Editor’s Note: Transcripts of testimonies given in the impeachment investigation are now being made public. Do they provide evidence or proof of wrongdoing by the president or are they nothing more than the opinions and perceptions of certain individuals? Liberty Nation presents a series of articles that analyze the transcripts for evidence – incriminating or exculpatory.
The transcripts of five “witnesses” in the impeachment inquiry targeting President Donald Trump have now been made public. Overwhelmingly, the media spin suggests that each of these testimonies incriminates the president. One could be forgiven for thinking, however, that not everybody is reading the same transcripts. Alternatively, many so-called journalists are not reading them at all but merely directing some eager interns to go through them and pick out quotes that suggest evidence of nefarious activity.
Is there really anything in these testimonies, though, that constitutes proof of a crime or abuse of power? Congressional committees have now heard from former special envoy to the Ukraine Kurt Volker, America’s ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, former ambassador and State Department advisor Michael McKinley, and William Taylor, who is the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Former President Barack Obama’s Ukraine ambassador, Marie “Masha” Yovanovitch, has also testified.
The heart of the matter is this: Did President Trump ask the government of Ukraine to uncover and provide him with information that could be used against former Vice President and 2020 Democratic Party candidate Joe Biden? Moreover, did Trump direct the State Department to withhold assistance from Ukraine until that country opened an investigation into Biden and his son, Hunter, who was appointed to the Board of Directors of a Ukrainian energy company?
There is a further matter of whether the president demanded Ukraine investigate alleged interference by Ukrainian officials in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Why this could be considered an impeachable offense, however, is not at all clear: Congress, along with former special counsel Robert Mueller, spent two years investigating possible foreign interference in the 2016 election – during which time, certain congressional Democrats threatened to withhold support for Ukraine if its government did not cooperate with the special counsel investigation. Suggesting, then, that Trump should be impeached for requesting such an investigation by the Ukrainians is a head-scratcher, to say the least.
McKinley, who until his resignation served as an advisor to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, had no knowledge of the crucial phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky until it became a news story. After reading the transcript of the call, McKinley was concerned only that President Trump had disparaged former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Yovanovitch. “The former ambassador from the United States, the woman,” Trump told Zelensky during the call, “was bad news and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine [sic] were bad news so I just want to let you know that.”
Speaking badly to another world leader of a former ambassador may not be considered the proper thing to do, but it hardly rises to the level of a criminal act. McKinley also expressed concern over “what appears to be the utilization of our ambassadors overseas to advance domestic political objectives,” though he offered no proof that his concern in this matter was justified. Also in his opening statement, the former State Department careerist – who came over as having no political motivation – mentioned the complaint filed by a so-called whistleblower regarding the Trump-Zelensky call. Going only by what he had read in media reports, McKinley told the joint committee: “I was disturbed by the implication that foreign governments were being approached to procure negative information on political opponents.”
This is a common and, of course, a deliberate alternative interpretation of what Trump said to Zelensky. It is well known, now, that then-VP Biden, during a visit to Ukraine, threatened to withhold a very large amount of financial aid if the country’s top prosecutor was not immediately fired. That prosecutor happened, at the time, to be investigating the Ukrainian company of which Hunter Biden was a director. Many have said, without offering any proof, that the prosecutor in question was corrupt but this fact, even if true, is entirely beside the point. Strong-arming a foreign government into firing one of its own senior officials is entirely inappropriate. Bragging about it publicly, as Joe Biden later did, is even more so.
The fact that Trump suggested to the president of Ukraine that he take a second look at this matter is unremarkable. It was something altogether within the president’s constitutional duty and hardly equates to a demand that a foreign government provide information damaging to a political opponent – not that Biden even is, at this point, a political opponent and is unlikely to become one since his chances of winning the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination are slim.
McKinley had nothing further to add to his own testimony that related directly to the Democrats’ impeachment case against Trump. He stated his opinion – his perception – of certain other matters but the opinion of a somewhat disgruntled former State Department employee is worth little, in the context of an impeachment trial of a sitting U.S. president.
Regarding the alleged holding up of aid to Ukraine, McKinley acknowledged that it is not uncommon – for one reason or another – for aid to any foreign country to be delayed for various periods of time. He had no knowledge or opinion of why the Ukraine aid was held back temporarily. “I’d say the release of assistance is – has a very irregular pattern around the world,” McKinley told the committee when asked about the matter.
McKinley’s testimony, when viewed objectively, raises a few questions about the inner workings of the State Department but, even then, the former official provided no firm evidence to support his personal observations. As for the allegations leveled against Trump by his political enemies regarding Ukraine, McKinley provided nothing factual that could be construed as either exculpatory or incriminating.
Read more from Graham J Noble.