October 2, 2019

Impeachment Inquiry Continues

“Democrats on Monday subpoenaed Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer who was at the heart of Trump’s efforts to get Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden’s family.” AP News

See our prior coverage of impeachment here. The Flip Side

See past issues

From the Left

The left supports impeachment, but is divided as to whether it should be narrowly focused on Ukraine or involve broader misconduct by Trump.

Many argue that “a key to winning any trial is to tell the simple storyand force the other side to tell a more complicated one… The news Monday afternoon that Trump asked the Australian prime minister for help with the Justice Department’s review of the origins of the Russia investigation, and that Attorney General William Barr traveled overseas to ask foreign leaders for similar aid, will undoubtedly lead to discussion of widening the impeachment inquiry. That would be unwise, because those episodes are problematic for different reasons than the Ukraine episode…

“The question House Democrats should aim to answer is whether Trump’s actions [with Ukraine] are a type of abuse of power that our nation’s founders intended to address via impeachment. While it is self-evident that Trump’s scheme is highly problematic, Democrats’ impeachment inquiry will fail unless they can convince the public that it warrants removal from office. Moving forward, Democrats need to make that case to the American people without letting distractions or roadblocks created by Trump and his team distract them or pull them off course.”
Renato Mariotti, Politico

“All of the defects Trump’s critics see in the president’s character — his venal transactionalism, his mob-esque worldview, his lack of concern for the national interest, his own pseudo-authoritarian instincts — are on display in the Ukraine call, and it paints a damning indictment of a man unfit for the country’s highest office… despite the new developments… the scandal remains straightforward.”
Zack Beauchamp, Vox

Others, however, argue that “To limit the impeachment process to the most blatant presidential misdeed yet discovered would leave in the dust — unresolved for history, setting dangerous precedents — the possibility of holding accountable a president who routinely enriches himself at the expense of the taxpayers and flouts the Constitution’s emoluments clause, lies so persistently that we’re far from the democratic concept of transparent government, usurps the role of Congress by unilaterally holding up funds or using them for other purposes than it has approved, bullies private businesses by threatening a tax increase or a significant raise in postal rates…

“For months this year we were told that ‘the public isn’t interested.’ This assumption doesn’t allow for new developments or for individuals to see things in a different light. Within three days in the past tumultuous week, public opinion as measured in a Morning Consult poll [went up by seven points] in favor of an impeachment process… If the articles of impeachment are carefully and thoughtfully drawn, if they indicate the comprehensiveness of Mr. Trump’s disregard for the Constitution, it would be unwise to rule out anything.”
Elizabeth Drew, New York Times

Regarding the White House’s efforts to limit the inquiry, it’s worth noting that “The termexecutive privilege, meaning the privilege to shield certain testimony and documents from disclosure to courts or congressional investigators, did not come into use until the Eisenhower administration; Richard Nixon was the first and so far only president to assert such a privilege against a formal impeachment inquiry. That attempt, as we all know, ended badly in 1974… The Trump administration will likely continue fighting to preserve its privileges, real and imagined… If [Congress] needs testimony or documents, it should go to the high court immediately to enforce its demands.”
Garrett Epps, The Atlantic

“[Pompeo] is casting Democrats’ request to talk to the people with potential knowledge of the Ukraine allegations as bullying. That fits neatly with Trump’s assessment that the entire impeachment inquiry is designed to target him. It also fits in Trump’s broader plan to blow off Congress at every opportunity. The U.S. attorney general, Trump’s former White House counsel and now the secretary of state are among the top officials who have refused to talk to Congress, even when subpoenaed. This isn't normal, and that's to Congress's detriment… The checks and balances are set up to work if both sides respect the governing norms. The founders just didn’t put tools in the Constitution for this… We know of one tool Congress still has, and it’s pretty blunt: inherent contempt

“The fact that a centuries-old, somewhat crude enforcement tool is even being considered at the highest levels of Congress in 2019 underscores just how much the Trump administration’s disregard for the democratic process has kneecapped Congress’s ability to do anything to oversee the executive branch. They’re out of options except to create their own jail of sorts… And it’s safe to say Pompeo knows it.”
Amber Phillips, Washington Post

“In his call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, what reason would Trump have for raising a discredited fever swamp conspiracy theory about Crowdstrike and the DNC server being stashed somewhere in Ukraine unless he actually believed this [to] be true and worth pursuing? He had every reason to think this was a private call; he wasn’t shaping public opinion, rallying his base, tossing a new shiny object in front of reporters to chase…

“It is not just President Trump’s lying that has set a whole new precedent. The ‘truths’ he tells frighten me more. These are the things he clearly believes to be true despite all evidence to the contrary, whether it is who actually pays the price for tariffs, or whether a given public servant deserves to be prosecuted for treason… What Donald Trump ‘knows’ derives from the seamy worlds of real estate, casinos and reality TV, and it is his infected worldview, paired with his distant acquaintance with actual truth, that is now the most frightening characteristic of this presidency.”
Nancy Gibbs, Time

From the Right

The right is opposed to impeachment, arguing that Trump’s actions do not merit removal and that it would be unnecessarily divisive.

The right is opposed to impeachment, arguing that Trump’s actions do not merit removal and that it would be unnecessarily divisive.

“Democrats have had an impeachment itch that they’ve been desperate to scratch ever since Donald Trump took office. For them, Ukraine is equal parts a genuine outrage and an excuse, the release valve for nearly three years of fear and loathing

“Presidential-level diplomacy always involves horse-trading, and this, surely, is not the first time a president has prodded an ally to do him a favor in his political interest. The risk of Trump’s heavy-handed request — an aid package to Ukraine was being held up at the time — was that the Ukrainians would have felt compelled to manufacture damaging information on the Bidens. That didn’t happen, and the aid, thanks to congressional pressure, was released in short order…

“Ukraine lacks the hallmarks of other presidential scandals. There’s been no cover-up. Trying to keep a transcript of a presidential call from leaking in the absence of any congressional or criminal investigation doesn’t qualify. And once the controversy became public, the White House rapidly released key documents. Nor is there any violation of law. Trump’s ask of Zelenskiy wasn’t extortion or a campaign-finance violation under any rational interpretation of our statutes. If it was, practically every president in our history would have had criminal exposure.”
Rich Lowry, National Review

“Now that House Democrats might — might! — finally have sufficient predicate to pursue impeachment, Pelosi faces another challenge: to convince the American people that this iteration of Trump hysteria is the genuine article…

“Both Pelosi and the American electorate know that even if this Ukrainian phone call serves as an adequate predicate to impeach a duly elected president, that impeachment — whether it’s because Trump is a boor, because he’s trying to ‘take away health care,’ because he’s a serial philanderer, because he allegedly slept with a porn star, because he has a ‘mental illness,’ because he lost the popular vote, because he is ignorant on most matters of domestic and foreign affairs, whatever — has been the stated goal of much of Pelosi’s caucus from the day Trump was elected… Perhaps the seventh time will be the charm.”
John Hirschauer, National Review

Many argue that “While Trump's conduct towards the Ukrainian President was unbecoming and evinces poor judgment, Democrats should not be so quick to make this an excuse for reversing an election. It's quite simple: Trump was legitimately elected. Absent damning evidence of clear wrongdoing, his impeachment will inherently undercut our democracy. It will put the whims of politicians before the lawful choice of voters…

“To impeach Trump now would be to tell those who voted for him that their popular choice no longer matters. It's a grave action — an act of last resort. Democrats should remember that impeachment isn't, ultimately, a legal act. Instead, to adapt from Clausewitz, it is the continuation of politics by other means. And in America, political power belongs to the people. Wherever compatible with the nation's interests, impeachment should be avoided in favor of elections. And there just happens to be one coming up next fall.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

“If the situation were reversed, and if a corrupt Republican ex-vice president were running for president, no Democrat would ever hesitate to ask every foreign government in the world for help in investigating that person. Nor do Democrats hesitate to ask for foreign help in investigating sitting Republican presidents. The 2018 letter to Ukraine (!) by Senate Democrats asking for an investigation of Trump is illustrative… This is not about substance. This is about Pelosi losing control of her caucus should she continue to resist impeachment, and Pelosi sensing a looming electoral disaster of monumental proportions should impeachment be launched outside the parameters she defines.”
George S. Bardmesser, The Federalist

Some argue that Trump’s “best response is to dismiss this attempt to delegitimize his presidency and go on governing. That means understanding that the real referendum on Trump’s tenure in the White House comes next year at the ballot box… Trump can still counterpunch the Democrats on impeachment. But he should also start thinking of winning over the suburban moms who can preserve the Electoral College ­majority that sent his opponents into a delusional funk… Expanding background checks and red-flag laws are no guarantee against more mass shootings. But they will close some loopholes that might keep a few guns out of the wrong hands and do so in a manner that will be no threat to Second Amendment rights or Trump’s popularity among GOPers.”
Jonathan S. Tobin, New York Post

“Trump’s presidency was bound to put America’s institutions under a stress test. The intelligence community, the bureaucracy, Congress, the courts, and the media were going to be tempted by this man who didn’t follow the standard rules of politics. Would these institutions respond by doing their jobs, or would they respond by breaking norms?…

“Unfortunately, many supposed guardians of our democracy responded to Trump's election by smashing norms themselves. Sally Yates, acting as attorney general, flatly refused to enforce the law because merely she thought it unwise and unjust. James Comey, the FBI director, appears to have laid subtle threats and traps for the president. Many of our colleagues in the press utterly abandoned their sobriety when faced with Trump. And then some in the intelligence community took to using their access to the president’s phone calls as a way to leak information that simply made him look bad… Our politics has come to feature a vicious circle of ever-escalating norm-breaking.”
Editorial Board, Washington Examiner

A Libertarian's Take

“Democrats, you should impeach only if you genuinely want to remove the president from office, not just to position yourselves for 2020. And because you’ll need 20 Republican senators to accomplish that, you should make it as easy as possible for conservatives to join the effort. Don’t shower invective on conservatives; if anyone must be denounced, let it be Trump and Trump alone. Greet each new convert to Team Impeachment with a warm ‘Welcome, brothers and sisters!’ rather than a grudging ‘What took you so long?’...

“You should do these things because if Trump is truly an existential threat to the nation, your sole priority should be his expeditious removal. Also because it’s hard to slam partisan Republicans for cravenly supporting Trump if you yourself remain more interested in your prior political goals, and lingering grievances, than building a coalition to get him out. But mostly you should do these things because a victory gained without Republican support is likely to be hollow, and certain to be bad for the country.”
Megan McArdle, Washington Post

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