By James W. Morrison
Morrison is retired from the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He lives in Moneta.
Here is an overview of the Trump impeachment process to date, including the Democrat approach, Republican opposition, and Democrat response to Republican arguments.
A. Democrat Approach to Impeachment
The Democrats’ approach is a work in process. Areas to address are:
1. Scope of Presidential Activity
Will the scope of impeachment include:
a. Only issues related to Ukraine;
b. Also, Mueller investigation issues, including obstruction of justice;
c. Also, Trump finances, including hush money to women, emoluments, and taxes?
2. Involvement of House Committees
Will action merely pass from the House Intelligence to the House Judiciary Committee to develop articles of impeachment, or will other committees be involved?
Will a House impeachment vote come before the end of 2019, with a Senate trial in January, or will the timing slip?
4. Articles of Impeachment
Will articles of impeachment include:
a. abuse of power for personal political benefit;
b. bribery (for withholding security assistance and a White House meeting as leverage for Ukraine investigations related to the Bidens);
c. obstruction of Congress (for withholding documents and witnesses);
d. intimidation of witnesses;
e. campaign finance law violations;
f. obstruction of justice, as raised in the Mueller investigation;
g. conspiracy to defraud the government or interfere with official acts;
h. violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause;
i. other legal, political, or financial violations, including lying.
5. Action in the Senate
If the House impeaches the President, will there be a full trial in the Senate, or will the Senate Republican majority skirt a full trial?
B. Republican Reaction to Impeachment Activity
Republicans have resisted investigations and Congressional hearings, arguing the following:
1. Unfair Intelligence Committee Process
a. No Trump counsel present.
b. Republicans can’t issue subpoenas or call witnesses without the chairman’s approval.
c. Democrats are blocking testimony by the whistle blower and Hunter Biden.
d. Only the chairman and/or his staff have contact with the whistle blower.
2. Poor Witnesses and Documentation
a. Witnesses are reporting hearsay. All but one never met Trump.
b. Witnesses are biased —” Never Trumpers” or “Deep Staters.”
c. Democrats are focusing on one phone call (Trump-Zelenskiy) and one sentence therein.
3. Other Investigations Are Needed and On-Going
a. Investigations of Ukrainian gas company Burisma, which has a bad reputation, and the Biden’s involvement are appropriate. The Obama Administration pressed for investigation of Burisma’s former president.
b. U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the 2016 U.S. election and possible Ukrainian interference. Some Ukrainians opposed Trump.
c. Impeachment activity should stop until these investigations are completed.
4. No Crime, No Harm Done
a. Ukrainian President Zelenskiy has denied being pressured by the U.S. or recognizing any quid pro quo or blackmail.
b. Ukrainians did not raise concerns about security assistance in several meetings.
c. Security Assistance was withheld only 55 days.
d. It was appropriate to withhold aid while VP Pence and others checked to see if Zelenskiy was a real reformer.
e. In the final analysis, Ukraine received the security assistance without announcing any investigation.
f. Indeed, Trump approved lethal-weapons assistance to Ukraine when Obama wouldn’t.
5. Impeachment Too Severe
a. Impeachment is extreme and exceeds any alleged crime, and conviction would be one party overturning the 2016 election.
b. Let the electorate determine Trump’s future next November.
6. Democrats’ Response to Republican Arguments
a. Process: The process is fair. All committee members can participate in closed and open sessions with equal time.
b. Whistleblower: The law protects the identify of whistleblowers.
c. Bidens: Then-Vice President Joe Biden promoted anti-corruption in Ukraine and firing of a prosecutor for not investigating enough; he did not attempt to prevent investigation of Burisma. There is no evidence of illegal activity by Hunter Biden.
d. Witnesses: Witnesses have denied bias and being “Never Trumpers.” Regarding hearsay, the Administration should provide documents and witnesses with direct contact with the President.
e. Other Investigations: U.S. Intelligence says Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. election. Claiming Ukrainian interference is a ruse.
f. Crimes and Harm: Security assistance and a White House meeting were withheld from Ukrainians, who were under attack, for the personal, political benefit of Trump. Ukrainians were preparing to make the announcement on investigations. Trump dropped the withhold of security assistance and insistence on Ukrainian investigations only after these became known to Congress and the public. Zelenskiy still hasn’t been invited to the White House.
g. Impeachment Severity: If no impeachment, Trump or future presidents may believe they can act illegally or inappropriately with impunity. No one is above the law.