Trump impeachment is now all but certain
“I would like you to do us a favor though. … There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it…”
With those words from the White House’s superficial version of a transcript of Donald Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump left no doubt that he was asking the head of a foreign country for help in smearing a possible election opponent. Trump might as well have sent the articles of impeachment to the Senate himself.
Trump’s behavior — and actions by unidentified White House officials trying to hide that conduct — were the subject of the whistleblower complaint regarding Trump’s conversation with Zelensky and the aftermath. Unclassified material from that complaint was released to the public with few redactions. Testimony from the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, before the House Intelligence Committee also confirmed the basis of the complaint.
The transcript — really notes about the conversation — doesn’t read like two human beings talking to each other, but it was obvious from the beginning that White House officials would put Trump’s words in the best possible light. Too bad for them that they’re still damning.
Except for GOP lawmakers, who insist that that there is no quid pro quo in the Trump-Zelensky conversation, and Trump himself, who reverted to his witch hunt claims during a rambling news conference, the consensus is that the contents of Trump-Zelensky phone call represent a disturbing, if not impeachable, offense. The rough transcript is devastating. How could Trump not know that? asked Washington Post columnist Max Boot.
On the call itself, Trump pivoted from Zelensky’s request for missiles to Trump’s request for an investigation of his political opponents.
Trump did no business on behalf of the United States on this call. He did not once mention any desire to root out corruption in Ukraine or achieve any other foreign policy objective. It was all campaign business — dragging a foreign head of state and his own attorney general into his desperate efforts to win reelection and remove any taint from his initial election.
The phone call was clearly an attempt to force Zelensky and his administration into investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, with the help of Trump’s private lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and Attorney General William Barr. House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff equated the call to a classic Mafia-like shakedown. “Nice little country you’ve got there. Be a shame if anything happened to it…”
In the transcript, Zelensky shamelessly butters up Trump. You would expect a foreign leader to deliver compliments to an American president, and anyone paying attention over the last two years knows that Trump loves nothing more than to have his ego stroked. All reporting about this phone call listed eight times that Trump asked for Ukraine’s help in smearing Biden. This transcript, of a supposed 30-minute call, wouldn’t last half that time.
When Democratic lawmakers were finally able to read the actual whistleblower complaint, they agreed that the complaint’s contents were even more damning that the phone call transcript. Schiff said it showed evidence of serious wrongdoing from multiple officials in the administration. California Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier called the complaint nothing short of explosive. Besides the confirmation of the topics in the phone call itself, the complaint also explained how Trump officials hid the notes about the call on a server usually reserved for top security matters. This phone call doesn’t fall into that category.
And although Republicans at first dismissed the seriousness of the Trump-Zelensky phone call, at least some members of the GOP admitted that Trump could be in trouble. Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, while cautioning all involved to “slow down,” warned his GOP colleagues not to dismiss the complaint, saying, “Republicans ought not to be rushing to circle the wagons to say there’s no there there when there’s obviously lots that’s very troubling there.”
Lawyers representing the still-unnamed whistleblower say he or she wants to testify before Congress. (Let’s call the whistle-blower “Deep Pierogi,” in honor of the tasty dumplings native to Ukraine as well as Poland.) Acting DNI Maguire told the House Intelligence Committee that the whistleblower testimony will be allowed, although it has yet to be scheduled. Until that time, it’s important to remember the whistleblower’s opening statement from the complaint:
In the course of my official duties, I have received information from multiple U.S. Government officials that the President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election. This interference includes, among other things, pressuring a foreign country to investigate one of the President’s main domestic political rivals.
House Democrats have now passed the majority number of 218 of those favoring impeachment or an impeachment inquiry. So it was obviously time for a flurry of news stories interviewing mostly Trump supporters on how impeachment could backfire (Democrats are “nervous,” Republicans are “dug in”). This sampling is from The New York Times:
In interviews with voters on Wednesday, there was no clear or surprising shift in sentiment on impeachment; some Republican voters pumped their fists with bring-it-on energy, and some Democrats pronounced themselves vindicated but also uncertain about whether the House — let alone the Republican-led Senate — would ultimately act against Mr. Trump.
Of course there isn’t going to be a sea change of attitudes, and certainly not in one day. It took months of televised hearings about Watergate before public opinion swung against Richard Nixon, finally forcing him to resign. That, and a U.S. Supreme Court ruling ordering the full release of the Nixon tapes.
But while Nixon felt at least a modicum of shame, Trump obviously doesn’t. He’ll never resign as long as his family is still making money off his office and he can use the institution of the presidency to feed his enormous ego.
There was no Fox News or right-wing hate radio in the 1970s, and no social media to spread right-wing conspiracy theories. There were enough Republicans in the 1970s who were finally willing to put country before party and say out loud that Nixon’s behavior was illegal and that he should be held accountable.
Today, not so much. Republican lawmakers are too afraid of Trump’s voting base and of possible Trump-loving primary challengers to stand up to him.
There are truckloads of reasons to impeach Donald Trump: obstruction of justice in the Robert Mueller Russia investigation, profiting off the presidency, infringement of the Constitution’s emoluments clause, stonewalling congressional investigations, blocking congressional subpoenas, and refusing to let anyone connected to the White House testify before Congress, just to name a few. His obvious approach to smear a 2020 opponent is only the latest.
How will all of this play out in the long run? So much depends on how it plays in the media, how Trump continues to play the victim card, and how members of both parties spin the information.
Trumpanistas will be dug in no matter what. Now, more than ever, it’s important to register new voters and make sure that voters can get to the polls. And vote.
Originally posted on Daily Kos on Sept. 29, 2019.