Good old Uncle Joe. The former VP and would-be President just couldn’t help blowing his own horn. Touting what he felt was an accomplishment, he bragged to the Council on Foreign Relations in January 2018 how he got a prosecutor in the Ukraine fired by threatening to withhold a billion dollars in U.S. loan guarantees.
“I said, nah, I’m not going to – or, we’re not going to give you the billion dollars. They said, you have no authority. You’re not the president,” Biden told the Council. “The president said—I said, call him. I said, I’m telling you, you’re not getting the billion dollars. I said, you’re not getting the billion. I’m going to be leaving here in, I think it was about six hours. I looked at them and said: I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money. Well, son of a bitch. He got fired.”
If you sense a quid pro quo or a threat reminiscent of one made by a common thug contained in Biden’s words, you can be excused for being perceptive. Apparently Biden didn’t see any issue in putting the muscle, using U.S. taxpayer-funded assistance as leverage, on the Ukrainian government to fire a prosecutor that just happened to be investigating the company which had hired his son, Hunter, as a board member and highly paid consultant. The other attendees at the CFR meeting laughed. The mainstream media looked the other way. All was well in Biden’s self-created world, until this past week when an unnamed “whistleblower” came forward to accuse President Donald Trump of improperly pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to, as it has been termed, dig up dirt on Biden. And that brought the whole Hunter Biden question to the fore and what role his father, as Vice President, had in paving the way to extremely lucrative contracts for Hunter and his partners in both Ukraine and China, along with a video of Joe Biden telling his story to the Council on Foreign Relations.
That whistleblower report was enough to cause the gnashing of teeth and the rending of garments among Democrats in Congress, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, after months of resisting calls to impeach the President originating within her caucus, suddenly declared there would be an “impeachment inquiry” of the President. Whatever that means. One can almost feel the frustration among the hapless Dems in the House. The idea of Trump being in the White House is, to them, like holding up a ball of garlic to a vampire. Three years later, they still can’t accept that their candidate lost the election to Trump. It makes them apoplectic on a daily basis. And, most frustrating of all, everything they have tried to block Trump has turned out to be a swing and a miss:
- The bogus Steele dossier, which had its origin in Ukraine: Swing and a miss.
- Then FBI Director James Comey’s clearing candidate Hillary Clinton of blatant national security violations: Swing and a miss.
- The 22-month-long Mueller probe and accusations of collusion between Trump and Russia: Swing and a miss.
- Hauling witness after witness before Congress to get them to testify against Trump: Swing and a miss.
In between the Dems tried to take out Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh. Another swing and a miss. They even tried smearing Kavanagh again recently, and that attempt missed even more widely than the first. You’d think with all these strikes, the Dems would accept the out and retire from the field. But not this bunch. It seems that there is a fear shared by some, but clearly expressed by Texas Rep. Al Green on MSNBC, who said, “I’m concerned if we don’t impeach this president, he will get re-elected.”
It can’t be any more clear than that: If nothing else succeeds in thwarting the will of the American people, then the Dems in Congress will use their power to impeach the President. It’s increasingly clear that this has been an attempt at a silent (and at times, not so silent) coup. Of course, there doesn’t seem to be much enthusiasm among voters for impeachment, and the effort is bound to fail in the Republican-controlled Senate. Yet another swing and a miss? That’s my bet.
It doesn’t bode well for the Dems that $5 million poured into Republican coffers in the 24 hours following Pelosi’s announcement, swelling to $15 million in a few days, mostly from small donors and coming from all 50 states. This came a week after the RNC announced it had raised $23 million in August.
A Shadow Motive?
I don’t mean to sound like a cynic, but for all her faults, Pelosi is a political animal. It’s implausible that she would raise the Ukraine issue over Trump without realizing that there is likely going to be blow-back onto Joe Biden, so far the front runner in the polls in the crowded field of Democratic presidential contenders. It’s my suspicion – and that’s all it is at this point – that Pelosi and others highly placed in the DNC realize that Joe Biden can’t beat Trump, so this is a two-sided gambit: Discredit Trump as much as you can, even if you can’t impeach him, and meanwhile knock Biden out of the race and open the door to another Dem candidate. Who might that candidate be? The obvious choice is Elizabeth Warren. But in politics, it’s not only the obvious, but the hidden, that matters. There might be another candidate hanging in the wings, just waiting to be called back on stage: Hillary Clinton.
Before you scoff at that, consider how Hillary Clinton is driven by power. She was humiliated in 2016 and in 2008, kept from what she sees as her destiny, the Presidency. And there are millions of voters who think they were deprived of having their candidate elected. Additionally, Clinton has not been silent on Trump’s Ukraine call, tweeting that Trump “has betrayed our country,” and then vacuously declaring that her words weren’t “a political statement – it’s a harsh reality, and we must act. He is a clear and present danger to the things that keep us strong and free. I support impeachment.” This shameless display of chutzpah coming from the very woman who has her own Ukraine connection and who violated the law and the trust of her position by using a private, unsecured server to transact official business while she was Secretary of State, and who has yet to be prosecuted for the “clear and present danger” her actions put the country in. She risks becoming the Democratic Harold Stassen of our age – vying with Joe Biden himself for the honor – but that might not be enough to dissuade her.
Where the “There” That is “There” Is
There is a “there” to all this, but it doesn’t lie with Trump’s telephone conversation with Zelensky. Along with lacking any obvious quid pro quo, such as Biden’s threat to former Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko and former Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Trump was completely within his right as President to discuss and ask for investigation of possible violations of both U.S. and Ukraine law. If you haven’t already, you should read the transcript of the conversation at issue which the White House released. It stands in stark contrast to Biden’s account of how he threatened Ukraine’s leaders and how House Intel Committee Chairman Adam Schiff fraudulently parodied Trump’s conversation.
As a former U.S. Foreign Service officer, I can comment directly on a few aspects of this whole dust-up. First, a President absolutely has the right to ask a foreign leader or government to take some action or other. How could he not? This is done all the time, and always has been. It is part of the President’s responsibility to pursue U.S. interests and to influence the actions and directions taken by other governments. He would be remiss if he doesn’t do this.
Second, if a President reasonably believes that certain actions violate U.S. law (corruption being one of them), again, he has an obligation to act on these beliefs. Article II Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution requires that the President “take care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” Does it matter that suspected illegal activity be that of an ordinary citizen or a former Vice President and candidate for the Presidency? I would argue the duty is the same in both cases, but the importance of the duty is greater in the latter case.
Third, the U.S. and the Ukraine have a Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters. The U.S. has these treaties with numerous countries, including Australia, Italy, and the UK, countries to which Attorney General William Barr and U.S. Attorney John Durham have reached out as part of their investigation into wrong-doing that led up to the Trump-Russia investigation. Again, the President is completely within the rights and duties of his office in acting under those treaties, as is the DOJ.
Something else strikes me about the release of the transcript of the Trump call with Zelensky. If you look at the original document, you’ll see that all of the text of the call was classified at the “S/NF” (Secret/NoForn – No Foreign) level. This is a relatively high level of classification, and it would be justified by the discussion of other foreign leaders, such as Angela Merkel of Germany and Emmanuel Macron of France, during the call. I think this indicates the kind of highly sensitive issues the President and other world leaders discuss, and which normally are held in confidence. I fully understand why the White House declassified and released this transcript — with Zelensky’s concurrence — and I think it in part is intended to show how people in Congress, especially Schiff and Pelosi, are willing to put national security at risk in pursuit of their own political agenda.
Additionally, it has been alleged that the White House tried to conceal the transcript, but in fact for some time all White House communications have been put on a highly secure server to dissuade the kind of leaking that had become commonplace among opponents to this Administration. According to knowledgeable former White House aides, no special treatment was afforded this transcript, and the readiness of the President to declassify and release it puts the lie to the allegation. Probably Schiff and the Dems never expected Trump to release the transcript, but he did, exposing them to the fresh air they abhor.
Meanwhile, there is debate about what the alleged whistleblower actually witnessed first-hand and how much was reported to him or her by others. The extent to which the allegations made by a whistleblower are credible and can be documented determine the viability of a whistleblower’s status and claims and even whether whistleblower legal protections extend to the party. Some who have read the actual complaint have said they believe it was prepared by attorneys working with the whistleblower, or possibly by Congressional staffers, perhaps in Schiff’s office. There even are growing indications that the complaint originated with Schiff. While this remains to be documented, it would not be the first time this sort of thing was done by the Democrats, such as in preparation of Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations in the Kavanaugh matter.
As all this political theater is going on, you might be wondering whether there are any other issues that Congress might be concerning itself with. Issues like healthcare, immigration, the national debt, funding the government, infrastructure, gun regulation, trade, taxation, and a myriad of other pressing matters. While the Dems in Congress fritter away their time futilely trying to push Trump from the office to which he was duly elected, the country drifts. One wonders why we even pay members of Congress for their time, since they do nothing observably productive. This is undoubtedly a message Pelosi has gotten from voters given her blather about all the issues the Congress will take up in the press conference she and Schiff gave today. She has as much credibility in her assertions in that area as she and Schiff have in their pursuit of Trump. Pelosi is not likely to give the President anything he can point to as an accomplishment, the country be damned.
Next I am going to look at where the actual “there” is in all this, and that “there” lies with the former VP and his son, among others. This all gets so convoluted and detailed that it merits its own posting – more than one book actually has been written about it – so stay tuned for Part II in this sordid tale, which will follow later this week.