November 22, 2019

Impeachment Hearings Continue

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!

“Democrats and Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee have made their closing arguments as they end the final impeachment hearing of the week — and perhaps the final hearing before they hand the probe over to the House Judiciary Committee.” AP News

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From the Left

The left supports impeachment, arguing that the recent witnesses have provided sufficient evidence to merit Trump’s removal.

“‘Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret.’ Those are the damning words of President Trump’s handpicked ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, who on Wednesday morning directly implicated not only Mr. Trump, but also several top members of his administration…

“Mr. Trump claims that he did nothing wrong, yet the White House refuses to let most of these people appear under oath. (Mr. Sondland himself defied orders not to testify from the White House and the State Department.) It’s worth emphasizing this point: All the witnesses whose testimony has been damaging to Mr. Trump have given that testimony under oath. All of those who we are led to believe would exonerate the president have so far refused to testify… If Mr. Trump truly believes he insisted on no conditions for the White House meeting and the aid for Ukraine, he has a clear choice: Let people testify. At this point it’s hard to see what reason they have for continuing to refuse.”
Editorial Board, New York Times

“The president’s defenders have leaned into a version of Nunes’s argument that Trump was just very interested in rooting out Ukrainian corruption. According to this line of argument, Trump’s interest onlycoincidentally happened to dovetail with an investigation of his possible chief political rival in the 2020 election and in a conspiracy theory that might damage the results of the Mueller investigation. Sondland’s testimony, though, demonstrates that even if you wanted to accept this absurd premise, the evidence and testimony don’t show Trump seeking any sort of genuine investigation. Instead, according to Sondland, he strictly wanted the announcement of one…

“As others in the impeachment inquiry have previously testified, if Trump actually wanted an investigation of corruption by American citizens, then the Department of Justice was the appropriate place for that to start. If the DOJ needed help from the Ukrainians to conduct such a legitimate investigation, they could request that help through what’s called a mutual legal assistance treaty. None of that ever happened. Instead, there were secret back-channels and deals and demands. As we continue to learn, a legitimate investigation was never what Trump wanted. What he wanted was help in his reelection campaign, and he was willing to leverage America’s national security to get it.”
Jeremy Stahl, Slate

“Zelensky ‘had to announce the investigations,’ Sondland said, referring to the probes into Biden's family and the 2016 election. ‘He didn't actually have to do them, as I understood it.’ Legal experts previously told CNN that this is a critical distinction. Most legitimate investigations are done in secret, so as not to tip off the supposed criminals. But the intense focus on securing a public announcement from Zelensky demonstrates that the scheme was really designed to maximize the political benefit to Trump, instead of a good-faith effort to investigate corruption.”
Marshall Cohen, Ellie Kaufman and Lauren Fox, CNN

“The GOP defense is now this: Trump is exonerated, because it hasn’t yet been nailed down beyond any doubt that Trumpdirectly commanded Sondland to tell Ukraine that the money was withheld for that corrupt purpose… Sondland unequivocally confirmed that Trump was using the White House meeting as leverage to get the investigations he wanted, and that numerous top officials were in on that corrupt scheme. Now that it has been established that Trump dangled a meeting to force an investigation of Biden, how likely is it that Trump suddenly didn’tintend to use the frozen military aid for that same purpose, at precisely the moment he was bothobsessing over that goal and was maximizing his leverage over Ukraine to its highest point yet?”
Greg Sargent, Washington Post

“The hearings have demonstrated in detail the extent to which Trump conflates his personal grudges with America’s interests, even when the former harms the latter, and how he allows those private grudges to dictate foreign policy decisions that impact multiple countries… A foreign policy driven by a person unwilling to govern his feelings, subordinate his grudges, or follow rules is not a policy at all. It’s a puff of air, a set of whims. It’s a vague hunch his yay-sayers must interpret and try to execute, and apologize for when he changes his mind and blames them for getting it wrong.”
Lili Loofbourow, Slate

“There are many pundits who will opine that removing a president is divisive and unprecedented. It is true that no president has ever been removed from office through the impeachment process. But that just speaks to how rare it has been for a president to even get to the point we are at now. And while it is certainly true that there are people who would be upset by his removal from office, the far greater risk lies in allowing this president, with this explicitly illegal, immoral and unjust track record of abusing the power of his office for his personal electoral benefit, to participate in future elections. Doing so would deprive the people of their constitutional right to choose their leader in a free, open and fair election.”
Noah Bookbinder, New York Times

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 opposes impeachment, arguing that the recent witnesses have not offered sufficient evidence to merit Trump’s removal.

From the Right

The right opposes impeachment, arguing that the recent witnesses have not offered sufficient evidence to merit Trump’s removal.

“Polls show the vast majority of Americans agree with Vindman that the Trump-Zelensky call ‘was inappropriate.’ They agreed with Vindman before he testified. But only a minority of Americans say Trump’s conduct warrants impeachment and removal. And the hearings are not changing their minds. Indeed, support for the impeachment inquiry has ticked down since the hearings began, as has the number of Americans tuning in to watch. That means Democrats are failing to convince Americans that Trump’s misconduct rises to the level of treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors. In blackjack, the tie goes to the dealer; in impeachment, the tie goes to the president. If Republicans fight Democrats to a draw, Trump wins.”
Mark Thiessen, Washington Post

“Democrats on the Intelligence Committee have spent the vast majority of their impeachment hearings trying to persuade voters that bureaucrats believe Donald Trump is impulsive, self-serving, and misguided — all of which is unsurprising, and completely irrelevant to the matter at hand… [Fiona] Hill ended up making a compelling case that she, and others, disapproved of the White House’s haphazard handling of foreign policy. But she offered no evidence of ‘bribery.’… Everything we know now that matters we already knew when first reading the report of Trump’s call with Volodymyr Zelensky. Either you believe Trump should be impeached for asking a foreign leader to investigate his opponent’s son for corruption or you do not.”
David Harsanyi, National Review

“Not one witness offered any direct evidence that President Trump did anything clearly impeachable. No one heard him order a quid pro quo, in which Ukraine would gin up ‘dirt’ on Joe Biden in exchange for US aid or a White House meeting. Not one offered a convincing reason why Trump’s interest in having Ukraine probe potential corruption warrants impeachment, even if it was part of quid pro quo. Fact is, Ukrainians were involved in the 2016 election, particularly in the investigation into Paul Manafort. And payments to Biden’s son Hunter by notoriously corrupt Ukrainian energy company Burisma do reek.”
Editorial Board, New York Post

The claim that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election “is supported by significant evidence. It includes public professions of support for Clinton and opposition to Trump by Ukrainian officials. It includes acknowledgments by Ukrainian investigators that their Obama administration counterparts encouraged them to investigate Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Bolstering this theory is the fact that Ukrainian officials leaked information damaging to Manafort (a ledger of payments, possibly fabricated) that forced Manafort’s ouster from the Trump campaign, triggering waves of negative publicity…

“A Ukrainian court, in late 2018, concluded that two Ukrainian officials meddled in the election. And in 2018 House testimony, Nellie Ohr — who worked for Fusion GPS, the Clinton campaign opposition research firm that produced the lurid and discredited Steele dossier — conceded that a pro-Clinton Ukrainian legislator was a Fusion informant… When Republicans and most Trump supporters refer to evidence of Ukrainian collusion in the 2016 election, it is this collusion theory that they are speaking about. This theory is in no way mutually exclusive with the finding that Russia hacked the DNC accounts — it has nothing to do with the hacking. There is nothing illogical in believing both that Russia hacked the Democrats and that Ukraine supported the Democrats.”
Andrew McCarthy, New York Post

Some agree that “the Democrats have their quid pro quo. Even if Trump never explicitly stated that military aid was dependent on Ukraine’s investigations, Sondland said that ‘everyone was in the loop’ and acted under the impression that that was, in fact, the situation. Sondland seems to be making a calculated bet that Trump won’t walk away from impeachment unscathed. Just look at how many times he’s changed his story. First, he insisted that there was no quid pro quo. Then, he admitted he had actually communicated the quid pro quo. And now, Sondland is throwing the White House under the bus and claiming that he knew of but was powerless to stop a quid pro quo… Sondland’s testimony proves that Trump’s motivations were personal and that the president did put U.S. national security interests at risk for the sake of political gain.”
Kaylee McGhee, Washington Examiner

Yet many argue that “this isn’t a quid pro quo that comes close to meeting the definition of bribery. It’s another case of Mr. Trump’s volatile policy-making based on personal impulse or prejudice, but it’s not an impeachable offense… [Sondland’s] account essentially confirms that Mr. Trump had a negative view of Ukraine, was reluctant to keep supplying U.S. aid, and asked Mr. Sondland and others to work with Rudy Giuliani to press Ukraine’s new President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce that he was opening an anti-corruption probe… Democrats might have advanced [their] cause with hearings and a censure resolution. Instead, they have unleashed the dogs of impeachment without impeachable offenses.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

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

“After adding in the ultra-millionaire’s tax and factoring in the other capital taxes Warren wants to levy — on financial transactions, on unrealized capital gains, on corporations — we’d be asking every billionaire to hand over more than two-thirds of their total wealth over a 10-year period. If the government actually managed to collect it, their fortunes would rapidly erode — and so would tax collections. The plan might be a good way to smash wealth, but it’s a terrible way to fund the nation’s health-care system…

“If Warren makes it to the White House, and tries to pass a plan, the Congressional Budget Office will eventually attach more reasonable numbers, with more defensible assumptions, sparking an even more spectacular political blowback than the one that greeted Friday’s announcement. Outside of the progressive Twitterati, there isn’t necessarily an enormous constituency for spending $20.5 trillion to herd every American into a national health insurance program; there would be even less support for spending what Warren’s plan would actually cost.”
Megan McArdle, Washington Post

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