Pseudo-intellectual and resident GOP apologist at the Arizona Republic, Robert Robb, continues his series of opinions today excusing Donald Trump’s extortion and bribery of U.S. ally Ukraine, using taxpayer money appropriated by Congress for desperately needed security assistance to Ukraine as leverage to open an investigation into Russian-inspired conspiracy theories about the 2016 election to blame Ukraine and exonerate Russia, and to open an investigation into his political rival Joe Biden and his son, as not rising to to the level of impeachable offenses. Should Congress impeach Trump? The cases for and against it are equally weak.
This former flak for the “Kochtopus” Goldwater Institute and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is at his intellectually dishonest worst when he opines on legal issues. He frequently doesn’t know what the hell he is talking about, but writes with a certitude that his opinion is correct, despite all evidence to the contrary. The Arizona Republic does its readers a great disservice by publishing this partisan hack without fact checking this non-lawyer’s incorrect legal opinions.
The Arizona Republic should correct its error with the more than 600 legal scholars (so far) who have signed this letter concluding that “President Trump engaged in impeachable conduct.” Here is what these legal scholars write:
Letter to Congress from Legal Scholars
We, the undersigned legal scholars, have concluded that President Trump engaged in impeachable conduct.
We do not reach this conclusion lightly. The Founders did not make impeachment available for disagreements over policy, even profound ones, nor for extreme distaste for the manner in which the President executes his office. Only “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors” warrant impeachment. But there is overwhelming evidence that President Trump betrayed his oath of office by seeking to use presidential power to pressure a foreign government to help him distort an American election, for his personal and political benefit, at the direct expense of national security interests as determined by Congress. His conduct is precisely the type of threat to our democracy that the Founders feared when they included the remedy of impeachment in the Constitution.
We take no position on whether the President committed a crime. But conduct need not be criminal to be impeachable. The standard here is constitutional; it does not depend on what Congress has chosen to criminalize.
Impeachment is a remedy for grave abuses of the public trust. The two specific bases for impeachment named in the Constitution — treason and bribery — involve such abuses because they include conduct undertaken not in the “faithful execution” of public office that the Constitution requires, but instead for personal gain (bribery) or to benefit a foreign enemy (treason).
Impeachment is an especially essential remedy for conduct that corrupts elections. The primary check on presidents is political: if a president behaves poorly, voters can punish him or his party at the polls. A president who corrupts the system of elections seeks to place himself beyond the reach of this political check. At the Constitutional Convention, George Mason described impeachable offenses as “attempts to subvert the constitution.” Corrupting elections subverts the process by which the Constitution makes the president democratically accountable. Put simply, if a President cheats in his effort at re-election, trusting the democratic process to serve as a check through that election is no remedy at all. That is what impeachment is for.
Moreover, the Founders were keenly concerned with the possibility of corruption in the president’s relationships with foreign governments. That is why they prohibited the president from accepting anything of value from foreign governments without Congress’s consent [emoluments]. The same concern drove their thinking on impeachment. James Madison noted that Congress must be able to remove the president between elections lest there be no remedy if a president betrayed the public trust in dealings with foreign powers.
In light of these considerations, overwhelming evidence made public to date forces us to conclude that President Trump engaged in impeachable conduct. To mention only a few of those facts: William B. Taylor, who leads the U.S. embassy in Ukraine, testified that President Trump directed the withholding of hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid for Ukraine in its struggle against Russia — aid that Congress determined to be in the U.S. national security interest — until Ukraine announced investigations that would aid the President’s re-election campaign. Ambassador Gordon Sondland testified that the President made a White House visit for the Ukrainian president conditional on public announcement of those investigations. In a phone call with the Ukrainian president, President Trump asked for a “favor” in the form of a foreign government investigation of a U.S. citizen who is his political rival. President Trump and his Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney made public statements confirming this use of governmental power to solicit investigations that would aid the President’s personal political interests. The President made clear that his private attorney, Rudy Giuliani, was central to efforts to spur Ukrainian investigations, and Mr. Giuliani confirmed that his efforts were in service of President Trump’s private interests.
Ultimately, whether to impeach the President and remove him from office depends on judgments that the Constitution leaves to Congress. But if the House of Representatives impeached the President for the conduct described here and the Senate voted to remove him, they would be acting well within their constitutional powers. Whether President Trump’s conduct is classified as bribery, as a high crime or misdemeanor, or as both, it is clearly impeachable under our Constitution.
Signed,* (See the link above for the signatories)
To its credit, The Arizona Republic fka The Arizona Republican, for the first and only time in its history in 2016 did not endorse the Republican candidate, Donald Trump, for president. Our View: Clinton the choice to move us ahead. The Republic found Donald Trump intellectually, emotionally and morally unfit to serve as president, and a threat to our national security. The worst fears of the editors have since been confirmed, in spades.
The time has come for the editors of The Arizona Republic to step up, once again, and call for the impeachment of Donald Trump (as should Arizona’s other newspapers).
The editors should follow the lead of the editors of the Los Angeles Times, who editorialized on Saturday, Editorial: We’ve seen enough. Trump should be impeached:
The House of Representatives’ inquiry into President Trump’s actions on Ukraine is not yet complete, but the evidence produced over the last two months is more than sufficient to persuade us that he should be impeached. Witness after witness testified that the president held up desperately needed, congressionally approved aid to Ukraine to extort a personal political favor for himself. In so doing, Trump flagrantly abused the power of his office.
The Times’ editorial board was a reluctant convert to the impeachment cause. We worried that impeaching Trump on essentially a party-line vote would be divisive. It is also highly likely that Trump would be — will be — acquitted by the Republican-controlled Senate, and that, rightly or wrongly, he would point to that in his reelection campaign as exoneration.
But those concerns must yield to the overwhelming evidence that Trump perverted U.S. foreign policy for his own political gain. That sort of misconduct is outrageous and corrosive of democracy. It can’t be ignored by the House, and it merits a full trial by the Senate on whether to remove him from office.
The story began with release of a reconstructed transcript of the notorious July 25 telephone call in which Trump asked new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden (a leading contender for the Democratic nomination to face Trump in 2020) and to shore up a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, hacked Democratic Party emails during the 2016 presidential campaign. The document vindicated the unnamed whistleblower who’d asserted that multiple officials had reported that Trump “sought to pressure the Ukrainian leader to take actions to help the president’s 2020 reelection bid.”
Then a parade of current and former government officials who testified before the House Intelligence Committee established that Trump’s call was part of a larger effort to condition a White House meeting with Zelensky and the release of the aid on an announcement by Zelensky that he would initiate the specific investigations desired by Trump.
As constitutional experts testified before the Judiciary Committee, the framers of the Constitution had just such self-dealing in mind when they wrote the impeachment clause.
In announcing her support for articles of impeachment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) said that Congress must act because Trump “has engaged in abuse of power undermining our national security and jeopardizing the integrity of our elections.” Reasonable people can disagree over whether arming Ukraine in its conflict with Russia serves U.S. foreign policy interests, and it is also true, as the GOP has repeatedly argued, that — in the wake of the whistleblower’s complaint and pressure by Congress — the security assistance for Ukraine was eventually released.
But none of that exonerates Trump of abusing his office, apparently to obtain a benefit for himself. And if the president was willing in this case to subvert U.S. foreign policy for personal and political gain, why wouldn’t he feel emboldened to do it again? The president, after all, continues to maintain that his call with Zelensky was “perfect.”
Any articles of impeachment approved by the House will act as the political equivalent of an indictment, setting forth specific instances of misconduct; the Senate would then convene a trial to decide whether Trump should be expelled from the presidency. It’s obvious that at least one article should cite Trump’s improper approaches to Ukraine, whether they are described as “bribery” (an offense specifically mentioned in the Constitution’s impeachment clause) or abuse of power. A separate article would be warranted for his outrageous efforts to obstruct Congress by keeping information from the impeachment inquiry.
Finally, we continue to believe that the House should consider an article of impeachment addressing the actions Trump took to thwart or hobble special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation. Mueller did not conclude that Trump committed obstruction of justice, but neither did he exonerate the president. Atty. Gen. William Barr and then-Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein subsequently concluded that the evidence developed by Mueller was “not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.” But in deciding whether Trump’s attempted interference amounted to an impeachable offense, Congress could well come to a different conclusion. And the allegation that Trump obstructed justice in the Mueller investigation involves the same sort of disrespect for legal norms as his defiant actions toward Congress’ inquiry into the Ukraine matter.
Trump’s defenders argue that the evidence against him on Ukraine is incomplete and thus inconclusive. They’re correct that some potentially important witnesses — including acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, who reportedly put the hold on the Ukrainian aid, and former national security advisor John Bolton, who reportedly objected to the efforts to persuade Ukraine to conduct the investigations — haven’t testified. But that is because Trump has objected to [obstructed] such testimony. Delaying impeachment because of no-show witnesses would reward Trump’s obstructionism.
Besides, as the president himself tweeted on Thursday: “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.”
Holding the president accountable for gross abuse of power is the business of Congress. The House should get on with that business by writing articles of impeachment that make it clear to the Senate — and the American people — why the extraordinary remedy of impeachment is necessary. And Republicans who complain that the process is partisan could easily rectify that situation by abandoning their lockstep loyalty to Trump and looking at the facts.
Impeachment is going to move quickly over the next few weeks. It is time for newspapers to make the case in their editorials.