The Arizona Republic fka The Arizona Republican, finally got around to an editorial opinion this week about the impeachment of Donald Trump, and failed its readers, once again. More about this later.
But first, let’s be clear: there is a crime in progress that impeachment is intended to stop. Donald Trump and his henchman, Rudy Giuliani, are actively pursuing foreign interference in the 2020 election, and his fellow Republicans are amplifying the Russian disinformation and propaganda.
Just this week we learned that Former White House officials say they feared Putin influenced the president’s views on Ukraine and 2016 campaign:
After meeting privately in July 2017 with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Trump grew more insistent that Ukraine worked to defeat him, according to multiple former officials familiar with his assertions.
The president’s intense resistance to the assessment of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia systematically interfered in the 2016 campaign — and the blame he cast instead on a rival country — led many of his advisers to think that Putin himself helped spur the idea of Ukraine’s culpability, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions.
One former senior White House official said Trump even stated so explicitly at one point, saying he knew Ukraine was the real culprit because “Putin told me.”
President Trump has gone to extraordinary lengths to conceal details of his conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, including on at least one occasion taking possession of the notes of his own interpreter and instructing the linguist not to discuss what had transpired with other administration officials. Russian Asset or Dupe: Trump Has Concealed or Didn’t Keep Records of at Least Five Meetings With Putin.
The concern among senior White House officials that Putin helped fuel Trump’s theories about Ukraine underscores long-standing fears inside the administration about the Russian president’s ability to influence Trump’s views.
We also learned that the Trump Administration Withheld Ukraine Military Aid 91 Minutes After Phone Call: Docs:
A White House Office of Management and Budget official emailed the Pentagon asking to “please hold off on” distributing military aid to Ukraine just 91 minutes after the July 25 phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, according to newly released documents. The email, released as part of a Freedom of Information Act request by the Center for Public Integrity, also says that “given the sensitive nature of the request” the information should be “closely held.” [Why the readout of the call wound up on a top security server where it did not belong.] In another email from June 19, the same official asked the Pentagon’s chief financial officer about the aid. “The President has asked about this,” the official wrote, also linking to an article that had appeared that day in the Washington Examiner discussing the funds. The June 19 email is the first indication that the White House was interested in the military aid to Ukraine, according to the Center for Public Integrity.
The July 25 phone call, where Trump asked Zelensky to “do us a favor,” and the withholding of about $400 million in military aid played a central role in the Trump’s impeachment by the House.
When President Donald Trump ordered a halt to aid to Ukraine last summer, defense officials and diplomats worried first that it would undermine U.S. national security. Trump Administration Officials Worried Halt to Ukraine Aid Violated Spending Law:
But there was also a separate, less-noticed facet of the internal administration uproar set off by Trump’s July 12 order stopping the flow of $391 million in weapons and security assistance to Ukraine. Some senior administration officials worried that by defying a law ordering that the funds be spent within a defined period, Trump was asking the officials involved to take an action that was not merely unwise but flatly illegal.
The administration so far has declined to release copies of its internal communications about this vital issue—the legality of what Trump had ordered. [Impeachment Article II, Obstruction of Congress.] On Friday, in 146 pages of new documents provided to the Center for Public Integrity under a court order, the Trump “Injustice” Department blacked out —for the second time—many of the substantive passages reflecting what key officials at the Pentagon and the Office of Management and Budget said to one another.
But considerable evidence is still available that those at key institutions responsible for distributing the Ukraine aid worried the halt potentially violated … the Impoundment Control Act, says that once Congress appropriates funds—like the Ukraine assistance—and the president signs the relevant spending bill, the executive branch must spend those funds. A president cannot simply ignore Congress’s direction, no matter how inconvenient or unappealing that instruction might be. If funds are withheld or shifted elsewhere, this cannot be done in secret, and Congress must approve.
But Trump’s decision to stop the aid was not announced, and no formal notification was ever sent to Congress.
We also learned that the Trump administration demanded Democrats strip Ukraine aid language from spending package, threatening a presidential veto that could have led to a government shutdown if House Democrats refused to drop language requiring prompt release of future military aid for Ukraine:
[A]s talks on the budget package reached their conclusion in the days ahead of the impeachment vote, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House legislative affairs director Eric Ueland made clear that the Ukraine provision was among a handful of absolute non-starters for Trump.
The language was ultimately left out of mammoth year-end spending legislation that passed the House and Senate this week ahead of a Saturday shutdown deadline. The White House said President Trump signed the $1.4 trillion package Friday night.
At the same time, however, the Trump Administration Battled New Sanctions on Russia: The Trump administration is quietly fighting a new package of sanctions on Russia, a bill called the “Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act of 2019” (DASKA).
[The bill] would require that the State Department and the Intelligence Community report to Congress every 90 days on whether or not the Kremlin is meddling in U.S. elections.
That last provision drew pointed criticism from the Trump administration, which said it is “designed for failure.” It “seems impossible” to certify that the Kremlin isn’t meddling in U.S. elections, the letter says, noting that the executive branch always opposes requirements that it prove something isn’t happening.
On Friday evening, Donald Trump found his ultimate supporter in his claims that he was completely right to extort Ukraine—Vladimir Putin. Trump presented a statement from Putin as proof that his impeachment was a “witch hunt.” And apparently an imaginary witch hunt, as Trump posted later tweets claiming he had not “really” been impeached. Not … really.
The love affair is mutual; at least to the extent that Putin loves how Trump is weakening America, defending Russia, and attacking Ukraine. As The Independent reports, Russian state TV was also too happy to repeat an interview that Rudy Giuliani did for [pro-Kremlin and Trump propaganda] outlet OAN. Because the message that Trump and Giuliani are putting out is one that doesn’t just give Trump an excuse to squeeze Ukraine for investigations, but also one that exonerates Putin, repudiates the universal conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies, and places the blame for hacking DNC email on Ukraine and Hillary Clinton.
All of this is especially head-smacking in light of reporting on Friday that Trump told White House staffers he “knew” that Ukraine, not Russia, was behind DNC hacking because “Putin told me.” So Trump is now claiming innocence over his involvement in extorting an investigation into a conspiracy theory, by citing the man who convinced him of the conspiracy theory.
Excerpts from Giuliani’s OAN interview, in which he supported both the theory that Hillary Clinton hired Ukrainian hackers to pretend to be Russians and steal emails from the DNC as part of an elaborate plot to set up Trump’s impeachment before he was ever elected, were run on Russia-1 on Friday. So were statements from Giuliani in which he claimed to have evidence of multiple “crimes” committed by Joe and Hunter Biden.
Josh Kovensky at Talking Points Memo reports, I Watched OAN’s Unhinged Ukraine Impeachment Special So You Don’t Have To. “[T]he documentary appears to be a key feature of Giuliani’s — and, by extension, his client, the President’s — ongoing attempt to gather useful political dirt, in spite of the fact that that effort has already led to the third impeachment in U.S. history.”
UPDATE: Politico reports, a ‘Stunning piece of propaganda’: Journalists blast One America News series; and that propaganda airs on FOX News aka “Trump TV.” Fox’s Howard Kurtz And Company Help Rudy Giuliani Push Russian Propaganda Aired On OAN.
This is a crime in progress against the 2020 election. But the GOP apologist editors of The Arizona Republic (this opinion stinks of Robert Robb) essentially argue, “Meh, let the voters decide.” How can anyone be confident in the results of the 2020 election if the Trump administration is inviting foreign interference in the election? This is the whole point of the impeachment. The best way forward on Trump’s impeachment? We, the people, should vote:
We’ve already expressed our disgust with Donald Trump’s behavior in a phone call with the Ukrainian president and his administration’s machinations behind it.
The president violated White House norms when he mixed his personal political campaign with the nation’s business of foreign policy. That was a serious breach of trust with the American people.
It was wrong. We don’t hesitate to say so.
And we can hardly blame Democratic leadership in Congress for supporting impeachment. Had Barack Obama committed the same offenses, rest assured Republicans would have done the same.
The allegations against Trump are credible and the evidence is compelling on both counts:
1) That he abused his power by asking the Ukranians to investigate his political rival while withholding $391 million in aid until the Ukrainians committed publicly to that investigation.
2) That he obstructed Congress by ignoring subpoenas and stopping nine officials from testifying in the impeachment inquiry.
Trump deserves the censure that comes with impeachment.
Beyond those two articles, however, there is no consensus in the country and in the combined House and Senate that we must then go the next step, as Democrats prescribe, and remove Trump from office.
And what is the convoluted logic behind this conclusion? It is because “the U.S. Senate would need a supermajority to expel Trump from office. That isn’t going to happen.”
Oh, so because Republicans in Congress have abdicated their constitutional duty and are violating their oaths of office, this should nullify the impeachment remedy in the Constitution? Only a GOP apologist could come up with such servile reasoning.
The Founding Fathers “never envisioned the Article I branch abetting and enabling such dangerous behavior in the Article II branch,” in defiance of the Constitution and the rule of law, to defend a lawless president. This should be what this editorial addresses, but nary a word about that.
This editorial simply regurgitates the several GOP talking points attacking the impeachment proceedings and Democrats, which indicates that GOP apologist Robert Robb influenced this editorial, if not wrote it. The Republic will never be considered a credible newspaper as long as it continues to employ this political hack and GOPropagandist.
The editors settle on the GOP talking point “let the voters decide” in the election — an election that is presently being undermined by a crime in progress.
The editorial board of The Republic would do well to listen to former Arizona Senator Jeff Flake who has a far better reasoned opinion in the Washington Post. Flake makes the same argument that I have been making for weeks (thanks for reading, Jeff). The president is on trial. So are my Senate Republican colleagues.
To my former Senate Republican colleagues,
I don’t envy you.
It might not be fair, but none of the successes, achievements and triumphs you’ve had in public office — whatever bills you’ve passed, hearings you’ve chaired, constituents you have had the privilege of helping — will matter more than your actions in the coming months.
President Trump is on trial. But in a very real sense, so are you. And so is the political party to which we belong.
As we approach the time when you do your constitutional duty and weigh the evidence arrayed against the president, I urge you to remember who we are when we are at our best. And I ask you to remember yourself at your most idealistic.
We are conservatives. The political impulses that compelled us all to enter public life were defined by sturdy pillars anchored deep in the American story. Chief among these is a realistic view of power and of human nature, and a corresponding and healthy mistrust of concentrated and impervious executive power. Mindful of the base human instincts that we all possess, the founders of our constitutional system designed its very architecture to curb excesses of power.
Those curbs are especially important when the power is wielded by a president who denies reality itself and calls his behavior not what it is, but “perfect.”
Personally, I have never met anyone whose behavior can be described as perfect, but so often has the president repeated this obvious untruth that it has become a form of dogma in our party. And sure enough, as dogma demands, there are members of our party denying objective reality by repeating the line that “the president did nothing wrong.” My colleagues, the danger of an untruthful president is compounded when an equal branch follows that president off the cliff, into the abyss of unreality and untruth.
Call it the founders’ blind spot: They simply could not have envisioned the Article I branch abetting and enabling such dangerous behavior in the Article II branch. And when we are complicit, we cede our constitutional responsibilities, we forever redefine the relationship between Congress and the White House, and we set the most dangerous of precedents.
My simple test for all of us: What if President Barack Obama had engaged in precisely the same behavior? I know the answer to that question with certainty, and so do you. You would have understood with striking clarity the threat it posed, and you would have known exactly what to do.
Regarding the articles of impeachment, you could reasonably conclude that the president’s actions warrant his removal. You might also determine that the president’s actions do not rise to the constitutional standard required for removal. There is no small amount of moral hazard with each option, but both positions can be defended.
But what is indefensible is echoing House Republicans who say that the president has not done anything wrong. He has.
The willingness of House Republicans to bend to the president’s will by attempting to shift blame with the promotion of bizarre and debunked conspiracy theories has been an appalling spectacle. It will have long-term ramifications for the country and the party, to say nothing of individual reputations.
Nearly all of you condemned the president’s behavior during the 2016 campaign. Nearly all of you refused to campaign with him. You knew then that doing so would be wrong — would be a stain on your reputation and the standing of the Republican Party, and would do lasting damage to the conservative cause.
Ask yourself today: Has the president changed his behavior? Has he grown in office? Has the mantle of the presidency altered his conduct? The answer is obvious. In fact, if the president’s political rally in Michigan on Wednesday is any measure, his language has only become more vulgar, his performance cruder, his behavior more boorish and unstable.
Next, ask yourself: If the president’s conduct hasn’t changed, has mine? Before President Trump came on the scene, would I have stood at a rally and cheered while supporters shouted “lock her up” or “send them back”? Would I have laughed along while the president demeaned and ridiculed my colleagues? Would I have ever thought to warm up the crowd for the president by saying of the House speaker: “It must suck to be that dumb”? [Louisiana Senator John Kennedy.]
As I said above, I don’t envy you. You’re on a big stage now. Please don’t accept an alternate reality that would have us believe in things that obviously are not true, in the service of executive behavior that we never would have encouraged and a theory of executive power that we have always found abhorrent.
If there ever was a time to put country over party, it is now. And by putting country over party, you might just save the Grand Old Party before it’s too late.
Sorry, Jeff, but it is too late. Republicans have thrown in their lot with a Russian asset who has betrayed his country and our national security, the Constitution and the rule of law. The Party of Trump is the Party of Putin. It is profoundly undemocratic and un-American. It needs to go the way of the Whigs and the Know Nothing Parry, and be consigned to the ash heap of history.