided for impeachment was to anticipate a situation like the one that is before you today,” Feldman said. “If we cannot impeach a president who uses his power for personal advantage, we no longer live in a democracy, we live in a monarchy or a dictatorship.”
In the process of trying to compare Trump’s request from the Ukrainian president to the Watergate scandal, Feldman falsely accused President Richard Nixon of having “sent burglars” to the offices of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate complex. In fact, Nixon didn’t learn about the botched burglary until after it took place, and then tried to cover up the White House involvement in the crime.
Gerhardt testified that “if what we’re talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable.”
Karlan shared that view and stressed that giving Trump a pass would encourage future presidents to undermine elections and US national security for personal political benefit.
“Because this is an abuse that cuts to the heart of democracy, you need to ask yourselves, if you don’t impeach a president who has done what this president has done . . . then what you’re saying is, it’s fine to go ahead and do this again,” Karlan said.
Karlan was the most biased of the three Democrat witnesses. She once admitted that she is so hostile to Trump that when walking in downtown Washington, DC, she actually crossed Pennsylvania Avenue to avoid passing Trump’s International Hotel.
BULLYING TRUMP’S YOUNG SON
She took time out of her testimony to criticize Doug Collins, the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, for suggesting that the hearings were driven by a political vendetta against President Trump rather than the underlying facts in the case. Karlan also took a cheap shot, jokingly ridiculing the first name of President Trump’s 13-year-old son, Baron, saying, “So while the president can name his son Barron, he can’t make him a baron.”
The boy’s mother, First Lady Melania Trump, took serious exception. She tweeted, “A minor child deserves privacy and should be kept out of politics. Pamela Karlan, you should be ashamed of your very angry and obviously biased public pandering, and using a child to do it.”
Toward the end of the eight-hour long hearing, Karlan issued an apology, declaring, “I want to apologize for what I said earlier about the president’s son. It was wrong of me to do that.”
But Karlan could not resist the opportunity to take a parting shot at the boy’s father. “I wish the president would apologize, obviously, for the things that he’s done that are wrong. But I do regret having said that [about his son].”
The three experts called by Democrats also agreed that Trump had obstructed Congress by daring to challenge congressional subpoenas to testify or produce documents in federal courts.
In fact, the real problem here is that Democrats are trying to rush the impeachment process so that it does not interfere with their presidential primary selection process which begins in two months with the Iowa caucuses. The need for all 100 senators to be present for the Senate trial in Washington will impede the efforts of several Democratic senators now running for president to make campaign appearances in the early primary states.
Rather than waiting for the courts to order high Trump administration officials to give potentially incriminating testimony under oath, House Democrat leaders have opted to send the Senate articles of impeachment which lack the clear evidence of Trump’s guilt which that testimony might have provided, guaranteeing the effort’s ultimate failure.
A NON-PARTISAN LEGAL VIEW
George Washington University professor Jonathan Turley, the witness called by Republicans, disputed the opinions of the other three experts on last week’s hearing panel. He told the committee that trying to impeach Trump with such haste is a historic mistake.
Turley began by declaring, “First, I am not a supporter of President Trump. I voted against him in 2016 and I have previously voted for Presidents Clinton and Obama. Second, I have been highly critical of President Trump, his policies and his rhetoric, in dozens of [published opinion] columns. Third, I have repeatedly criticized his raising of the investigation of the Hunter Biden matter with the Ukrainian president.”
“My personal views of President Trump are as irrelevant to my impeachment testimony as they should be to your impeachment vote,” Turley told committee members.
Turley said that Trump’s call with Zelensky “was anything but perfect,” adding that Trump’s “reference to the Bidens was highly inappropriate.” He even admitted that the House had a legitimate reason to investigate Trump’s Ukraine policies. Nevertheless, he concluded that Trump’s impeachment wasn’t warranted based on evidence Democrats have produced so far.
“If the House proceeds solely on the Ukrainian allegations, this impeachment would stand out … as the shortest proceeding, with the thinnest evidentiary record, and the narrowest grounds ever used to impeach a president,” Turley said. “That does not bode well for future presidents who are working in a country often sharply and, at times, bitterly divided.”
Turley, who has a long liberal political track record, did agree that if Democrats could prove that Trump had offered the Ukrainian president an improper quid pro quo, it would be grounds for his removal from office. But he says they have not yet presented such evidence.
“In fact, non-crimes have been part of past impeachments; it’s just that they’ve never gone up alone or primarily as the basis of impeachment,” Turley said. “That’s the problem here. If you prove a quid pro quo, then you might have an impeachable offense.”
IMPEACHMENT CASE UNPROVEN
Point by point, Turley exposed the impeachment effort to date as an unfair indulging of partisan Democrat biases against the president. He argued that passing articles of impeachment would be premature, because all the facts are still unknown, and the allegations unproven.
If Democrats want to accuse Trump of bribery by trading foreign aid and a White House meeting for political favors, they need more evidence: “You need to make it stick because you’re trying to remove a duly elected president of the United States,” Turley stated.
If Democrats want to charge Trump with obstruction of justice by refusing to comply with subpoenas, Democrats ought to be willing to fight him in court, a legal avenue rightly open to the president: “If you impeach a president, if you make a high crime and misdemeanor out of going to the courts, it is an abuse of power. It’s your abuse of power.”
RANCOR RANGE AND INTOLERANCE
In a subsequent op-ed published by The Hill, Turley wrote, “In my testimony Wednesday, I lamented that, as in the impeachment of President Clinton from 1998 to 1999, there is an intense ‘rancor and rage’ and ‘stifling intolerance’ that blinds people to opposing views. My call for greater civility and dialogue may have been the least successful argument I made to the committee. Before I finished my testimony, my home and office were inundated with threatening messages and demands that I be fired from George Washington University for arguing that, while a case for impeachment can be made, it has not been made on this record.”
Turley complained that fellow liberals have deliberately misinterpreted his position. He re-emphasized his opinion “that a president can be impeached for noncriminal acts, including abuse of power.” He added that an impeachable “offense does not have to be indictable,” and it could include “serious misconduct or a violation of public trust,” but that the case does need to be proven, which the Democrats have failed to do so far in the Ukraine controversy.
Turley concludes with a warning that removing Trump from office without providing sufficient evidence would set a precedent which threatens future presidents of both parties. “A president can still be impeached for abuse of power without a crime, and that includes Trump. But that makes it more important to complete and strengthen the record of such an offense, as well as other possible offenses. I remain concerned that we are lowering impeachment standards to fit a paucity of evidence and an abundance of anger. Trump will not be our last president. What we leave in the wake of this scandal will shape our democracy for generations to come.”
Turley’s non-partisan testimony stood in sharp contrast to the other three legal experts on the panel whose pro-Democrat or anti-Trump biases are well known. Two weeks after Trump took office, Michael Gerhardt said in an interview that his law students were so distressed by his presidency that they “were still in therapy,” while Noah Feldman once proudly declared on cable television that he’s “a registered Democrat and have been my whole life.”
Republicans were quite appreciative of Turley’s testimony, despite the fact that the liberal legal expert is clearly unhappy with Trump’s conduct of Ukraine policy. A spokeswoman for Republican National Committee said, “Professor Turley, no fan of President Trump, has methodically taken apart the Democrats’ entire case, revealing it is Democrats who are abusing power by jamming through an impeachment with no crime.”
COMPETING IMPEACHMENT REPORTS
Republicans are also highly critical of the impeachment report delivered by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff last week, which repeatedly exonerates former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, who was in the pay of Burisma Holdings, a corrupt Ukrainian natural gas company. Republicans on the same committee, led by ranking member Devin Nunes, issued their own report exonerating President Trump of the impeachment charges against him.
The second hearing of Jerry Nadler’s Judiciary Committee Monday offered little new information of use to either side. The hearing consisted mostly of wrangling by Democrats reviewing previous impeachment charges against President Trump and Republicans who were furious that Adam Schiff had refused to appear to answer their questions about how his committee had conducted its impeachment investigation.
The ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Doug Collins, sat in front of a sign asking “Where’s Adam?” while accusing the House Intelligence Committee chairman of obstructing their efforts to expose his efforts to set up the bogus conspiracy charges made by the whistleblower whose accusations launched the impeachment investigation. Collins likened the impeachment process to a criminal proceeding without a crime, while Nadler accused Trump of putting “himself before country.”
To testify before Nadler’s committee in his stead, Schiff sent his committee’s chief staff lawyer, Daniel Goldman, to present the evidence it had gathered against the president. He said that, “President Trump’s persistent and continuing effort to coerce a foreign country to help him cheat to win an election is a clear and present danger to our free and fair elections and to our national security.”
Goldman accused Trump of scheming “to solicit foreign help in his 2020 re-election campaign [and] withholding official acts from the government of Ukraine in order to coerce and secure political interference in our domestic affairs.” Goldman said that Trump has instructed his personal lawyer, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, to make false reports to the Justice Department to influence next year’s presidential election.
BREAKING THE RULES
Goldman also stonewalled Republican demands for more information about how detailed information from half a dozen subpoenas issued by Schiff for telephone records identifying calls between Giuliani, Devin Nunes, the ranking member of the Intelligence committee, and conservative investigative reporter John Solomon wound up named in Schiff’s report.
Congressman Collins called the naming “a gratuitous drive-by” smear of the three individuals. Wisconsin Republican Congressman James Sensenbrenner said that Schiff’s abuse of the information gathered from the phone calls violated the spirit of legislation which he had sponsored several years ago to protect the privacy of the conversations of American citizens from abuse by the National Security Administration.
Republicans complained bitterly about the highly unusual dual role which was played by Barry Berke, the Judiciary Committee Democrats’ counsel during the Monday hearing. He first appeared as a fact witness to lay out the impeachment case against President Trump, and then moved to the dais to cross examine the main Republican lawyer on both the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, Stephen Castor. Nadler rejected the Republican objections, claiming that as committee chairman he had the power to set any rules he wanted to conduct the hearing.
Both Berke and Goldman complained about the refusal of the Trump administration to release documents that the committees had subpoenaed or allow its senior officials to testify. The only documents the Democrats have to work with were provided by one witness, former State Department special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, while former while National Security Adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Attorney General Bill Barr, who have first-hand information on Trump’s Ukraine policy decisions, have obeyed White House orders to refuse to testify.
WHAT SCHIFF IS HIDING
Castor and Republicans on the Judiciary Committee said that by refusing to appear to testify before them, Schiff is trying to hide the role he and members of his committee staff played in setting up the accusations against Trump by the whistleblower and other Trump opponents in the federal government who supplied him with information about the July phone call. Castor argued that the entire controversy had been blown out of proportion. “To impeach a president over eight lines in a call transcript is baloney,” Castor said.
Schiff’s report relied heavily on the testimony of Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the EU, citing his testimony more than 600 times. Sondland said that he had come to believe that Trump would not release the aid to the Ukraine, nor grant a meeting to Zelensky, before the announcement of an investigation of the Bidens; however, Sondland also testified that Trump had told him directly that he did not offer Zelensky a quid pro quo. Republican Congressman Jim Jordan told the Judiciary Committee that Sondland’s claim that “everyone [in the administration] was in the loop” concerning Trump’s demands for an investigation of the Bidens was highly unreliable because he had frequently revised his previous testimony.
Republican congressmen Matt Gaetz of Florida and Mike Johnson of Louisiana challenged the legitimacy of the Judiciary Committee hearing and the way that the rights of the Republicans on the committee were being violated by the way that Nadler managed the hearing.
Critics of the current impeachment effort say it is just the latest in a series of failed Democrat efforts to reverse the outcome of the 2016 elections, whose legitimacy they have never accepted, despite the failure of the Mueller investigation to support the allegation that Trump’s victory was due to collusion with the Russians.
Trump declined an invitation from Nadler to send a White House lawyer to participate in the Judiciary Committee hearings. He called the proceedings “a disgrace to the country.”
A DAY-LONG TELEVISED STANDOFF
Monday’s day-long hearing was judged a stand-off between the Democrats and Republicans. Early the next morning, Pelosi, Nadler and Schiff announced their decision to present two articles of impeachment and present for votes on the House floor as quickly as possible. Upon their passage, the articles of impeachment will be sent to the Senate for trial.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already cleared the Senate’s January calendar for the impeachment trial. On Sunday, Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham told Fox News that he will seek a quick end to the impeachment trial, and will not try “to turn the Senate into a circus” by calling a lot of unnecessary witnesses.
“When 51 of us say we’ve heard enough, the trial is going to end,” Graham said. “The president’s going to be acquitted. He may want to call Schiff, he may want to call Hunter Biden, he may want to call Joe Biden. But here’s my advice to the president: If the Senate is ready to vote and ready to acquit you, you should celebrate that.”
Republicans insist that there is ample evidence to support Trump’s accusations that Ukrainians, as well as Russians, tried to interfere in the 2016 US presidential election on behalf of Mrs. Clinton, and justification for his request to President Zelensky to “get to the bottom” of the role that Joe Biden and his son Hunter played while the vice president was in charge of Obama administration’s policy toward Ukraine.
BIDEN’S ETHICAL PROBLEMS ARE REAL
In fact, the Obama administration had raised concerns that Hunter Biden’s relationship with Burisma had, at the very least, created the appearance of influence peddling. Deputy Secretary of State George Kent, who testified in Schiff’s impeachment hearings, also questioned the propriety of Hunter Biden’s role on the Burisma board with the Obama White House, but was told that the vice president “lacked the further bandwidth to deal with family-related issues at the time” because his other son, Beau, was fighting a fatal case of brain cancer at the time.
The Schiff report also fails to question the propriety of the elder Biden’s public boast that he got a Ukrainian prosecutor who was investigating that gas company fired by threatening to cancel $1 billion in US loan guarantees to Ukraine, more than twice the amount of money that Trump had temporarily withheld and later released to Ukraine without requiring it to investigate the Bidens.
The report claims that President Trump had no justification for delaying the transfer of US military aid to Ukraine, but on August 31, Trump told Senator Ron Johnson that the reason why the aid was being withheld was the fact that no other European country was giving aid to Ukraine, and vehemently denied that he had offered Zelensky a quid pro quo.
Most of the 17 witnesses who testified before Schiff’s committee did not listen in on the July phone call and based their objections to Trump’s Ukraine policies on second- and third-hand information. Some of them, including acting Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor and Deputy Secretary of State George Kent, are disgruntled career diplomats angry that Trump refused to follow their advice on Ukraine policy and who were exacting their revenge.
Trump’s accusers claim that he was holding the military aid hostage, when it is unclear whether the Ukrainian president was even aware that the aid was being withheld when he spoke to Trump on July 25.
GOING FORWARD WITH A WEAK CASE
Even though Democrats admit that their impeachment case against Trump could be much stronger, they are determined to go forward with it as quickly as possible, and hope that whatever damage that may do to their candidates’ chances will dissipate before Election Day.
However, echoes from voters of Trump’s corruption accusations have already provoked an angry response from Joe Biden on the campaign trail in Iowa. When confronted by an unnamed 83-year-old retired farmer who accused Biden of sending his son to Ukraine “to get a job and work for a gas company, that he had no experience with gas,” Biden branded him a “liar. That’s not true, and no one has ever said that, no one has proved that. . . Get your words straight, Jack!” The voter then said that Biden is “too old” and lacked the “mental faculties” to serve as president. Biden again responded by challenging the voter to a contest of mental and physical capabilities.
Biden’s strong reaction drew a mixed response from Democrat strategists. Some noted his vulnerability to charges of improper conduct in Ukraine, in protecting his son, as the impeachment process keeps the media spotlight on those Trump accusations. On the other hand, Biden’s spontaneous response to the challenge from the Iowa voter was a source of encouragement for those who have expressed doubt about his ability to stand up to the rigors of a general election campaign against Donald Trump.
BIDEN’S FEISTY MOMENT
Joe Trippi, a veteran Democrat consultant, said Biden’s show of strength “came at just the right time” in the presidential primary campaign.
“Joe Biden has this feisty moment, and maybe it’s over the top, but people are saying, ‘Yeah. He’s got some fight in him.’ The naysayers can say what they want but it’s going to be helpful because it hit at the right moment,” Trippi said.
Some Iowa voters expressed sympathy for the vice president’s family dilemma, and his decision to stand up in defense of his son, while others called upon him to a better explanation of his son’s actions in Ukraine.
The former vice president began to address that request by referring to his son’s October interview on ABC where he expressed some regret. “Hunter Biden spoke publicly about it,” Joe Biden said. “He said that in retrospect if he had thought about what was going to happen — how it was going to be handled by Giuliani and company — he wouldn’t have done it. Nothing he did [was] wrong. The appearance looked bad. And he acknowledged it. And that’s it. That’s all I’m going to talk about.”
Most Democrat strategists believe that Biden’s new response was better than his previous flat denials that there was anything wrong with his son’s lucrative business arrangements with a notoriously corrupt Ukrainian natural gas company — but if he wins the Democrat presidential nomination, Biden will have to come with a more effective response to Trump’s accusations about his son.
Still, Trump appears confident that the Democrats’ impeachment process will ultimately fail in the Senate and strengthen his re-election bid. And as the impeachment and nomination processes play out side by side, we will find out which side the voters will choose.