January 16, 2020

Impeachment

Editor's note: We couldn’t be more proud of one of our teammates, Isaac Rose-Berman, who penned his first op-ed this week in USA Today: “How college students can bridge American divides: 'Study abroad' in Alabama or New York.” Please give it a read, and share far and wide!

“The Democratic-led House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to send two formal charges against President Donald Trump to the Senate, clearing the way for only the third impeachment trial of a U.S. president to begin in earnest next week… The vote, which also approved a team of seven Democratic lawmakers named by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to serve as prosecutors in the trial, was largely along party lines.” Reuters

On Tuesday, “House Democrats… released a trove of documents they obtained from Lev Parnas, a close associate of President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.” AP News

See past issues

From the Left

The left argues that the Senate should call additional witnesses so they can base their verdict on all the available evidence.

“Mr. Trump and Mr. McConnell are advancing the cynical argument that it was up to the House to gather evidence, and the Senate should not be tasked with filling gaps. But the gaps exist because of Mr. Trump’s obstruction, a stonewall that the House probably could not have overcome without months of court proceedings that, during an election year, could have made impeachment a practical impossibility. Mr. Trump has said he will invoke executive privilege to curtail testimony by Mr. Bolton and others. That should only incentivize senators: If the president had nothing to fear from truthful testimony, he would not go to such lengths…

“Mr. Bolton has said he would testify if the Senate calls him, and he has a book forthcoming. Could it be that the Senate will refuse to hear a firsthand account that could soon be in the public domain?”
Editorial Board, Washington Post

“Mr. Trump has never asserted any particularized reasons for preventing administration officials from cooperating with the impeachment investigation (beyond deeming it a ‘sham’ and a ‘hoax’ impeachment, which is not a legal argument but a political one). So, his claims are the epitome of ‘generalized assertions’ — which are not sufficient to trigger the application of executive privilege

“Chief Justice Warren Burger, in United States v. Nixon, a major precedent decided in 1974 during the height of the Watergate investigation, found that the president does enjoy a constitutional privilege to protect confidences within the executive branch. At the same time, however, he emphatically rejected President Richard Nixon’s claims then, like President Trump’s claims now, that executive privilege is self-defined and potentially unlimited in scope. Chief Justice Burger explained that when the president’s assertion of executive privilege ‘is based only on the generalized interest in confidentiality, it cannot prevail over the fundamental demands of due process of law in the fair administration of criminal justice.’”
Ronald J. Krotoszynski Jr., New York Times

“The choice of House managers underscores the Democrats' effort to press Senate Republicans to treat this is a real trial, as mandated by the Constitution. The group includes six attorneys and one former police chief; all are people familiar with court proceedings and criminal activities…

“Despite Trump's determined effort to block the release of any of the documents requested by investigators, Americans were slapped with a new batch of material showing Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Lev Parnas and another Trump supporter at work on the Ukraine scheme… As the Senate trial prepares to start, Americans of all parties should ponder, is this what they want from their president? Pressuring a foreign leader to investigate a political rival; having US diplomats tracked and intimidated? Allowing oligarchs with ties to the Kremlin to fund operations aimed at boosting his reelection chances?”
Frida Ghitis, CNN

“Giuliani's letter states that he was explicitly working in his capacity as Trump's personal attorney, undercutting the president's claim that the effort was in the country's interest because it was aimed at rooting out corruption. It also contradicts Trump's claim that Giuliani may have been working for other clients or for himself in Ukraine… The letter came one day after Giuliani told The New York Times that he planned to travel to Ukraine to find damaging information on Biden, which could help Trump's re-election campaign.”
Igor Derysh, Salon

“Tuesday’s new evidence won’t fundamentally change either side’s approach in the upcoming trial. Parnas did not directly communicate with the president himself, making its relevance to his impeachment somewhat limited. What the revelations do underscore is how little Americans actually know about one of the worst political scandals in the nation’s history—and the fierce urgency of shedding light on it…

One need not be a conspiracy theorist to know that there’s more to uncover here. Top aides like Giuliani, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, and former National Security Advisor John Bolton haven’t testified. The White House, the State Department, and the Pentagon haven’t turned over any records about the plot to pressure Zelenskiy or hold up congressionally allocated military aid for Ukraine. Trump’s impeachment trial may not hinge on this information. But it’s still vital to uncover it so Americans can definitively answer the most important question about the Ukraine scandal: What happened?”
Matt Ford, New Republic

Regarding Pelosi, “[her] talents have always lain in the less glamorous, less public side of politics: she is good at whipping up votes in her caucus and she is good at disciplining dissenters. She is good at offering incentives and punishments to get Democratic members of Congress to do what she wants them to do… To rip up the speech on television was a bit of theatricality, sure – a ploy designed to get attention. It also worked. The day after Trump made a long speech full of misinformation that tried to make a case for his re-election, no one is talking about him. Instead we are talking about the speaker of the House. That, too, is a skill, one that Pelosi seems to be honing.”
Moira Donegan, The Guardian

Others argue that “Biden was almost the only one on the stage who talked like a normal person. There was a point near the end of the debate when he was talking about getting men involved in stopping domestic violence and he said that we need to keep ‘punching’ at it… I knew that the twitterati and the analysts would tut tut. Ol’ Joe is just out of touch! He doesn’t know you can’t use words like that. Meanwhile, every non-political junkie watching the debate thought there was nothing wrong with this. Biden was just using ordinary language, not worrying too much if it was fully approved by the woke brigade.”
Kevin Drum, Mother Jones

From the Right

The right is critical of the impeachment managers and skeptical of calling additional witnesses.

From the Right

The right is critical of the impeachment managers and skeptical of calling additional witnesses.

“One of the two lead prosecutors would be kicked out of any normal court for repeated lies. Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff has been lying to the world for years in his nonstop campaign to smear President Trump. Back in March 2017, he insisted that he’d seen ‘more than circumstantial evidence’ that Trump had colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election — a claim exposed as false by the Mueller report. Months later, he insisted that Rep. Duncan Nunes was flat-out wrong to say that the FBI’s Russia investigation relied heavily on the absurd Steele Dossier to get warrants to surveil Carter Page; the recent inspector-general report shows that Nunes was right — and Schiff had to know it.”
Editorial Board, New York Post

Pelosi should have appointed independent Michigan Rep. Justin Amash instead [of Schiff]. Amash used to be a Republican, so he would at least have the appearance of moderation. Because he is now an independent, the accusation of deliberate partisanship simply would not apply. Amash is also in favor of impeaching Trump, but for constitutional reasons, not political ones…

“I might disagree with Amash’s conclusions on impeachment, but I respect the way in which he reached those conclusions. He thought through the allegations, listened to the testimonies, read the evidence, and then made up his mind. Can Schiff say the same?”
Kaylee McGhee, Washington Examiner

“House Democrats rushed through the investigation, forgoing salient witnesses and evidence, because of the political calendar. The charges are weak and the inquiry was needlessly short-circuited, so Democrats have continued investigating the premature allegations. Now they are publicly disclosing newly acquired evidence, with the promise of more to come. Transparently, their goal is to pressure the Senate not merely to conduct a trial but to complete the investigation that the House failed to complete

“No trial court would allow itself to be whipsawed this way. A federal judge would tell prosecutors to go back to the grand jury, finish the investigation, and come back to the trial court when they have a case ready to be tried, not investigated… Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans should hold the two pending articles in abeyance, or vote to dismiss them without prejudice to the House’s revoting them when its impeachment inquiry is finally concluded.”
Andrew C. McCarthy, National Review

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) writes, “The Senate’s role is not to undertake a new inquiry, but rather to conduct a trial based on the articles of impeachment passed by the House and decide whether removing a president from office is warranted. It’s also a historical precedent that the initial arguments in a Senate trial be limited to the testimony and evidence gathered by the House…

“During initial presentations, the Senate will only hear arguments from the record – the record the House built. After that initial phase, we can call in additional witnesses as needed. The argument that the Senate should be expanding investigations before initial arguments are even presented is a tacit acknowledgment on the part of some Democrats of what we all know to be true: the House rushed and failed to complete its duty thoroughly, making a mockery of the impeachment process.”
Marco Rubio, Fox News

“Mrs. Pelosi said on the House floor Wednesday that her month delay allowed new ‘evidence’ to emerge. But if that’s true, why did the House rush its votes before the holiday? In any case the new evidence she cites is merely more detail about what we already know… Mr. Trump exhibited poor judgment in unleashing Rudy Giuliani to ask Ukraine to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden… [but he] broke no law, and other Presidents have tried to use foreign policy to serve domestic political ends. Voters may conclude these are grounds for denying Mr. Trump re-election. But if they are enough to short-circuit a presidential term, then many more Presidents will be impeached…

“At this stage we don't see what good would be done by calling Senate witnesses. If Mr. Bolton is called, then Republicans may call Hunter or Joe Biden or both. This would be a circus, and it would pay too much homage to the flimsy House evidence and rigged process. The Senate may not even need to hear from the President’s defense team. Let the House managers make their case. If a majority of Senators believe the evidence is as inadequate as we do, then repudiate this impeachment with votes to acquit on both articles.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“If a dozen drones or missiles can do the kind of damage to the world economy as did those fired on Saturday—shutting down about 6 percent of world oil production—imagine what a U.S.-Iran-Saudi war would do to the world economy. In recent decades, the U.S. has sold the Saudis hundreds of billions of dollars of military equipment. Did our weapons sales carry a guarantee that we will also come and fight alongside the kingdom if it gets into a war with its neighbors?… the nation does not want another war. How we avoid it, however, is becoming difficult to see. John Bolton may be gone from the West Wing, but his soul is marching on.”
Patrick Buchanan, The American Conservative

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“While running for president in 2000, George W. Bush derided ‘nation building’ and said American foreign policy should be ‘humble’ rather than ‘arrogant.’ As president, Bush brought us the disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq… While running for president in 2007, Barack Obama rejected the idea that the president has the authority to wage war without congressional authorization whenever he thinks it is in the national interest… As president, Obama did that very thing in Libya… A few years before his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump said the U.S. should withdraw immediately from Afghanistan… As president, he sent more troops to Afghanistan…

“Three men with little or no foreign policy experience entered an office where they were surrounded by experts, and they quickly shed their initial skepticism of military intervention… we should worry about a president with little knowledge of the world whose military decisions are driven by anger or domestic political considerations. But it's not clear to me that such a president poses a bigger danger than the experts who have been disastrously wrong more times than we can count.”
Jacob Sullum, Reason

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