Progressives are very, very excited. More excited than they were by pictures of Robert Mueller on coffee mugs. More excited than liberal journalists repeating “the walls are closing in” for two years. They’re even more excited than when they find obscure connections between Trump and white nationalists. Why? Donald Trump is facing impeachment!
Well, not really. No.
The House of Representatives, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, began an “impeachment inquiry” in the House Judiciary Committee. This body, headed by Democrat Jerry Nadler, has the power to investigate whether articles of impeachment should be brought for a vote in the House. While this is bad for Trump, it is not an impeachment.
A Bad Ukraine Deal
Two weeks ago, it came out publicly that an intelligence whistleblower had filed a complaint about President Trump. This whistleblower claimed to have information about a quid pro quo between Trump and Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky. Trump supposedly demanded that Zelenksy investigate Joe Biden’s ties to Ukraine. In return, Trump would release US military aid to Ukraine, which is fighting an ongoing small war with Russia.
Within two days, the White House declassified and released to the public the portion of the conversation that was being scrutinized. You can read it here. The conversation reads like a Roman governor flattering the Emperor, hoping for a smile. Zelensky butters Trump up with words of warm praise and flattery. Trump responds as one might expect.
But at one point, Trump says this:
There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution [of Viktor Shokin] and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it. It sounds horrible to me.
Is this statement a quid pro quo? It’s hard to say. Ukraine has a history of corruption in its government. It may have made sense for Trump to demand some corruption clean-up on the part of the Ukrainian President in return for US money.
Impeachable, or not?
Democrats are claiming that this constitutes Trump trading US taxpayer money for dirt on Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. If this is true, it would certainly be a breach of the public trust, and Trump could face impeachment. But that’s not apparent from the text. If we’re going to claim that a quid pro quo is in the works here, we need something more readily apparent.
Democrats and the media (but I repeat myself) have never understood Trump’s mode of communication. Trump’s mouth resembles an open pipe: words come from God-knows-where, and it disgorges all manner of things good and bad. Democrats look at Trump’s open-mouthed style and see, by turns, an incompetent doofus, a charlatan who disgraces the office he holds, and a Machiavellian schemer.
All of these can’t be true, so let’s agree that the first one comes closest to reality.
Being a doofus sometimes and being open to flattery aren’t crimes, much less treasonous acts. These are human failings that we all wish Trump didn’t have. But, he does have them. We must deal with it, even if Trump’s supporters are willing to excuse all manner of verbal diarrhea in return for his attacking the Left, upsetting the media, and advancing a generally conservative agenda (at least in court appointments).
The whistleblower has deeper problems than merely that the transcript does not support his or her claim. It suffers the difficulty of not being firsthand knowledge. This, until recently, was a violation of the intelligence requirements for whistleblowers.
According to Federalist writer Sean Davis, “Between May 2018 and August 2019, the intelligence community secretly eliminated a requirement that whistleblowers provide direct, first-hand knowledge of alleged wrongdoings.”
As Davis shows, the whistleblower complaint is filled with “I was told…” and “I heard from…” allegations. The whistleblower cites other parties who claimed to have heard Trump’s violations of the law. He never once claimed to have heard or seen anything firsthand that would constitute a violation of the law.
It’s not clear why this law was changed. There’s also no hard proof of an intelligence community connivance to “get Trump,” as some are alleging. But two years ago, Chuck Schumer did warn the President that if Trump went after the intelligence community, they had “6 ways from Sunday at getting back at you.” Maybe this is it, but we all hope not.
The Need for Transparency
Typically, a whistleblower will become known and be made to testify before a Congressional committee of some sort. But this whistleblower is unusual. He is trying to keep his identity anonymous. According to Fox News, Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff is considering keeping the whistleblower’s identity hidden from everyone–including his Republican colleagues. As Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Schiff has a great deal of power. However, it remains to be seen whether he’ll win on this.
This entire affair is questionable. Why is the whistleblower trying to remain anonymous? When will we get answers about the whistleblower rule changes that just occurred? Why are Democrats claiming there’s a cover-up when the transcript is publicly available?
We await the answers to these questions, and more.