Looking at the “Fab Four,” above, consisting of Presidents Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon, Andrew Johnson, and Donald J. Trump, there are those of us who vividly recall the many reasons why Nixon should have been impeached, convicted, and jailed. Contrary to his oft-repeated denial, Nixon was a crook.
Now, in today’s crooked-Christmastime, here’s a Yuletide dream of mine, in three parts. It goes something like this.
Part I: The Accusation
The Mueller Report, 448 pages long, was presented with all the excitement of a slowly-deflating hot-air balloon. It contained numerous instances of Trump’s malfeasance, yet obtained no traction in the public’s mind.
The media reflections on Trump were lengthy and, in many instances, supported by outside events, e.g., lawsuits involving Trump’s defalcations of student fees from Trump University; his daily violations of the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause; the prosecutions of Michael Flynn, Michael Cohen, and Paul Manafort, among others; the never-ending scenario about his taxes; the unending flow of Tweets; ad nauseam.
But the Mueller Report was never “sold” to the public in a way which captured our attention, and few people would take the time to go through the mind-numbing assemblage of 448 pages, in two volumes, to find out what we already knew: that Trump was a really sick narcissist, pathological liar, dictator wannabe, and bumboy for the Koch Brothers, Sheldon Adelson, the de Vos Family, and the like.
The problem was that there was nothing riveting about the Mueller Report. It didn’t capture our attention or grab us, emotionally. He testified to a House committee about his Report on July 24, 2019, and warned us about Russian interference in both 2016 and the pending interference in our current campaigns. However, that was not an issue that would raise our hackles; we thought that Congress would hire a bunch of IT guys and protect us from the Russkies’ cyber-interference, and that would be it.
But, then, then, on the very next day, July 25, 2019, Trump did what can only be chalked up to his narcissistic hubris: he picked up the phone and called Volodymyr Zelensky, newly-elected President of Ukraine, and engaged in explicit, unmistakable bribery, as well as influence peddling (punishable as a crime in France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Brazil, Argentina, Italy, Great Britain and Romania).
“We want you [Zelensky] to do us a favor, though….” The “favor” was simple: investigate Joe Biden (and his son) or nearly $400 million in badly-needed military assistance would not be sent to Ukraine (even though Congress, which has “the power of the purse-strings,” had already approved the aid).
This conversation was a real problem for Trump. Even though he deemed it “perfect,” he actually had crossed the line into the territory of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” which are impeachable offenses under the U.S. Constitution. Bribery, along with treason, were the two specifically-enumerated grounds for impeachment listed in the Constitution, and Trump’s call reflected his attempt to bribe Pres. Zelensky.
About six weeks after the “perfect” call, an anonymous whistleblower complaint made its way to Congress, and hearings were convened, first in the Intelligence Committee, chaired by Congressman Adam Schiff, then in the Judiciary Committee, chaired by Congressman Jerry Nadler.
Testimony was given by a number of direct fact witnesses, people who had been listening in on the call and who were alarmed by the clearly-illegal tone taken by Trump. Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman of the National Security Council was one. (Not long after his testimony, Lt. Col. Vindman was fired from the NSC, a “reward” for his loyalty to the United States….) Another testifying witness was Timothy Morrison, Senior Director for European Affairs. His boss, Charles Kupperman, Deputy National Security Adviser, refused to testify without a court order commanding him to do so, even though he was subpoenaed by the Intelligence Committee.
Additional witnesses who were not on the call, but were privy to its contents and its intentions were Gordon Sondland, Ambassador to the European Union; Kurt Volker, special Envoy to Ukraine regarding peace negotiations; and Rick Perry, now-resigned U.S. Secretary of Energy. Sondland gave bombshell testimony, confirming that there was a quid pro quo (“this for that”) exchange communicated to President Zelensky on multiple occasions before and after the phone call, all directed by Trump.
There were numerous other witnesses to the events leading up to, and following, the July 25th call, including Masha Yovanovitch, the former Ambassador to Ukraine, whose shameful ouster earlier this year was orchestrated by Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani; David Holmes and Dr. Fiona Hill.
The eyewitness testimony of Mr. Holmes, a Political Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, was that he heard Trump on a phone call with Ambassador Sondland at a restaurant in Kyiv, asking if Pres. Zelensky was going to “do the investigation [of Joe Biden and his son, Hunter],” to which Sondland said, “Yes; he’ll do anything you want him to.”
The testimony of Dr. Hill, a formidable witness, testified that John Bolton, Trump’s then-National Security Adviser, referred to Rudy Giuliani’s activities in Ukraine as very dangerous. She testified that Bolton said that Giuliani’s “a hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up,” and was so worried about Giuliani’s conduct that she directed Dr. Hill to report Giuliani to the NSC’s top lawyer.
Although there were a number of witnesses who appeared, there were a number who refused to do so, following explicit orders from the White House that they must not appear because of “executive privilege.” This was nonsense, of course, but the Administration apparently felt that it was wholly-appropriate to disregard the investigative rights of a co-equal branch of government.
After accumulating eyewitness and documentary evidence over a period of several weeks, the Intelligence Committee issued its 300-page report.
It then turned over the report and supporting evidence to the House’s Judiciary Committee, a much more fractious body than that of the Intelligence Committee. With 17 Republican members, it became clear from the outset that Trump’s supporters could not provide any substantive defenses; they could only argue about procedures and claim that the inquiry was somehow unfair. They constantly interrupted and interposed numerous delaying tactics. In short, they gave proof that “Republicans can’t fight fair, so they fight foul.”
After a few days of hearings and intracommittee arguments, the Judiciary Committee voted on strict 24–17 party lines to submit Articles of Impeachment to the entire House of Representatives. There will be a vote in the House on Wednesday, December 18, 2019, addressing the two articles:
- Abuse of Power
- Obstruction of Congress
Abuse of Power derived from bribery and influence peddling. The notion was straightforward: Trump wanted an announcement of the investigation of corruption against Joe Biden, Trump’s leading political opponent in the 2020 Presidential campaign. This would, in Trump’s mind, serve him in great stead as he campaigned for reelection.
Obstruction of Congress originated in Trump’s directions to White House employees and former employees not to testify on the grounds of “executive privilege.” Neither Trump nor his minions were Constitutional scholars, and so they evidently thought that Congress was simply an adverse party in some kind of political bargain. Unfortunately for Trump, this was not the landscape before him.
And so, as things stand now, the Articles of Impeachment will be voted on by the whole House of Representatives, right in the middle of the Holiday Season. It is highly likely that the Articles will pass, assuredly on party lines, and then there will be a trial in the U.S. Senate, presided over by John Roberts, Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. The trial will likely take place in January, 2020, and take place over two weeks.
The Case Managers will probably be Chairmen Schiff and Nadler, but there will be certain rules of procedure which must be followed in the Senate. These procedures will be discussed between the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-Ky), and the Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer (D-Ny).
Part II: The Reckoning
Under Article I, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution, the Senate is the sole body with the power of trying impeachment. The Senators are the jurors. If two-thirds of the senators (67 out of a 100) vote to convict, then the president would be found guilty and removed from office.
During the House Judiciary Committee hearings, we heard from Doug Collins (R-Ga), Matt Gaetz (R-Fl), Jim Jordan (R-Oh), and others on the Republican side what a travesty the hearings were. We heard them cast aspersions on the process of trying to hold Trump accountable. We noted that they chose to ignore the Democratic phrase, “No one is above the law.” That’s exactly where they want Trump to be.
The Senate — made up of many people who think themselves to be eminently well-qualified to be the next President of the United States — takes itself and its proceedings far more seriously than what goes on in the House of Representatives. The type of grandstanding seen in Congressmen will not be tolerated in the Senate, whose members will take an appropriately sedate and sober view of the trial.
However, Senator McConnell will be in charge of the procedural rules, and, given his long track record of perfidy towards the Constitution, it is likely that he will sneak in some kinds of procedures that will make it very difficult for the trial to be truly fair and evidence based. Unfortunately, Senator McConnell will not have quite enough legislative clout, nor the personal gravitas, to bring McConnell to heel.
The result is that the trial will go forward. There will be some defections from the Republican ranks, but probably only about eight or nine will join with their Democratic counterparts. At the end, the tally is likely to be 47 Democrats and eight Republicans in favor of conviction and the remainder voting to keep Trump in office.
There will be a huge celebration on the part of the Republicans, especially among Trump’s base, and Trump, naturally, will feel that he’s been completely exonerated. There will be victory parades, Lou Dobbs and Sean Hannity being effulgent in their praise, and Trump holding multiple post-trial rallies to boast about how, once again, he hasn’t lost.
There will be numerous instances of cruelty in areas where T’rump’s support is strong: more shootings, more right-wing activities, more ventures down the path towards The Confederacy 2.0.
Part III: Final Justice
After the Democratic Convention starts, there will be multiple fights about the candidate who has the best chance of defeating Trump. After many challenges and votes, it will finally come down to Joe Biden as the choice for President and Amy Klobuchar as Vice President.
Biden will attract the comfortable middle-of-the-road voters in the Democratic Party, black women, and Barack Obama devotees. Klobuchar will appeal to a broad part of the electorate. She has solid, Midwestern roots, and a good track record of getting things done. She does not project the “flaming socialist” brand of Bernie Sanders nor the always-angry persona of Elizabeth Warren.
Biden and Klobuchar will do well on the campaign trail in most parts of the country. Biden’s “Uncle Joe” personality is attractive to a lot of the electorate, and “no-nonsense Aunt Amy” will likewise have quite a few followers.
But at the polls on November 3, 2020, will the voters come to their senses and get rid of all things Trumpian? Will we finally have a society where we protect our environment; work on infrastructure; deliver on healthcare; revise our education system; make major reforms in our tax system; shift our military priorities and focus more on helping our people than killing our enemies; and come up with — and work on — plans for a just society, with true equal opportunity for all?
Or will we continue our short-sighted view of our relations with one another and with our fellows around the world, engaging in selfish me-first views about our resources, the human beings here and abroad, and the most pervasive, existential threat facing mankind, ignoring the Global Climate Crisis at our peril? Will Trump’s base take us down the road to extinction as a species, or will we treat this time as a golden opportunity to wake up and become leaders in becoming truly human?