Saturday, December 28, 2019

I Don’t Get Republican’s Impeachment Trial Posture

If Senator McConnell and his Republican colleagues truly believe that the Democratic case for impeachment is so weak, a sham, wouldn’t it be to their political advantage to run a proper trial, to give the appearance of impartiality, and then acquit Trump.  They have certainly prejudged the case, so that is a foregone conclusion.  Why not subpoena Mulvaney and Bolton and have them support the President’s version of things under oath?  And apparently Trump wants a real trial, not some quickie; he wants to be vindicated.

There is only one reason:  they fear that more of the public will come to support impeachment after being exposed to the facts in such a trial, perhaps even some Republican Senators.  And what if Mulvaney and Bolton support the Democrats’ charges, not Trump’s version of things?  That would really throw a wrench in things.

There is no way that McConnell will change his posture, unless Trump forces him to.  Democrats only hope is that when they challenge the process in various ways with Chief Justice Roberts, who will be the Presiding Officer and under the rules of the Senate controls all aspects of the process … although he can be overruled by a simple majority … he will side with them.  

In that case, if the Republicans overrule his decisions, that would expose the whole Republican stance as dishonest and a farce to all but Trump’s devoted base.  The Democrats will have won even if Trump is acquitted.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Make Use of Conservative and Evangelical Voices Against Trump

To the extent that they can, it is absolutely critical in light of the total subservience to Trump of Congressional Republicans that the Democrats make good use of the conservative and evangelical voices that have spoken in support of Trump’s impeachment.  This is their only opportunity to show that this not a partisan effort but rather a principled one.  

The recent op-ed pieces in “The American Conservative” and “Christianity Today” are a strong indictment of Trump.  Their readership may not be huge, but these are legitimate, well-respected publications.  There was also an op-ed piece in The New York Times written by a group of Republicans that have formed an organization, the Lincoln Project, dedicated to defeating Trump in 2020.  These expressions of conscience are all the more powerful because they know the disdain that they will be treated by most of their colleagues.

The Democratic leadership should hold a press conference together with these groups to press the point that this is not a partisan endeavor.  It may certainly be true that most Democrats have had it in for Trump from the beginning.  But that is not because he is a Republican, it is because he is in so many ways unfit to be President and has shown a lack of respect for his office and for the institutions of our democracy on an almost daily basis.  That is not partisanship, that is principle.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Some Republican Senators Have Crossed a Line and Disqualified Themselves as Impeachment Jurors

In an impeachment, the Senate’s role is to sit in judgment and vote either to convict or acquit the person charged.  The Senators are the jury.  No Senator is appointed to play the role of defense counsel.  That role is undertaken by the President’s lawyers.  

As jurors, when the impeachment trial begins, the Senators swear an oath to “do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws: So help me God.’’

Now, no one expects any Senator, certainly not in the current environment, to be impartial when sitting in judgment of President Trump.  However, there is a difference between Senators prejudging the case and Senators meeting with top White House aides, as reported recently in The New York Times, to discuss the strategy to be used for the impeachment trial.

That crosses the line between being a juror and being part of the defense team.  Their action flouts all pretense of impartiality.

There is no precedent for this.  In Nixon’s impeachment, the Republican leadership did not strategize with the White House; they (Hugh Scott, Barry Goldwater, and John Rhodes) went to the White House to tell Nixon that he faced near-certain impeachment because of eroding support among Republicans.  As for Clinton, I could find no indication on the internet that Democratic Senators met with him to strategize his impeachment trial.

I would therefore argue that when the Senators are sworn in as jurors by the Chief Justice, the House managers of the impeachment should raise an objection with the Chief Justice that because of their strategizing with White House officials regarding the impeachment trial, such Senators should be barred from voting. They have disqualified themselves.  Who are they? Senators Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Ron Johnson, John Kennedy, and Lindsey Graham.  Mind you, a majority of the Senate can overrule such a ruling by the Chief Justice; but McConnell has only 2 votes to spare.

Then there’s majority leader Senator McConnell.  He recently stated that he’s “taking his cue” from the White House on how to run the impeachment trial.  "Everything I do during this, I'm coordinating with the White House counsel." He made clear he would do everything in his power to quickly acquit the president.” 

That without question also crosses the line.  He has stated he’s going to be talking to the Democratic leader and others, but if the bottom line is what the White House wants, those other conversations make no difference.  By running the trial the way Trump wants it run, he is abandoning all appearance of independence and impartiality.  The trial must be set up to get at the truth.

Removal of these senators from the Senate jury would not likely change the result of the trial.  With 95 senators voting, 16 Republican senators would still have to vote for impeachment, assuming a solid Democratic voting bloc.  But their removal may embolden enough Republicans to vote for impeachment to at least provide a simple majority, if not the required 2/3 majority to convict.  A bi-partisan majority in favor of impeachment would gravely weaken Trump in the 2020 election.

And it would send a very clear message that even in politics, some actions are beyond the pale.  We have lost that faith under Trump.  It needs to be reasserted.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

The Clear Case for Trump’s Impeachment

There has been so much information gathered regarding Trump’s abuse of power that sometime it’s hard to see the forest for the trees.  But it is critically important to keep things simple and clear.  Let’s review the facts.

1.  The Main Piece of Evidence:

    Trump is on record as having said to the Ukraine president, when asked about the promised military aid, “I would like you to do us a favor though” and went on to mention his desire to have the Biden’s investigated.  This is not hearsay, this is not surmise, this is from the horse’s mouth.
     Republicans say that Trump did not say that the investigations were a condition to getting the aid.  How disingenuous.  If someone asks you for something, and you respond by asking them for a favor, it is understood that getting what they want is conditional on the favor being granted.  Especially in this case since, contrary to the White House’ early assertions, the Ukraine government was aware that the military aid had been put on hold prior to the telephone call.

     Republicans further say that the aid was ultimately provided without Ukraine investigating.  Yes, but the aid was released after Trump was informed of the whistleblower complaint and in response to bipartisan pressure from Congress.  So the fact that the aid was provided without the investigations taking place is not an exculpatory event. 

2.  The Supporting Evidence:

     There is ample evidence, both from career diplomats and from Trump appointees, that it was common knowledge that the Ukraine’s getting the aid and having a meeting with Trump were conditioned on them investigating the Biden’s.  Not just investigating them, but publicly stating that they were investigating them for corruption.

3.  The Legal Justification:

     Even Prof. Jonathan Turley, the Republican-requested expert, stated in his testimony that “the use of military aid for a quid pro quo to investigate one’s political opponent, if proven, can be an impeachable offense.”   It is not surprising then that he also stated that the July 25 call was “anything but perfect” and that Congress has a legitimate reason to scrutinize it.

Thus, given that we have direct evidence in the July 25 call that Trump pushed the Biden investigation and that he positioned it as a favor he was requesting in response to the inquiry regarding the withheld military aid, given all the supporting evidence that it was commonly felt that the aid and the investigations were connected, and given that the legal scholars agreed that, if proven, such abuse of power would constitute an impeachable offense, there is no reason not to proceed with impeachment articles.

Not to be forgotten, however, is Trump’s obstruction of justice.  Not only did he attempt to prohibit any Federal employee from testifying before the House Intelligence committee, although a number did so regardless.   But there is clear evidence from the Mueller report that he attempted to obstruct the Mueller investigation in numerous ways.  The House has unfortunately determined not to go there and limit it’s obstruction charge to obstructing the House in its legitimate investigation. 

Last week’s testimony by legal scholars regarding whether the crimes Trump is accused of warrant impeachment and whether sufficient evidence has been gathered left the media at least pondering whether Democrats should wait, should pursue enforcement of subpoenas in the courts, in order to obtain evidence from key players whom Trump has forbidden to testify.

While it would be great to have that testimony, there is no time to pursue a lengthy court process to obtain it given that we are only a year away from the next presidential election. By the time all the appeals would be over, the election would have occurred.  And one must remember, the only reason why that testimony has not been available is because Trump has forbidden it.  It has in most cases been requested by House Democrats.

Trump has clearly abused the power of his office and for the sake of our democracy must be impeached.  That the Senate will acquit is a foregone conclusion, but because it is a foregone conclusion, the fact will have little resonance with the public beyond his fervent base.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

The Ongoing Toxic Effect of Slavery

There are many reasons why our country is dysfunctional today on so many levels.  Most have to do with the nature of our culture, the “me” perspective, and the insecurity that becomes part of our psyche during our formative years and growing up.

But there is another factor which I think has a major impact on our political life … the ongoing toxic effect of slavery.  And I’m not just talking about the continuing racism that is prevalent in the United States, although it is related to that.

When our country was founded, a deal was brokered, despite the ringing words of the Declaration of Independence, known as the “3/5 compromise.”  Under that agreement, slaves were accepted in the slaves states as a fact of life and were counted in the census as 3/5 of a person.  And so although they were slaves, not citizens, and had no rights, they increased significantly the South’s representation in the House of Representatives.

Ultimately, of course, the compromise led to the Civil War.  After the Civil War, there was never a discussion or reconciliation regarding slavery.  Reconstruction, which was to give slaves land and status, was promoted by a Republican-controlled Congress but poorly conceived.  Regardless, the effort ended quickly under President Andrew Johnson (D) and the white southern power structure maintained their old ways through the establishment of Jim Crow laws.

For the next 100 years, southern Democrats, while supporting the Democratic Party agenda in many ways, demanded a price, which was the continued debasement of African-Americans.  This unholy alliance fell apart when Johnson pushed the Civil Rights and Voting Rights laws through in the mid-1960s.  One should note that both of these measures were overwhelmingly supported by Republicans; the votes against were primarily from the South; the votes in the Senate were 73-27 and 78-18 respectively. 

The former Democrats later switched to Republican under Nixon’s Southern strategy and the South became Red.  Since that time, the Republican party, which had become traditionally conservative over the years, added a new twist in that they now, dependent on southern support, opposed measures to help the poor, who were thought of as being overwhelmingly black.  Bush II sought to change that with his compassionate conservatism, but he didn’t get very far.

The Tea Party within the Republican Party was founded in February 2009, just one month after Barack Obama took office as President.  Although the rallying cry was fiscal conservatism, the real bone was clear.  It was the perceived threat of African-Americans to the white middle-class, not just in the south, but now in the north too as the country suffered from a major recession.

These people had a fanatical energy.  And so John Boehner, then Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, decided to use them rather than fight them.  That empowering of the Tea Party ultimately led to Trump winning the Republican nomination for President in 2016 and winning the election.

And the fanaticism and loyalty of that base is what has given Trump his power to change the Republican party from a conservative party to an authoritarian, nativistic party, full of hate and anger.  Which has brought forth the same kind of energy in the Democratic Party base.  The combination of which has resulted in an almost total erosion of civility in political discourse and a weakening of American democracy.

Can the country be brought back to a place of reason and civility, an agreement to disagree?  Only time will tell, but the present does not bode well for the future.  In April 2019, I wrote a post, “We Need a National Discussion on Race and Racism.”  For our country to heal these deep divisions that we see, this must happen.  But I fear it will not, I fear it is too late.