In the dead of night – around midnight on December 15 – the House Judiciary Committee released a 658-page report supposedly detailing the justification for articles of impeachment. Performing a delicate dance, the committee’s Democrats have accused President Donald Trump of committing crimes without accusing him of committing crimes. In that endeavor, they failed, as one has either committed crimes or one has not.
All the proof one needs that no crime has ever been established is contained in the articles of impeachment. Had Democrats proved a crime, they would, of course, have submitted articles that described the crime or crimes. Instead, they chose the imprecise accusations of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Why offer vague and subjective allegations when provable crimes have been established? The two articles of impeachment demonstrate that no unquestionable proof of criminal activity or intent was revealed during the course of the impeachment inquiries.
In its introduction, the report lays out a summary of the two charges against Trump. Both are fundamentally flawed because they rely entirely on subjectivity:
“The first article charges that the President used the powers of his office to solicit and pressure a foreign government, Ukraine, to investigate his domestic political rival and interfere in the upcoming United States Presidential elections.”
One could argue that the word “pressure” is – to borrow a legal term – inadmissible, since the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has on more than one occasion stated that he felt no pressure to do anything. Further, it is widely known that pressure often is applied to countries looking to receive financial or other assistance. In truth, all foreign assistance is based upon a quid pro quo of one sort or another. Recipient nations are often required to make or fulfill certain commitments.
The more relevant problem with this statement is that the impeachment inquiries conducted by congressional Democrats unearthed not one shred of evidence that anything the president did was intended to affect the 2020 election. In fact, an abundance of evidence showed that Trump’s interest in the Ukraine-Biden connection and his well-founded suspicions that certain Ukrainian officials in 2016 worked against him and on behalf of Hillary Clinton was entirely related to what happened in the last election, not what may happen in the next.
Unless and until Joe Biden secures the Democratic Party presidential nomination, moreover, the argument that Trump wanted the Ukrainians to look into the Biden-Burisma connection in order to influence the 2020 election is weak at best.
“The second article charges that the President categorically obstructed the Congressional impeachment inquiry into his conduct.”
Executive branch refusal to fully cooperate with legislative branch investigations goes back to the earliest years of the United States. Numerous presidents have refused to hand over to Congress certain documents; a number of presidents have claimed executive privilege; and, on many occasions, executive branch officials have appeared before Congress only to invoke their Fifth Amendment rights.
In the case before the nation today, the chief executive and his allies always have viewed the investigations of him by Congress as entirely political and lacking sufficient justification. Trump’s supporters and political allies argue that Congress has gone way beyond its constitutional duty of oversight and, as such, has no legitimate right to demand the president’s cooperation.
The Judiciary Committee report does nothing to bolster the case against Trump, nor will it move public opinion. The central allegation against the president – that his intention was to influence the 2020 election – is not only unproven and unprovable but also a transparent attempt to provide the Democrats with cover for their almost inevitable defeat in the next presidential election. One can almost imagine Robert Mueller being tapped, in 2021, to conduct an investigation into Trump’s collusion with Ukraine.
Read more from Graham J. Noble.