by Michael Anton
A recent essay of mine on the impeachment farce for the Claremont Review of Books was, by the time it was finished and published, somewhat “OBE” (“overtaken by events,” as we current and former Washington bureaucrats say).
But only somewhat. In a way, the wages of print delay have been helpful in illustrating a larger point. The underlying “substance” of impeachment has scarcely changed since I began drafting the earlier article in late October. But the “rationale” seems to change day-to-day, sometimes even hour-to-hour – in part, precisely because the substance has not.
The president’s enemies remain unable to find any “smoking gun” – any clear, irrefutable and publicly compelling proof of “Treason, Bribery [or] other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” Ordinary, decent folk in search of actual crimes, having not found any, would have backed off long ago. But our Javert-Democrats are having none of that. Well aware that the public wasn’t buying the product they’re selling, they’ve kept the product – there’s nothing wrong with New Coke! – and changed the marketing.
But let’s back up and reexamine said product. The allegation is that President Trump somehow abused his authority by attempting to make foreign aid to Ukraine, or else a White House visit for the Ukrainian president, contingent on that country helping investigate 2016 election meddling and/or Joe Biden’s interference in the Ukrainian justice system.
From the beginning, there have been substantial problems with this narrative. First and foremost, the whole sinister plot supposedly was laid bare in an extortionary phone call between President Trump and the president of Ukraine. An anti-Trump account of that call – filled with insinuation but little detail – was leaked to the press in order to force the president onto his back heel. I am hardly the first to observe the following, but it strongly appears that the president’s enemies did not expect him to do what he did almost immediately: declassify and release the “memorandum of telephone conversation,” or “telcon,” for the entire world to read.
As I noted in the CRB, despite what people are calling it, the “telcon” is not a transcript. But it’s pretty close – as close as it’s possible to get without a tape or stenographer. This more-or-less complete record of the conversation emphatically did not establish that President Trump placed any conditions on American aid or a White House visit. Hence the Democrats’ story on this point has “evolved” in roughly the following stages:
- “The call is slam-dunk proof of our case but you can’t see the transcript because it’s classified.”
- “The declassification of the transcript of that call was an outrageous breach of national security that will harm our interests for decades to come; however, now that it’s public, you can see that it absolutely shows that the president abused his office by tying aid to an investigation.”
- “Well, maybe it doesn’t say that exactly, but all you have to do is read between the lines and it’s clear as day.”
- “OK, the transcript might be a bit ambiguous, but we have all these witnesses saying that ‘everyone knew’ Trump was extorting Ukraine.”
- “Pay no attention to all those witnesses who say Trump didn’t instruct them to make aid contingent on anything; there was a clear quid pro quo.”
- “Did we say ‘quid pro quo’? Sorry, slip of the tongue we won’t make again. No, what the president did is bribery. Yeah, bribery!”
- “Or maybe ‘extortion.’ Yeah, if ‘bribery’ doesn’t work out, we’ll try ‘extortion.’”
“Quid pro quo” was dropped apparently because not enough Deplorable-Americans speak Latin or remember Clarice Starling’s and Hannibal Lecter’s tasteful banter. Bribery was substituted not merely because it’s an English word but especially because it actually appears in Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution, which covers impeachment. Now we’ve got him!
Except, as noted, the underlying specifics of the “charge” haven’t changed one iota. To recap they are:
- Trump, despite initial misgivings, approved – well over two years ago – “lethal aid” (specifically, Javelin anti-tank missiles) to Ukraine, the very aid that the Obama administration refused to provide Ukraine for nearly three years.
- This year, delivery of the most recent tranche of aid was delayed by about nine weeks.
- During that period, Trump telephoned the President of Ukraine and asked him 1) to assist the U.S. Justice Department in investigating foreign interference in the 2016 election, some of which may have originated in Ukraine; and 2) to look into whether Joe Biden’s boast that he successfully pressured Ukraine to fire a prosecutor investigating the gas company from which his son Hunter received an inexplicable windfall is an accurate statement of what happened.
That’s it. Those are the only established, undisputed facts in evidence. To make them appear to add up to an impeachment case, a great deal must be implied, inferred, surmised, conjectured or invented.
There is much to untangle. But let’s start with “quid pro quo,” which literally means “something for something.” It’s not immediately obvious why exchanging one thing for something else is wrong. When I go to the store and buy groceries, that’s a quid pro quo: money for food. No money, no food – but also no food, no money. Seems fair. The vast majority of quid pro quos are similarly innocent.
But occasionally a quid pro quo is illicit. Those are called bribes. Assuming the Democrats can prove that President Trump explicitly tried to make American aid to Ukraine contingent on a Ukrainian investigation of the Bidens – which the impeachment inquiry thus far definitely has not proved – that would indeed be a quid pro quo. But in what sense would it be a bribe?
What Is Bribery?
To ordinary American ears, “bribery” of a public official occurs when someone pays a person to do something not part of, or even contrary to, his official duties.
Say you slip a traffic cop $100 to let you out of a ticket; or you donate to an alderman to help you site a toxic waste dump next to a kindergarten. In the Constitution, bribery is specifically linked to “treason,” the clear point being that receiving a bribe to act against the interests of the United States would be the ultimate impeachable offense.
The problems with this understanding for the Democratic narrative are numerous and obvious. But to state the matter very simply, first, even President Trump’s worst enemies do not allege that he was paid by anyone, either to do or not do something. Quite the contrary, everyone knows that no such payment – either in money or in-kind – was ever made or even offered. Second, the “improper” things that Trump is alleged to have done do not appear to have been deleterious to the interests of the United States, much less treasonous.
The Democrats insinuate that Trump’s request of the Ukrainian president constitutes a solicitation to bribery: You do this for me, and I’ll do that for you; if you don’t do this for me, I won’t do that for you. In certain circumstances, such an exchange might be a bribe, for instance, if our traffic cop asked us for the $100 before we thought to offer it. But for it to be such, two conditions must apply.
First, at least one party to the exchange must be doing something improper. In the traffic cop’s case, his job is to enforce the law, hence it is improper for him to accept payment for not enforcing the law. What improper thing is even alleged to have occurred between Presidents Trump and Zelensky? Both are chief executives of their respective governments. Hence either asking the other to look into potential wrongdoing is not only not contrary to either’s official duties but explicitly part of those duties. Asking someone to do something he’s legally, morally and politically bound to do anyway is not a bribe.
The second condition is that the linkage between the things offered and asked must be clear to all parties. In other words, the “quid pro quo” needs to be explicitly understood on both sides.
Since Zelensky took office earlier this year, there have been two telephone conversations between the two presidents. The “telcons” for each have been declassified and released to the public. Neither shows anything like a quid pro quo or even a request for one, much less a bribe. If such existed, then, the solicitation would have had to have been conveyed by other means. Except that not a single witness has established as much.
Gordon Sondland, American ambassador to the European Union (for now), briefly made Democrats giddy with an opening statement alleging precisely the opposite. But their giddiness turned to angry despair when, under direct questioning, the ambassador conceded that the president told him “I want nothing; I want no quid pro quo” and that Trump “kept repeating ‘no quid pro quo’ over and over again.”
Other witnesses corroborate that the president either told them directly not to link aid to an investigation (or anything else) or else never affirmatively told them to do so. A few – including the ambassador – tried to elide this little detail by saying that they simply “presumed” this was what the president wanted. But that line of argument proved hard to sustain when directly contradicted by the testimony of the very same witnesses.
Then we have the added complication of the reaction of the other party to the alleged bribe. President Zelensky and his advisors all insist that they never thought they were being bribed, extorted, quid-pro-quo’ed or whatever. How is it possible to bribe or extort someone who doesn’t know he is being bribed or extorted, or to be bribed or extorted by someone when one does not realize one is being bribed or extorted?
This points to another wrinkle in the Democrats’ bribery case: Is Trump supposed to be the briber or the bribee? The president’s enemies are never clear on this point, in part because clarity is impossible given the incoherence of their case, but also because clarity would give the president and his defenders something concrete to rebut. Confusion, vagueness, and insinuation are here the Democrats’ truest allies.
The Democrats presumably know that their case is constitutionally stronger if they allege that the president accepted rather than offered a bribe. That’s the scenario the founders were most concerned about – the one clearly articulated in Article II, Section 4. Andy McCarthy – portions of whose take on impeachment I disagree with – has this (and much else) exactly right:
The Framers made “Treason, Bribery, and other high Crimes and Misdemeanors” the triggers for impeachment. Obviously, they were referring to bribery of a high order, on the scale of treason. The latter offense involves making war on the U.S., including giving the enemy aid and comfort. Enemies are foreign powers with which we are at war. The Framers, however, were worried that other foreign powers—even ones with which we are at peace—could corrupt an American president. Bribery was meant to fill that gap. It made impeachment available if a president was bribed by a foreign power to put the might of the United States in the service of the foreign power at the expense of the American people.
There is no conceivable way to twist and torture anything Trump did, or is alleged to have done, into anything like this – and the Democrats know it. Hence their “bribery” claim implicitly hinges on alleging that Trump offered a bribe. This charge can take one of two forms, depending on the day and who is speaking: Trump attempted to bribe Zelensky by offering him either “lethal aid” or a White House visit.
Right up front we confront the following problem: $400 million in advanced weapons that Ukraine can’t purchase on the open market, even if Kiev had a spare $400 million lying around, would appear to be worth a great deal more than a mere White House visit. Not to discount the diplomatic, symbolic, and propaganda value of a White House visit. But if you were Zelensky – a man claiming to be fighting for his country’s very life – which would you rather have? Which would you consider more important? Which, also, is worth more to the United States – $400 million or a photo op – and therefore more objectionable for Trump to have traded away as a bribe?
The answer to that should be obvious. And yet the Democrats have pivoted away from alleging that the bribe was military aid in favor of saying it was the visit. Why would they deliberately weaken their case in this way?
Two reasons, at least, come to mind. First, as they’ve found, it’s not easy to sustain the bribery claim when the alleged bribe – military aid – was actually provided and Trump got nothing in return for it. That’s just too much to put over even on an American public bored with the whole spectacle and not paying much attention.
Second and much more important, providing military aid to Ukraine is precisely what Trump’s permanent Washington and deep state enemies have wanted him to do from day one. How, therefore, can calling such aid a “bribe” possibly pass the laugh test? This is like badgering your father, uncle, boss, neighbor, best friend, or worst enemy – whoever, it doesn’t matter – for three years to donate to your favorite charity, and the instant he does, you accuse him of “bribery.” Since one of the true underlying causes of impeachment is deep-state fury at Trump’s insufficient fealty to their vision of American imperialism, once permanent Washington’s rage subsided a little, the more sensible among them came to realize that having gotten what they wanted on this issue, best to back off and switch claims.
Hence the pivot to visit-as-bribe. But per McCarthy:
No one in America except the most ardent anti-Trumpers is going to support the impeachment of the president of the United States over the mere denial of a White House visit to a foreign politician.
Indeed. And in any event, visit-as-bribe presents exactly the same problem. To Trump’s enemies, Ukraine has a natural right to a White House visit. So how can Trump’s offering the very thing that they think Ukraine deserves and has every right to expect be construed as a bribe?
OK, Then. What’s Extortion?
This brings us to the Democrats’ latest pivot: Extortion! Precisely because Ukraine has a natural right to a White House visit – and to $400 million in American taxpayer-funded weapons – it was outrageous and improper for Trump even to contemplate withholding, or putting conditions on, either.
The implicit presupposition here is that any linkage between what we allegedly “owe” Ukraine and anything we may want from them (for they owe us nothing, according to this understanding) is inherently illegitimate. That’s the unspoken premise of all three “explanations” – “quid pro quo,” “bribery,” “extortion” – Democrats give us for why Trump’s actions are impeachable. We’ve already seen, however, that the Democrats have yet to produce a single witness to allege ever being instructed by the president or anyone else to link aid to Ukraine to anything. To the contrary – and to repeat – every witness who addressed this question either affirmed that Trump told them the opposite or denied that he spoke on the matter at all.
But suppose Trump had directed his team to link American aid to Ukraine to some Ukrainian concession or gesture to us. Why would that be wrong? Even if one accepts the preposterous premise that we somehow owe Ukraine anything at all, it’s still reasonable to ask: Why would it be wrong for us to ask for something in return?
The question remains reasonable even if you believe the (dubious, to say the least) deep-state insistence that an alliance with Ukraine is a vital American interest. Nations horse-trade over their vital interests all the time. They’ve been doing so since the first Greek tribes coalesced into city-states. It should be obvious, both from the power imbalance between the two countries and from the deep-state hysteria at the mere possibility Trump might have declined to aid Ukraine, that Ukraine has much more to gain from this relationship than we do. So why shouldn’t we get a little something for our largess?
Trump—nearly alone among recent American politicians – understands that America’s decades-long experiment with altruistic, nothing-for-something foreign policy effectively has made us chumps. He knows that statecraft is neither charity nor philanthropy. And it’s not like Trump was asking for something outrageously onerous of poor Ukraine. All he wanted was Ukrainian help in an ongoing Justice Department investigation, and to know if Joe Biden’s boast about successfully interfering in the Ukrainian judicial system is true.
How About “Obstruction of Justice”?
The Democrats next briefly trotted out “obstruction of justice” as an allegedly impeachable offense, a charge borrowed nearly intact from the Russia hoax investigation. But the “substance” of that charge this time – that Trump tweeted during Adam Schiff’s show trial – was too flimsy and stupid even for the Democrats to try to sustain and so was quickly abandoned.
A Treasonous Delay?
We turn now to the question of whether the president’s allegedly improper acts – i.e., delaying forking over the aid, and asking for Ukrainian help – were treasonous or deleterious to the interests of the United States.
We can dismiss the first easily. It may have been imprudent to delay the aid, but it certainly wasn’t treasonous. As we have seen, “treason” means to betray one’s country to a foreign power. In what possible sense could delaying aid to Ukraine by nine weeks constitute a betrayal of the United States? I almost fear to raise this hypothetical because I’m half-sure some anti-Trump lunatic will try to assert it as real, but I suppose if the Democrats could prove that Russia paid Trump to delay the aid, they might have a case. That would at least be an actual bribe. But, of course, nothing like that happened.
Remember also that, to classify the aid delay as treasonous, or even merely imprudent, one would need to show that the delay somehow adversely, materially affected the interests of the United States. But in what conceivable way is that true? The delay had no impact on our interests at all. It didn’t even have any adverse effect on Ukraine! All this holds true even if you accept that a U.S.-Ukraine alliance is a vital American interest. If you find that a stretch, then this whole line of attack looks even sillier.
The aid delay is just something permanent Washington got mad about and nothing more. For some – true believers in the imperative of a U.S.-Ukraine alliance – their anger is genuine. For others, it is feigned, an excuse to smash the impeachment train into the Oval Office.
Trump’s Treasonous Asks?
That leaves Trump’s two “asks.” Why, exactly, is it treasonous, or even deleterious to the interests of the United States, for the president to request help with one investigation and to ask about the status of another? Let’s take the two in turn.
Over the past three years, our country has been force-fed a non-stop lecture on the evils of foreign interference in our political institutions and processes. And, to be clear, I agree that such interference is bad. But once we agree that it’s bad, aren’t we also bound to agree that any and all of it is bad—wherever it comes from? That is to say, not merely Russian interference is bad, but also, potentially, Ukrainian interference?
Yet Trump’s enemies profess outrage that the president dared ask about the latter.
The idea that Ukraine meddled in our 2016 election they insist is a “conspiracy theory.” In particular, we are told in stentorian tones that the notion of Ukrainian meddling is a Russian invention, Kremlin propaganda to cover up Putin’s misdeeds. And for all I know, that’s true. But, crucially, I don’t know. Neither do you, neither do they, neither does Trump, neither does anyone else but whichever Ukrainians (if any) actually did the deed. That’s why Trump asked about it – because he wants to know, and he wants us to know – and why it was perfectly legitimate for him to do so.
More than legitimate: you might even say that the president had a duty to ask. If the sanctity of the American electoral system from foreign interference is a core national interest – as Trump’s friends and enemies alike all insist – then the chief executive who has sworn an oath to “preserve, protect and defend” our system must at least try to get to the bottom of every alleged effort to subvert it. Hence, far from being deleterious to the interests of the United States, asking about possible election interference is a defense of those interests.
Am I the only person who recalls the Democrats’ and the corporate leftist media’s hysterical reaction to Trump’s first meeting with Vladimir Putin in June 2017? The only question on everyone’s mind was: Did Trump ask about Russian election meddling? The answer was, yes – three times – and the two presidents discussed the topic for a total of 45 minutes. This was loudly decried as not nearly enough and therefore proof that Trump was colluding with the Russians!
Fast forward two-and-a-half years and one question about that same election in one phone call is said to be entirely out-of-bounds. The twists and turns are dizzying.
Another possibility that no one – not even the American pundit class’s reserve army of Russophobes – has considered is that maybe some election meddling did originate from Ukraine but was directed from Moscow. There are after all a lot of ethnic Russians, Russian speakers, and Russia sympathizers in Ukraine. Maybe some of them were up to no good in 2016. Again, I don’t know. But shouldn’t we want to know?
If – as the president’s enemies insist – allegations of Ukrainian meddling are a sham, a hoax, a phantasm, then asking about them is harmless. A waste of time perhaps but hardly impeachable. Why, then, the fundamental incuriosity – no, the insistence that these questions must never, ever be voiced?
Why the Forbidden Questions, Democrats?
Two possibilities suggest themselves. First, dismissing even the possibility of Ukrainian meddling is useful as a cudgel with which to bash Trump as crazy. This man is unhinged and the proof is that he’s asking questions about Ukrainian hacking! He believes in “conspiracy theories”! He’s unfit!
But the heated denials also suggest that there may in fact be something to the underlying story after all, something that the deniers don’t want the rest of us to know.
Of course, I have no way of knowing if that’s true. But I do know that I’m damned sure not going to take on faith the angry denials of the same people who’ve been gaslighting me for three years about “Trump’s Russian collusion” and insisting that “there is no deep state” and “no one in the FBI, DOJ, CIA or ODNI in any way conspired against Trump.” Nor can I blame the president when he won’t, either.
Enter the Bidens
Which brings us, finally, to the Bidens. Whether the charge leveled against Trump is “quid pro quo,” “bribery,” or “extortion,” for any of them to make sense as “treason” or an impeachable offense, then Trump asking Zelensky about the Bidens somehow must have been an abuse of power, deleterious to the interests of the United States, or both.
It’s important here to recall the basic underlying facts, which the president’s enemies would prefer you forget. In 2014 – while his father was vice president – Hunter Biden began a five-year term on board of Burisma, a Ukrainian natural gas company. That same company also hired Rosemont Seneca, a firm in which the younger Biden is a partner. For a time, Burisma paid Hunter Biden as much as $50,000 for his board “service” and $83,333 to Rosemont Seneca for “consulting services” – both figures per month. All told, the former vice president’s son raked in $1.5 million from Burisma directly plus some portion of the $3.4 million that Burisma paid to Rosemont Seneca.
All of this despite these facts: Hunter Biden has no experience in the natural gas industry; knows nothing about Ukraine or the region; does not speak Ukrainian or Russian; and never once in his five years on the Burisma board set foot in Ukraine.
In December 2015, Vice President Biden visited Ukraine and, in his own inimitable way, loudly announced he would be withholding $1 billion in American (non-lethal) aid until and unless that country dismissed its top prosecutor who, as events would have it, just happened to be investigating Burisma and its oligarch founder. A few months later, the prosecutor was dismissed, prompting Joe Biden’s boast.
None of this is in dispute. What is in dispute is the real reason Hunter Biden got all that money, what he did (or didn’t do) for it, and why his father was so insistent on getting rid of that prosecutor. As to Biden fils, we are simply ordered to believe that his hiring and “work” were entirely on the up-and-up, nothing-to-see-here. The fact that he has no relevant qualifications – no experience with either the industry or the country – is said to be irrelevant, as is his one actual relevant qualification: proximity to power.
Biden pere insists that the prosecutor whose head he successfully demanded was corrupt, which is the reason he insisted on the firing. The first half of that explanation may well be true; Ukraine is a notoriously corrupt country. But the second half becomes doubtful when one considers that the then-vice president’s concerns about Ukrainian corruption apparently did not extend to fatherly admonitions against his son’s doing business with a notoriously corrupt company in that notoriously corrupt country.
Returning briefly to the question of “bribery,” if anything in this whole mess looks, sounds and smells like a bribe, it’s paying the vice president’s son several million dollars to “consult” on issues he knows nothing about in countries to which he’s never been. But even to raise that as a question is treated as illegitimate, anathema. None of those accusing President Trump of “bribery” will tolerate any suggestion of doubt about Hunter Biden’s competence to advise a Ukrainian gas company. How dare you even raise the question!
Yet neither can these same Trump attackers offer a plausible explanation for why, exactly, Hunter Biden was hired and paid all that money. What, specifically, did he do for it? How did he “earn” it? No one has answers. They just “know” there was nothing wrong. Or at least that there is “no evidence” of wrongdoing – the mantra every Democratic questioner, anti-Trump witness, and corporate leftist media hack repeats whenever the question comes up.
Naturally, this standard of “no evidence” is never applied to President Trump, against whom any allegation is worth airing, even if it must be caveated with “as-yet unverified” – as though verification is only a matter of time, and a very short time at that. Naturally, too, Hunter Biden’s defenders exhibit zero curiosity about his good fortune. So far as they’re concerned, there should forever be “no evidence” because no one should ever dare to look for any.
But there already is evidence: windfall payments to a connected insider with no relevant credentials, experience or skills, apart from his paternity. Police and prosecutors often begin investigations over precisely this: big chunks of money, not visibly or tangibly tied to any lawful goods or services, moving from this account to that.
It may be that an investigation, were one ever conducted (fat chance), would conclude that the Bidens broke no laws. But that would in part be because our laws deliberately make it easy for connected insiders to rake in millions simply based on their connections. That’s the Washington Way – the Beltway equivalent of no-show jobs for Mafiosi. It may not in every case be technically illegal, but it’s always sordid and corrupt.
Logical Consequences of the Democrats’ Suggestion
Hence, Trump has every right – and, again, even the duty – to ask about it. How can it possibly be an abuse of power for the chief executive in a unitary executive government to inquire about potential corruption in the very government that he leads?
The proffered two-part answer is that it was because Trump asked a foreigner to investigate a political opponent. Which, actually, is not what Trump asked; actually, he asked Zelensky to look into the circumstances of the Ukrainian prosecutor’s firing; that is, to look into an internal Ukrainian matter. I suppose one could argue that this request was nosy and officious; are assertions of bad manners now impeachable?
But leave that aside. What would be the consequence of evenly applying – that is to say, applying it not just against Trump – the dictum that a president must never ask a foreigner for help with an investigation, and must never countenance an investigation of any political opponent? For starters it would seem to mean that taking foreign cash could no longer be considered a crime – at least not one that the chief executive could take any interest in. For when there are two parties to an illicit act, and one is foreign, and you can’t talk to any foreigners about it because they’re foreign, how are you supposed to investigate it?
Similarly, if it’s now always illegitimate for a president – to whom, let’s remember, all federal law enforcement agencies report – to investigate a political rival, what’s to stop the president’s – any president’s – rivals from getting on the take with impunity? Is the new standard to be that only Democrats can investigate Democrats, and Republicans, Republicans? Because anyone with a brain wave knows how that will work out. Plenty of Republicans – I’m looking at you, Mitt Romney – will eagerly sell out their colleagues over trivial infractions in order to luxuriate in the high of feeling “principled.” The Democrats? To ask is to laugh. Has anyone on our side thought any of this through?
It is easy to see how Trump asking about the Bidens, their Ukrainian windfall, and their lobbying muscle is deleterious to the interests of the Bidens – and to others in the ruling class who profit from the same kinds of arrangements. It’s not easy to see how it could have been deleterious to the interests of the United States. What would be deleterious to the interests of the United States would be to have a corrupt vice president or – worse – to have a corrupt former vice president become a corrupt president. I have no idea if the former is true or the latter is in the offing. But that’s only because no one is allowed to ask.
The supreme irony of this whole ridiculous spectacle is that Trump is being impeached allegedly for doing exactly what Joe Biden openly boasted of doing: making American aid to Ukraine conditional on a Ukrainian action – i.e., a quid pro quo. Except that in Trump’s case he didn’t actually do it. Nonetheless, his enemies are determined to make him pay for Joe Biden’s sins.
I’ve made the point elsewhere that the Left is fundamentally driven by projection; as Tucker Carlson has put it, their modus operandi is to “accuse you of exactly what they’re doing.” No single insight summarizes impeachment more accurately or succinctly.
Pinning This Down Is Impossible by Design
In the final analysis, it’s all but impossible to specify exactly what Trump is being impeached for. Asking about the 2016 election hacking? Asking about Joe Biden? Tying foreign aid to one or the other? Tying a White House visit to one or the other? Delaying foreign aid? “Quid pro quo”? “Bribery”? “Extortion”? “Obstruction of justice”?
In fairness, I think the reason it’s so hard to pin down is that the Democrats don’t really know, either. All they know is that they want to impeach Trump; the reason doesn’t matter.
At least, it doesn’t matter to them. It very much matters to the American people. They were willing to let Nixon go because they really believed he did something fundamentally wrong, something that contradicted his oath of office. They don’t believe that about Trump. And the recent Democratic dog-and-pony show only lessened their confidence that anything they’re being told is true.
To ordinary Americans – assuming any are paying attention – it looks as though Trump is being impeached for delaying by nine weeks aid that the Obama Administration refused to provide Ukraine for three years. How many Americans think he deserves to be removed for that? Especially since few even knew we had pledged the aid, even fewer have any idea how it’s supposed to help us, and nearly all would prefer to get it back so it could be put to work on any number of pressing domestic problems.
The Democrats know, or must know, that the answer to the above question is “few.” Yet they’re putting all of us through all of this anyway – partly to appease their base, partly out of zeal, and partly driven by insanity and rage. None of these are good reasons.
Is there, finally, anything more to say about this absurd, offensive, wasteful, destructive saga? I hope not.
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Michael Anton is a lecturer and research fellow at Hillsdale College, a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute, and a former national security official in the Trump Administration.