The impeachment hearings start Wednesday at 9 am ET. Most channels are going to cover the hearings. As you watch look for the way Republicans try to set up Trump’s defenses. And know how to knock them down. As a former Assistant US Attorney I will be watching the hearings and writing posts to help readers understand what is going on.
Here are the talking points that Republicans will be relying on to defend Trump followed by the rebuttal.
- Process Dems used was flawed- procedural concerns.
- Presidents have vast foreign policy power Art.II. or L’Etat C’est Moi.
- Trump’s state of mind- He didn’t have corrupt intent when he asked for a favor, though because Trump really really believes the conspiracy theories about the Ukrainian server and Biden being corrupt.
- Trump was too stupid and Ukraine policy too incoherent to pull off a quid pro quo. (Lindsay Graham’s defense)
- No harm no foul. They got their aid eventually and Zelensky got his meeting and Zelensky never publicly announced a criminal investigation into Biden and Burisma.
- No quid pro quo because Zelensky never knew the aid was being held up.
- There was no pressure. Zelensky and Trump said no pressure, therefore no pressure campaign.
- Read the transcript. The call was perfect.
- Maybe Guiliani and Mulvaney are to blame, not Trump.
- OK what he did was bad but it was not worth impeaching him.
FINAL CONCLUSION: WE ARE NOT SAFE WITH TRUMP AS PRESIDENT
1. PROCESS ARGUMENTS
The Republicans began defending Trump by raising numerous process arguments including that they were being kept out of the secret depositions in the SCIF. They also said the president was not being afforded due process and his lawyer ought to be present at the depositions.
The early process was comparable to an investigation or grand jury proceeding where witnesses appear before the House committee (in this case 3 House committees combined which allowed even more GOP members to be present if they wanted to be) who were tasked with doing the investigation. The witnesses needed to tell the truth as they know it in response to questions from the members of the committees. To avoid witness coordination (and to be sure that national security information stayed secret) their testimony was not made public until they had all testified. The claim that Republicans were being excluded was bogus. Some 48 Republicans were entitled to come to the depositions and ask any questions they wished to ask. Now that we have the transcripts, we can see that Republicans were present and did ask questions of witnesses. Many Rs decided not to show up even though they could have been present. They had no excuse for complaining about process. As for the president’s lawyer being present, the rules that were followed were established by the Republicans. In the investigation phase the president’s lawyer is not present but Pat Cipollone or some other attorney can and is encouraged to represent the president in the House and Senate proceedings if the president wants that. The president is also invited to come join the party.
2. ARTICLE II OF THE CONSTITUTION GIVES A PRESIDENT THE POWER TO DO WHATEVER HE WANTS WITH FOREIGN POLICY
Trump was excited to learn about Article II of the Constitution and said that it gave him the right to do anything he wanted to do. Wrong. But Republicans seem ready to argue that Trump should have free rein when it comes to foreign policy decisions and the president’s decisions take precedence over other branches of government and the State Department. In other words, “L’etat c’est moi.” (I am the state.)
That is a misreading of the Constitution. The founders created three co-equal branches of government for a reason. The president was never intended to be given free “reign” as if he is the king. Checks and balances mean that Trump does not have ultimate power over whatever he wants to do even when it comes to foreign policy. In the case of Ukraine, Trump usurped the funds appropriated by both Democratic and Republican lawmakers earmarked for Ukraine’s protection against Russian aggression. He treated the funds as if they belonged to him to do with as he pleased. Funds allocated from the State Department and Dept of Defense do not belong to Trump. They are not in his personal presidential piggybank. Just as with his charities, Trump does not pay attention to the rule of law when it comes to how to deal with funds. When it came to Ukraine, he acted like this was HIS money. His hold on the funds through his direction of Mulvaney, acting as his agent, was discussed by people in the State Dept and Dept of Defense as it became clear the money was being held up and the freeze was determined to be illegal by both the State Dept and the Dept of Defense in time before September 30th when the funding would have run out. As one of his last acts in office Bolton ordered the funds released by DoD before he resigned in disgust. The funds were released but only when it became clear that Trump was illegally trying to put a freeze on their disbursement to Ukraine. If Trump had succeeded, the funds would have lapsed on September 30th. L’etat is NOT you, Mr. Trump. That’s why this is abuse of power. Try reading the Constitution.
3. TRUMP’S STATE OF MIND ARGUMENT
Trump really really deeply believes that there was a conspiracy run out of Ukraine working in tandem with Hillary Clinton that involves a server that would prove Russia did not meddle in our elections but Ukraine did and Hillary was part of the scheme to cyber-attack the DNC server. This is a debunked conspiracy theory that was generated by Constantin Kliminik (who is tight with Putin) and who sold the notion to Paul Manafort who then poisoned Trump’s mind with this nonsense if it wasn’t poisoned already. The R argument is that if Trump really believes Ukraine is corrupt and really believes Biden was corrupt and really believes that Hillary cyber attacked her own DNC server even though all of our intelligence agencies have established that is FALSE AND THE RUSSIANS ATTACKED OUR ELECTION TO GET HIM ELECTED PRESIDENT – then Trump doesn’t have the state of mind or motive that the Dems ascribe to him. He was not acting with a corrupt motive. He was not trying to help himself win re-election. No no no. He was trying to clean up the corruption in Ukraine and find out about the origins of the cyber-attack.
Even if Trump is obsessive and mentally ill, and so horribly paranoid that he believes in these conspiracy theories and rejects all the findings of our intelligence agencies, that is no excuse for abusing his power. He still abused his power and betrayed our country and acted corruptly. And he still committed bribery. He does not have the right to “solicit” a foreign power to do a hit job on his political rival. Full stop. He withheld money, a meeting with him, and threatened to keep the VP away from Zelensky’s inauguration all to coerce the president of Ukraine to publicly announce on CNN, no less, opening a criminal investigation on Joe Biden and to get help finding a nonexistent server. If you had any doubts about it before, this should move the needle for anyone who is sane that Trump is mentally unfit to be commander in chief. It doesn’t matter what he believed to be true in his paranoid altered reality. He still has to follow the rule of law. He is incapable of doing that.
4. TRUMP WAS TOO STUPID TO PULL OFF A QUID PRO QUO
This was the underlying defense to the Mueller report. Sorry. Even stupid people are required to learn from their mistakes. Mueller’s report clearly identified the illegal behavior Trump engaged in inviting the Russians to meddle in our election (“Russia if you are listening, hope you will find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”) The day after Mueller testified is the day Trump launched this Ukrainian plot that was Russiagate redux, reaching out to a foreign country to get them to do a hit job on Biden to get himself re-elected. If Trump didn’t learn from Mueller (and Nixon, for that matter) that is HIS fault. He should learn to read and listen to his aides who most certainly tried to tell him this plot was not going to end well. Bolton tried, for example. I bet others did too.
5. NO HARM NO FOUL
Since Ukraine DID get their money and Biden wasn’t investigated by Ukraine and Zelensky DID get his meeting with Trump- then, no harm, no foul.
Wrong. There was harm. As the money for missiles and defense was frozen, Ukrainians fighting on the eastern border of their country were dying. That was direct harm. Another harm was the loss of Marie Yovanovich as the Ambassador to Ukraine. The only reason this plot did not result in a bogus investigation of Biden was that it got exposed in time. The money was released ONLY because the whistle-blower complaint came to light. Attempt to do bad things are still violations. An attempted murder is still an attempted murder. An attempted bribery is still an egregious abuse of power. Note that AG Barr was part of the president’s plot as well. He tried to bury a number of complaints that would have shone a light on this pressure campaign once again proving that he is Trump’s Roy Cohn. What saved the day were the courageous public servants who are going to be testifying. They exposed the plot, insisted that the money be dispensed and the “drug deal”, as Bolton called it, be exposed. As soon as it was exposed, the plot was over, limiting the damage. But that should not be cause for celebration by Republicans. If Trump is not convicted after this he will be even more emboldened to do whatever he wants without regard to any Constitutional limits on his power. There was harm. And there will be more harm if Trump is not removed from office.
6. NO QUID PRO QUO BECAUSE THE UKRAINIANS DID NOT EVEN KNOW THE AID WAS BEING HELD UP
Wrong. They did know the aid was being held up and they expressed their worries to various people in the administration. We will hear testimony about that.
7. THERE WAS NO PRESSURE
Trump said he was not pressuring Zelensky. Zelensky said he was not feeling pressure.
Trump has lied over 14,000 times. We cannot trust anything this man says. He is trying to get out from under an impeachment. As for Zelensky, wouldn’t you say what Trump wanted you to say to get $400 million dollars you need to save your country from the Russians? And by the way did you see that poor man’s face when he said “Sure. There was no pressure.” He looked like he was going to throw up.
8. READ THE TRANSCRIPT. THE CALL WAS PERFECT
NO IT WAS NOT.
Read the transcript the call was a blueprint for a bribery. Trump said the very very important word “though” That was his way of setting up the transaction of getting this for that. Trump wanted a public announcement on CNN by Zelensky that they were opening up a criminal investigation into the Bidens and Burisma. (A political hit job he could use to get himself re-elected.) Trump wanted that nonexistent Ukrainian server handed over too. IF he got what he wanted Zelensky would get 1) $400 million allocated by Congress that Trump was using for his own leverage. 2) A meeting with Trump. 3) VP Pence would come for inauguration. (BTW that helps to show that the US is on the side of Ukraine, not Russia and boosts the Ukrainian position in relation to Russia.) In addition, the call is not the only evidence. The evidence will show that there were months and months of a pressure campaign going on to coerce Ukraine to do Trump’s bidding. The evidence has to be taken as a whole. And if the call was so perfect then why did Trump’s aides try to bury it in a secret code-protected server?
9. YOU CAN’T PROVE TRUMP ORDERED THIS- MAYBE GUILIANI DID IT ON HIS OWN WITH THE 3 AMIGOS
ARE YOU CRAZY? TRUMP IS HUGE A MICRO MANAGER. WE KNOW THIS ABOUT HIM BY NOW. THERE IS NO WAY HE DID NOT DIRECT THIS PLOT TO HELP HIMSELF GET RE-ELECTED. He is very good at being a mob boss which means he directs others to do his dirty work and then he sits back and tries to pretend he is innocent, covers up and obstructs. Mobsters do that too. But this time Trump’s fingerprints are all over this transaction. In addition he got on TV and told China to do the same thing. I rest my case.
10. IT WAS BAD BUT NOT WORTH IMPEACHING HIM. ELECTIONS ARE COMING SOON
This kind of president was exactly what worried the founding fathers. They could anticipate that someday we might get a president who wanted to be king and would not obey the rule of law. The scary thing is that they could not have predicted just how dangerous this president is. If Trump skates on this impeachment, he will be unstoppable. He will feel totally emboldened. That is terrifying. If the Senate Republicans do not vote to convict let them be recorded in history as traitors to our country.
OUR COUNTRY IS NOT SAFE WITH TRUMP AS PRESIDENT. ALL ROADS LEAD TO PUTIN
This is the most important take away from the impeachment and it has to do with our country’s safety and security. Over and over again Trump acts in ways that help Putin. I agree with Malcolm Nance, who was in our intelligence community, that Trump is a Russian asset based on his policies that favor Putin, his numerous mysterious private meetings with Putin with no translator present other than a Russian one, the way he has treated our allies, the way he has acted with NATO, the way he has handled the Syrian/ Turkish assault on the Kurds, the way he has failed to put anything in place to prevent a cyber attack or meddling in our election in 2020. The list is long. We need to know what Trump and Putin are talking about in their private meetings. Judging from this impeachment evidence it is likely Trump is plotting something to help himself that is not in the interest of our country, our allies, ourselves or our children.