Another shutdown looms as Congress enters that all-too-regular fight over funding the government, which faces a November 21 deadline. Suddenly, the establishment media narrative – dictated, as usual, by Democratic Party talking points – has shifted to playing up the fear that President Donald Trump, in order to impede congressional Democrats’ impeachment inquiries, will indeed allow the federal government to shut down.
This narrative, started by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) just two days before the House voted to approve a resolution on impeachment, seems like an obvious ploy to further incriminate the president. The plan would play out in this way: Democrats load up the required spending bills with all kinds of appropriations to which they know Trump will object. Alternatively – or in addition to this – they demand massive cuts in defense spending. Congressional Republicans reject these bills or the president refuses to sign them and the government shuts down. Democrats then claim Trump is obstructing justice by shutting down the government in an attempt to derail the impeachment inquiries.
“I’m increasingly worried that President Trump may want to shut down the government again because of impeachment, an impeachment inquiry,” Schumer told reporters on October 29. “He always wants to create diversions.” It may be that Democrats are already casting around for yet another reason to impeach in case their current case against Trump falls apart.
Impeachment Weakest Links
The impeachment game is on now, but nothing is set in stone as far as Trump’s fate is concerned. There are two distinct phases to impeachment: The part of the process that takes place in the House of Representatives, which is almost entirely political, and the part that takes place on the floor of the Senate, should articles of impeachment get that far. The Senate phase is less political and more legal. It is, after all, a trial – even though it is run according to Senate rules, rather than within the more precise rules of a trial in criminal court.
The president’s opponents may have a problem with their current focus, though. Despite the fact that the transcript of Trump’s now-famous phone call with the president of Ukraine has been made public, Democrats have continued to extract testimony from individuals who listened in on the call or had direct knowledge of it.
Those who are intent upon impeaching the president have insisted that the president demanded the Ukrainian president provide “dirt” on his political opponents or be denied vital financial assistance. There are several holes in this argument: Aid to Ukraine was held up temporarily but it was not denied, even though Ukraine took no actions that politically or personally benefited the president. Additionally, the Ukrainian president stated that he was not aware the aid had been held up.
Even if Democrats could successfully argue, then, that Trump attempted to demand some sort of quid pro quo with Ukraine, neither the U.S. nor Ukraine actually took steps to make it a reality. It may be illegal to rob a bank but there is no law against speculating about the pros and cons of doing so.
Testimonies: Incriminating or Exculpatory?
Democrats and their pet journalists have claimed that the testimony provided by individuals who listened to the Trump-Zelensky phone call is highly damaging for the president. It should be noted that much of the substance of those testimonies is not yet publicly known. It should also be noted, however, that none of the individuals who have spoken to congressional committees have, to our knowledge, expressed a belief that anything President Trump said to President Zelensky was illegal or outside of his constitutional authority.
Instead, these witnesses recounted concerns that Trump’s conversation could have compromised U.S.-Ukraine relations, particularly in terms of the bipartisan support Ukraine currently enjoys in the United States Congress.
It is going to be interesting to see the full transcripts of these hearings – assuming the Democrats are willing to make them public without redacting exculpatory statements. What is known about them so far, however, does nothing to back up Democrats’ claims that these witnesses revealed any wrongdoing on the president’s part.
Worse still for Democrats – at least, potentially – is the fact that rumors are swirling about the identity of the so-called whistleblower who first came forward with a complaint about the Trump phone call. If the rumors are true, the whistleblower’s credibility will be damaged beyond repair since he is said to be a CIA analyst with close ties to Democrats and, possibly, with a link to the now-debunked Russia collusion theory.
In light of this, it would seem almost fortuitous, for Democrats, that another government shutdown is a possibility. Should that shutdown become a reality, it will likely be only a matter of hours before Schumer, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Adam Schiff (D-CA) and other Democrats are screaming “Obstruction!”