by Roxanne Tellier
” There is something almost arbitrary about this scandal instigating impeachment, given the barbarity of Trump and his administration. On a scale that includes keeping immigrant children in cages, I’m not quite sure where to rank the president’s pressuring the leader of a foreign country to investigate a political rival’s son. But it also doesn’t really matter. Impeachment is long overdue. If Trump’s call with Zelinsky is what gets us there, so be it.” Alex Shephard, The New Republic
I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve been banging the impeachment drum since almost the moment the inauguration balloons began to sadly deflate.
When the Democrats took the House in November 2018, public sentiment seemed to point to a belief that they would move towards impeaching Trump, based on any number of issues. And when the Mueller Report landed with all the grace of a mother dropping a baby on it’s head, the impeachment issue was again raised. After all, Mueller’s ‘conclusion’ was that he’d done his job, and now it was up to the Democrats to move forward.
Nancy Pelosi, however, disagreed on moving to impeach the president. Repeatedly, she told her party and her country that she’d rather beat him, resoundingly, in the 2020 election.
Many of us wondered if America could last that long.
Beyond the mental and emotional exhaustion that has been engendered by Trump’s incessant need for excitement and attention, there was a case to be made that failing to prosecute the president for his misdeeds, based on a fear of electoral retribution, made us wonder how long the Dems could shirk their constitutional responsibilities to hold him accountable for his many crimes, whether real or perceived.
Of course, they – and we – knew that any accusation levelled at Trump or his administration would result in a solid phalanx of his highest level co-conspirators rising up through the swampy waters to defend his right to do whatever he wanted, up to and including a late night whim to shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, just to see if it lost him any of his base. (It wouldn’t.)
We knew in advance that the pearl clutching, eternal victims would level false accusations at those whom they would accuse of simply being jealous rivals, and call any attempt at bringing the executive branch into control as an undeserved ‘witch hunt.’ “Smoking gun? What smoking gun? ”
But Trump, like any addict, simply couldn’t help himself. The very day after the Mueller Report toothlessly mamby pambied through a sorta kinda accusation of Russia having meddled in the 2016 election (to help Trump) he was on the phone to the newly elected Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenksky, asking for ‘a favour’ …. that Zelensky take his focus off protecting his own country to investigate the son of Trump’s political rival, Joe Biden.
Trump subscribed to a debunked conspiracy theory that accused then Vice President Biden of urging the Ukrainians to fire the Kyiv general prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, in order to save his son, Hunter Biden, from being accused of corruption. In fact, this position on Shokin was supported by Ukrainian anti-corruption activists, European allies, and groups like the International Monetary Foundation. (IMF)
Trump’s phone call to the Ukraine was asking for ‘dirt’ on a political rival, from a foreign country – exactly what he’d been accused and found guilty of doing in 2016. “Russia … if you’re listening… ‘
However, his own Department of Justice so roiled the waters that the Democrats knew they’d have trouble convincing the nation to agree that this was an impeachable offence.
Trump’s call also had a more sinister overtone; a week prior to the call, Trump had told his acting White House Chief of Staff, Nick Mulvaney, to slow walk the Congressionally approved $390 million dollars of military aid that Ukraine desperately needed to fight back against Russian advances.
Implicit in Trump’s request for ‘a favour’ was that the aid might never actually reach the Ukraine at all, should Zelensky refuse to investigate the Bidens.
On August 12th, a whistleblower reported an ‘urgent concern’ to the Inspector General of the Department of National Intelligence (DNI) Michael Atkinson. After review, the inspector general deemed the complaint to be credible, and he kicked it upstairs, to the attention of the acting director of the DNI, Joseph Maguire.
For reasons that still don’t make any sense, Maguire opted to ask for the recommendations of both the Oval Office, and the Department of Justice, despite the complaint explicitly naming both Trump and AG Barr as the focus of the complaint. And .. wonder of wonders! both Trump and Barr thought it would be best to just let this complaint go, unheard.
On September 9th, the inspector general reported the complaint to House Intelligence Chairman, Adam Schiff, advising him that Maguire had dismissed the complaint. On September 19th, the House Committee met with Atkinson behind closed doors to discuss the situation, although Atkinson did not disclose the nature of the complaint.
But the word was now out on the street – something worthy of whistleblowing had happened in the Oval Office. No one knew what that might be – at first.
It wasn’t long before Trump, and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, began speculating to the press that it might be about this phone call. They hadn’t done it, they assured the world, but if they did, it would be okay because .. Trump is above the law. Or so it was inferred.
With information that pointed to an abuse of power, a request for help in getting dirt on a political rival, AND the appearance of a cover up in hand, Pelosi announced on September 24th that the House would begin a formal impeachment enquiry into Trump.
Unsurprisingly Trump’s defence was to produce a heavily redacted five page summary of the thirty minute conversation that they believed would exonerate the president. In fact, it only dug the hole deeper.
When the actual whistleblower’s complaint was declassified and released the following day, the nation discovered that the issues raised had to do with the president “using the power of his office” to solicit foreign election help, and included a description of efforts by senior White House officials hiding away and ‘locking down’ access to all records of the call.
Forget Roy Cohn – what Trump really needed was a Rose Mary Woods.
As more information has appeared, it’s become apparent to about 70% of Americans that this president needs to be investigated, and probably, impeached. The 30% that disagree are his ‘deplorable’ base, and his highest ranking party members, who have circled the wagons to protect his criminality…. again.
As Giuliani, Lindsey Graham, and other GOP talking heads made the rounds of the Sunday morning political talk shows, it became clear that they have decided to use the same old defences of the last hundred scandals; start by denying, deflect by saying someone else did the same thing, and then distract by having a temper tantrum, complete with raised voice and red face.
Just as he and his party did when Brett Kavanaugh was accused of sexual improprieties, they would blame and shame the victim … and let the accused walk free to take his throne again.
Last night, Graham was overheard having a full blown, loud conversation on his cell phone with “Jared” – presumably Jared Kushner, on a Jet Blue flight. He mentioned that he would be on Face the Nation, and coordinated his talking points, saying, “Listen – this is what I’m going to lay out. This is Kavanaugh on steroids! This is hearsay – and this person has bias.”
This morning, on Face the Nation, Mr Graham equated the whistleblower’s complaint to the sexual accusations against Kavanaugh, saying – without truth – that the transcript of the call, and the particulars of the complaint, were not matched. He became increasingly angry with the interviewer, who disagreed, and he then proceeded to demand to know, ” Who is this whistleblower? What bias do they have? .. I wanna know why the whistleblower was told about this phone call … Who told the whistleblower about the transcript? Who helped this person write this complaint? Who told the whistleblower about a phone call between the POTUS and a foreign leader? Who are these people and what are they up to?”
This is ‘whataboutism‘ to the nth degree; faced with what seems to be a credible accusation, that the president and his personal lawyer have, even unwittingly, confirmed, Graham reacts with indignation towards an unknown person who acted with more backbone and courage than Graham could ever scrape up in all of his miserable 64 years on the planet. Shoot the messenger! It’s a witch hunt!
Lindsey Graham wants to speak to your manager!
(damn … I’d love to know what they have on Graham. It’s gotta be some very, very fine kompromat.)
These efforts to uncover the whistleblower’s identity are not only dangerous to the wellbeing of the whistleblower, but in the long run, may well serve to compromise, and perhaps fatally damage, the very act of whistle blowing, which has been an important weapon in finding and rooting out political corruption at the highest levels.
At this point, it would seem that the whistleblower’s words have been corroborated, in some cases, by the president himself.
We can probably already guess exactly how Trump will defend himself through this trial …. he will react as he always does, with denial, deflection, whataboutism, and then just simply walking away to play another game of golf at the tax payer’s expense. That’s his pattern.
Trump is incapable of seeing himself as a teammate in a party, just as good or as bad as previous American presidents, because he demands to be considered better than all the presidents who’ve gone before him. His allegiance to Russia is beyond troublesome, and Russia’s request that any phone calls between Trump and Putin remain classified also suggests that there’s been the same sort of extortion discussed in those calls – though which side is pressuring which is yet to be determined.
We know he will denigrate the media, and, with his usual projection, proclaim them “the laughing stock of the world.” And we know he will dump manure on the heads of America’s intelligence officials, willy nilly, because any kind of intelligence just scares the pants off of little Donny.
And in the end, Trump will proclaim that the whole thing is ‘just a continuation of the witch hunt.’ But I don’t see any witches around here. What I see is a president betraying his country, to achieve his own personal ends.
The other day, Trump told his cronies that he believed the whistleblower was a type of spy, and he lamented that spies were not treated as harshly as they’d been, back in the day. Well, there’s a very large segment of the population that wishes that traitors who committed treason were punished as they were, back in the day, as well.
Be careful what you wish for, Mr Trump.