Now that the House Judiciary Committee has settled on two articles of impeachment for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, there are only two questions that every member of Congress must answer:
- Is it OK for a president of the United States (and his political party) to solicit a foreign government to interfere in the elections of the United States to aid his election and to undermine his political opponent(s)?
- Is it OK for a president of the United States to engage in a policy of “total obstruction” of Congress to defy the legitimate constitutional oversight functions and exclusive impeachment function of Congress?
The obvious answer to these questions for any American with even the most rudimentary civics education is “No.”
But Trump’s aiders and abettors in Congress have made it clear that the Party of Trump is perfectly OK with destroying the sovereignty of our elections if it inures to their political benefit, and is OK with destroying the separation of powers in our constitutional democracy to establish an “imperial presidency,” i.e., an authoritarian autocracy — as long as a Republican is the autocrat.
As I have said before, the Party of Trump is a criminal enterprise led by a third-rate mafia “Don” Trump. They are all accomplices, coconspirators and accessories who aid and abet his criminality and corruption. There is not a patriot among them. They put fealty to their “Dear Leader” above all else, including loyalty to their country and our national security, and their oaths of office to defend the Constitution. They reject the rule of law and are amoral. It is a betrayal of the faith of the American people in our constitutional government. They must all be held accountable. But only Donald Trump is subject to impeachment.
On the very day that articles of impeachment were introduced against Donald Trump for his extortion of Ukraine to interfere in the elections of the United States to aid his election and to undermine his political opponent by opening a bogus investigation in Ukraine that he can use to smear his opponent, Donald Trump chose to meet with Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov in the oval office, a middle-finger reminder to Americans that “I did it before and I am doing it again. I dare you to stop me from stealing another election.” Russia’s Sergey Lavrov meets with Trump, Pompeo, dismisses election-interference worries:
After meeting with President Trump at the White House in the Oval Office on Tuesday, Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said there was no talk of election interference and brushed off the notion that it was a topic of importance.
“We haven’t exactly even discussed elections,” Lavrov said at a news conference at the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C.
“All speculation about our alleged interference in domestic processes of the United States is baseless,” Lavrov added.
Donald Trump told two senior Russian officials, including Lavrov, in their previous 2017 Oval Office meeting that he was unconcerned about Moscow’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election because the United States did the same in other countries, an assertion that prompted alarmed White House officials to limit access to the remarks to an unusually small number of people, according to three former officials with knowledge of the matter. Trump told Russian officials in 2017 he wasn’t concerned about Moscow’s interference in U.S. election.
The Mueller Report established that “The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion.” The Mueller Report found “multiple links between Trump Campaign officials and individuals tied to the Russian government. Those links included Russia offers of assistance to the Campaign. In some instances, the Campaign was receptive to the offer, while in other instances the Campaign officials shied away.” The Trump campaign (and some GOP congressional campaigns) made extensive use of the documents illegally hacked by Russian intelligence organizations and released trough Wikileaks.
Trump told ABC News Anchor George Stephanopoulos in the Oval Office in June that his campaign would accept information from foreign governments, signaling that he was “open for business.” ‘I think I’d take it’: In exclusive interview, Trump says he would listen if foreigners offered dirt on opponents:
Trump disputed the idea that if a foreign government provided information on a political opponent, it would be considered interference in our election process.
“It’s not an interference, they have information — I think I’d take it,” Trump said. “If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI — if I thought there was something wrong. But when somebody comes up with oppo research, right, they come up with oppo research, ‘oh let’s call the FBI.’ The FBI doesn’t have enough agents to take care of it. When you go and talk, honestly, to congressman, they all do it, they always have, and that’s the way it is. It’s called oppo research.”
It was not known at the time that the Trump administration was already engaged in a months-long shakedown of the government of Ukraine to open two investigations, one to exonerate Trump’s Russian handlers by blaming Ukraine — a Russian-inspired conspiracy theory, and the other to open an investigation into Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, another conspiracy theory which has been debunked by numerous fact checkers.
When the shakedown became public, Donald Trump defiantly encouraged two foreign nations — Ukraine and China — to open investigations he hopes will implicate Joe Biden in (unfounded) corruption allegations.
What we have here is a clear pattern and practice of Donald Trump inviting foreign interference in U.S. elections to benefit himself personally, and by extension the Party of Trump. Trump has openly declared that he will do this. The evidence is uncontroverted that he has done this, and will continue to do this. He is daring Americans to stop him before he can do it again.
Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee have not disputed the uncontroverted evidence in this case. They instead distract, deflect and deny reality. They are using the defense counsel tactic of not presenting a defense when the facts and law are so obvious and cannot credibly be challenged, so instead they try to attack the sufficiency of the prosecutor’s case. But this is not a criminal trial in a court where the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard applies.
This is an impeachment process in Congress for “high crimes and misdemeanors,” i.e., a betrayal of the oath of office and a failure to faithfully execute the laws of the United States. As Article I says, Trump abused the powers of the presidency “by ignoring and injuring national security and other vital national interests to obtain an improper personal political benefit.” The article further asserts that Trump “betrayed the Nation by abusing his high office to enlist a foreign power in corrupting democratic elections.” The preponderance of the evidence is all that is necessary. And the evidence is overwhelming and uncontroverted.
This is what Republicans who vote to acquit Donald Trump on Article I would actually be voting for — that it is OK for a president of the United States (and his political party) to solicit a foreign government to interfere in the elections of the United States to aid his election and to undermine his political opponent(s).
“I would not have thought I needed to say this,” Federal Election Commission head Ellen Weintraub tweeted earlier this year regarding a statement she’d issued outlining why it’s illegal for US political candidates to accept contributions from foreign governments. Is it actually illegal to accept “campaign dirt” from foreigners?:
Weintraub sought to clarify: “Let me make something 100% clear to the American public and anyone running for public office: It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election.”
“This is not a novel concept,” she wrote. “Election intervention from foreign governments has been considered unacceptable since the founding of our nation.”
[W]hen it comes to foreign influence, the law is clear: As Weintraub wrote, it is “illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election.”
There is also no defense to Article II for obstruction of Congress. The Trump administration’s “total obstruction” of Congress policy is unprecedented in U.S. history, and is ongoing and continuing. As Article II says, “This abuse of office served to cover up the President’s own repeated misconduct and to seize and control the power of impeachment.”
Trump and his enablers in the Party of Trump have essentially argued that the president is above the law. Trump has actually argued in court that he cannot even be investigated by Congress in pursuit of its legitimate constitutional oversight functions. Trump’s aiders and abettors on the House Judiciary Committee have sought to render the constitutional impeachment process a non-remedy by turning the process into a farcical circus. A president who is not accountable to Congress or the rule of law is a dangerous authoritarian autocrat.
Republicans are arguing that we should allow Donald Trump to engage in abuse of process and dilatory court actions in order to run out the clock on impeachment. That the Congress and the courts should continue to be used and abused by Trump for his personal amusement. Adam Schiff sums up the case for impeachment and makes powerfully clear both why and why now:
In a very brief speech, Schiff summed up the gravity of Trump’s actions in a way that explained precisely why the House had to move forward with impeachment and absolutely demolished the “Why not wait?” argument.
Schiff: Why don’t you just wait until you get the documents the White House refuses to turn over? People should understand what that argument really means. It has taken us eight months to get a lower court ruling that Don McGahn has no absolute immunity to defy Congress. Eight months. For one court decision. If it takes us another eight months to get a second court or maybe a Supreme Court decision, people need to understand that is not the end of the process. It comes back to us and then we ask questions because he no longer has absolute immunity … and then he claims something else, that his answers are privileged, and then we have to go back to court for another eight months or 16 months.
The argument “Why don’t you just wait?” amounts to this: Why don’t you just let him cheat in one more election? Why not let him cheat just one more time? Why not let him have foreign help just one more time?
That is what that argument amounts to.
This is what Republicans who vote to acquit Donald Trump on Article II would actually be voting for — they are declaring that the separation of powers in our constitutional democracy is no longer operative, that the presidency is an “imperial presidency,” i.e., an authoritarian autocracy, and the president — as long as he is a Republican — is not answerable to Congress and is above the rule of law.
As I have explained before, ‘Moscow Mitch’ vows to protect Russian asset Donald Trump from impeachment by rigging the jury:
“Moscow Mitch” McConnell is vowing to protect Russian asset Donald Trump from impeachment in the Senate by rigging the jury (this would be a felony anywhere other than in the US Senate) with sycophant cult followers of the personality cult of Donald Trump. There is not a patriot among them.
McConnell is publicly declaring that the evidence presented at trial does not matter, the seriousness of actual crimes and impeachable constitutional offenses does not matter, and the national security of the United States does not matter. The outcome has already been decided in advance by lawless Republicans, namely him.
This is a form of Jury Nullification: a jury’s knowing and deliberate rejection of the evidence or refusal to apply the law … and is not a legally sanctioned function of the jury. It is considered to be inconsistent with the jury’s duty to return a verdict based solely on the law and the facts of the case.
I would be curious to know how Chief Justice John Roberts, who would preside over an impeachment trial in the Senate, feels about being part of the sham process “Moscow Mitch” McConnell has in mind. If Roberts is worried about his legacy, this will be it.
Never before in our history has a political party committed itself to such lawlessness in defiance of the rule of law and their oaths of office. Every Republican senator who votes to acquit Donald Trump out of party loyalty and GOP tribalism or sycophant cult worship in the personality cult of Donald Trump must be removed from office. They are unworthy and unfit for the high office of senator.
UPDATE: Steve Benen reminds us of a fleeting historical footnote that is now suddenly relevant again. 45 years later, Republicans borrow a page from Earl Landgrebe:
At the height of the Watergate scandal, Richard Nixon was running low on friends. When the U.S. House voted to begin impeachment hearings, for example, the vote was 410 to 4. One of the four was an Indiana Republican named Earl Landgrebe.
Months later, as the disgraced president prepared to leave the White House, Landgrebe delivered a line that helped define his political career. “Don’t confuse me with the facts,” the congressman said the day before Nixon’s resignation. “I’ve got a closed mind. I will not vote for impeachment. I’m going to stick with my president even if he and I have to be taken out of this building and shot.”
I can’t say with certainty whether contemporary Republicans made a conscious decision to follow Landgrebe’s example, but his infamous quote keeps coming to mind for a reason.
* * *
In August 1974, after Nixon had stepped down, the House voted to accept the Judiciary Committee’s report on the Watergate scandal, include it in the official record, and thank the panel’s members for their “conscientious and capable inquiry.” The vote was 412 to 3, with Earl “Don’t confuse me with the facts” Landgrebe voting in the minority.
Nearly a half-century later, it seems there’s an entire political party of Earl Landgrebes.
GOP tribalism in its pure form.