Sunday, January 12, 2020

Both GOP Senate and the President are on trial

Revised. updated, and edited January 17, 2019.
Both  GOP Senators and the President are on trial with verdicts proclaimed by future historians. and voters in  November. The  GOP conduct of the Senate trial has serious consequences for the interpretation of the Constitution,  the future of democracy, the balance of powers, the rule of law,  and the acceptability and legality of actions taken by this and future presidents. If the trial is viewed as unfair, a show trial or one in which evidence was suppressed,  the outcome of the Senate trial will also not be taken seriously and will be considered a partisan whitewash. If Donald Trump claims the partisan acquittal exonerated him, that, too, will not be taken seriously.  The trial will not only be judged by historians, but it will also be about reaching the hearts and minds of voters in 2020. The political impact of this cannot be denied.

Here is what is at stake. The danger to American democracy and the rule of law is that is if a president thinks he can get away with his kind of misdeeds,  then in the future other corrupt presidents and he could be tempted to do likewise. Trump's withholding foreign aid, using it as an inducement to get a foreign ally to help his own political interests and soliciting foreign interference to help him with his next election are lessons he will learn he and others could do if he gets away with it this time. He also claimed "blanket immunity", granting himself the power to defy any Congressional subpoenas and oversight.  He has asserted that presidential power overrides any action by Congress. Trump has raised his middle finger at laws and Constitution that would keep him in check from being a dictator or king.

How serious is this impeachment? So what if what Trump did is found to be true? Does it rise to the reason to remove him from office? If Bill Clinton could have been impeached for lying about his sexual activities with an intern, then the Trump impeachment charges are far more worthy of a guilty vote. His accusers contend that he withheld Congressional approved military support from a fragile ally that was trying to hold off a Russian attempt to retake them and eventually other former USSR satellites.  National security interests are at stake versus lying about marital infidelity.

Also at stake also is whether the President can get away with claiming he can ignore the powers the Constitution granted them to check executive branch power. The White House and GOP supporters of Trump first tried to stonewall all witnesses subpoenaed by the House, forbidding executive branch members from testifying in the House inquiry. This blanket immunity has never be asserted by any president before and the challenge to the balance of power intent as constructed in the Constitution is profound.  White House refused to appear when they were subpoenaed. They then tried to say there was no evidence to prove Trump abused his power or did what he was accused of doing. That was a cynical maneuver. First, they hid the evidence and then tried to say impeachment should fail because there was a lack of evidence. It did not work.. When given the chance to appear or send his lawyers to refute the evidence in open hearings, Trump refused. Fact witnesses braved wrecking their own professional futures and testified. Many inquiry witnesses had been active supporters of Trump. Many were not hearsay witnesses, as GOP and Trump media falsely contend. Many were actively involved in executing the scheme. Another result was that one of the articles of impeachment became the obstruction of Congress.

The Senate trial process is unfolding as this is being written.
 It is assumed that the GOP party discipline will hold. The possibility of acquittal is also helped by the Constitution's provision that requires that a guilty finding to have a yes vote by two-thirds of the senators. No sitting president has ever been removed because no impeachment reached the two-thirds requirement.   Here is the fanciful  line you can expect in response to acquittal from the President: "I was not impeached because I was acquitted."  Andrew Johnson and  Bill Clinton were never impeached because they were acquitted if you follow Trump's illogic.  Of course not. History calls Johnson and Clinton impeached just as Trump's biography will also have that tag attached to his name forever regardless of how he tries to redefine it.

 The GOP  claiming impeachment is a purely political hoax conducted by a Democratic-dominated House is worse than a  pot calling the kettle black since they,  their media cohorts and the White House provided no fact-based refutation and witnesses in the House inquiry hearings when they had an opportunity to do so. Instead, they thumped the table, claiming it all was so unfair. .  Now in the Senate trial, they have that opportunity in a body dominated by their own party. They can no longer duck and shout slogans. It is game time. So what are they doing? Sen. Mitchell, GOP majority leader wanted to stop any witness testimony from either side and make it a drive-by, quicky, boring trial of argumentation of legal theory and the meaning of words,  with limited press access. Perhaps they hope voters will tune it out in a few days, lost in the fog of legalese.  Donald Trump, on the other hand, is wanting it to be a reality show since he sees the ultimate trial will be the November vote. His defense managers contain Fox and conservative media lawyers. The show is on. Trump's case is that he did nothing wrong. He is taking a risk. A  fair and open Senate trial including newly discovered evidence and testimony from key witnesses could damage his case based on evidence and facts that the President did not do what he was charged with doing.  He would be left with the GOP's preferred defense argument, he did what he did, but it was not bad enough to warrant removing him.  Either way, reality show or legal wrangling,
this is bound to leave a bad taste in voters' mouths who are already tired of the chaos of his presidency and are disgusted with his personality traits that are inappropriate for the office he serves. It will not be helpful to his re-election because evidence of his misdeeds will be on prime time and not buried in Fox News. Voters are now tuned in and alert; the Senate trial has gotten their attention and media reporting will be fed into their information base used to make decisions in 2020. The battle for their hearts and minds also annot be confined to a sham trial in the Senate.
This segment has also been reposted as a separate post 1/17/20
Here are some of the arguments you can expect the lawyers to debate in the Senate trial. The GOP's argument has been no laws had been broken so the president did not commit high crimes per impeachment criteria. The President did indeed break laws to execute his scheme.  The government General Accounting Office just reported that Trump had broken the impoundment law by failing to provide a reason or following the required procedure in freezing the aid to Ukraine. Another is that Federal Election Laws that forbid soliciting something of value from a foreign government in a political campaign. Trump broke that one by asking Ukraine to find dirt on a political opponent to help him in the 2020 election. That "favor" was asked of the President of Ukraine in the infamous July "perfect" phone call. Nothing in the Constitution requires the president of being found guilty of a crime before he could be impeached. If there was such a Constitutional requirement of the commitment of a crime prior to impeachment, there would never be an impeachment because no president can be indicted for a federal crime while in office due to court decisions and Department of Justice rules.

What we can expect is for the GOP to claim Trump's impeachment is baseless because Trump's attempt to play a dirty campaign scheme failed so there was no harm done.  An attempted crime is considered a crime by itself even if it is stopped in the act.  Timelines are damning evidence.

Expect the GOP to say that the President's actions were committed to helping American foreign policy objectives of ending corruption in Ukraine so therefore he did not abuse his power to help himself win re-election.  The problem the GOP faces is that every witness and document revealed in the House inquiry only proves that Trump's single-minded goal was to get dirt on the Bidens by his constant failure to cite the need to end Ukraine's corruption in general. Even two participants in executing the scheme agree Ambassador Gordon Sondland concluded that Trump did not give a "s..t" about Ukraine; he was only interested in the Bidens. Lev Parnas, Guiliani's fixer and on the ground executor of the scheme, in an interview on TV testified likewise. If he is considered a flawed witness, Parnas mostly corroborated other sworn testimony and backed up his statements with documented text messages and notes. That is also a good reason he needs to be called to give sworn testimony in the trial.   Both men also attested the President's private attorney, Rudy Guiliani, was not a rogue actor but that the president himself directed their activities. John Bolton, a party to the scheme, may also provide corroborating testimony.

The GOP leaders want to dramatize witnesses if witnesses are ever permitted are ones that put Joe Biden in a bad light, though Joe Biden is not the object of the impeachment and was not a witness or participant in the events of withholding aid and pressure on the Ukrainian president. Biden's actions may be relevant in a campaign, but he is not relevant to the issue now before the Senate.

____________________________________________________________________ _____________
Update: January 15, 2020
Lev Parnas' document dump within the week is written evidence that additionally verifies Trump's intent in the actions was not on behalf of national policy but for his own political benefit. Trump is directly tied by those Parnas documents to directing the operation through Rudy Guiliani.  Parnas and the testimony of John Bolton, Trump's national security advisor at the time, could provide further damning evidence of Trump's corrupt intent. Both indicated they would testify if subpoenaed in the Senate trial and present new evidence not available to the House inquiry.

We had made fun of Lev and Igor. No one is laughing now. Lev, born Russian, appeared both literate and accent free fluent in English and he was Guiliani's gopher. in Ukraine itself... He asked who was he himself, a nobody, and he said he would never have had access to the Ukrainian president and his brass if they did not believe he was representing Trump and was under his direction via Guiliani. His interview by Rachel Madow was most corroborating public utterance of what others had said during testimony, but he was the executor of the scheme itself on the ground there and the closest to the action. Like Fiona Hill, like Gordon Sondland, like so many others testifying at the impeachment inquiry, Trump was not interested in carrying out the US policy to reform Ukrainian corruption in general, but he was only interested in getting dirt on the Bidens. This is key since the GOP's main line of defense will be Trump was carrying out stated US foreign policy to end Ukraine's corruption. Amb. Sondland himself told those in earshot," Trump did not care "s..t" about Ukraine. It was about the Bidens." Finding dirt about the Bidens to help him in 2020 was the purpose of the scheme. The GOP will claim Lev is an untrustworthy witness because he is under indictment for campaign violations in 2016. However, whatever Lev said he had reams of text message printouts and damning notes he wrote on a hotel notepad to back his words up. His interview with Maddow was not under oath and I'll put money on it that Mitch McConnell will do all he can to keep him from being a witness under oath at the Senate trial.

The Parnas documents also expose another deal in the works.  The Ukraine prosecutor, Yuriy Lutsenko,  fingered by the US Ambassador Maria Jovanovich as corrupt, said he had dirt on the Bidens he would provide if Jovanovich was removed. She was removed quickly in fear she was in danger. and Parnas revealed the threat.  That explains how Jovanovich got reassigned so abruptly without explanation..For Guiliani to get the dirt, the deal was to get Jovanovich out of her post first. Both the Ukrainian government and the US Secretary of State announced they would open an investigation to check into the implied threat of Yovanovitch being followed and for what purpose.
__________________________________________________________________________________ Ambassador Gordon Sondland’s Wednesday, Nov. 20,  House testimony was full of revelations. One of them is that President Donald Trump never seemed to ask Ukraine for an actual investigation of Vice President Joe Biden or his son, Hunter.
All he wanted, according to Sondland, was a public announcement of an investigation. He wanted a show.

No comments:

Post a Comment