It’s a mistake to rush impeachment process
“The test of a first-rate intelligence,” F. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote, “is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”
I make no claim to being a first-rate intelligence. I’m not even sure I can claim to function on many days. But that’s OK, since Washington has elevated mere functioning to an unattainable ideal.
Regardless, I find myself sympathetic to two ideas that partisans consider to be in open conflict. On one hand, I think it’s obvious that President Trump committed impeachable offenses. He suspended congressionally authorized military aid to Ukraine in an attempt to pressure the Ukrainian government to advance his narrow political interest. He wasn’t interested in exposing corruption; he was interested in getting a foreign government to tar a political opponent as corrupt. The president is constitutionally bound by oath to faithfully execute the laws. Trump didn’t do that. That he abandoned the scheme only when he thought he’d be caught is not an exoneration, but evidence of intent.
Further, by trying to get the Ukrainians to propagate a lie that, according to his former homeland security adviser, has “no validity” and has been “completely debunked,” the president abused his power. According to the CrowdStrike canard, Ukraine, not Russia, hacked the Democratic National Committee’s server and released embarrassing emails that undermined the Hillary Clinton campaign. Trump believes that the DNC’s server is really in Ukraine, hidden there by the Ukrainian co-owner of the digital security firm CrowdStrike, which the FBI hired to examine the hacking of the DNC server.
The problems with this are too lengthy to recount here, but the co-owner of CrowdStrike (an American firm) isn’t Ukrainian, and there was no single “DNC server” — there are many, and they were never taken to Ukraine. Moreover, why Ukraine would expose campaign emails to help Clinton is never explained.
The CrowdStrike stuff is Russian and Trumpist propaganda. Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to frame Ukraine as a way to further isolate the beleaguered nation he’s waging war upon. Trump believes that the proven Russian hacking of the DNC and other meddling undermines the glory of his election.
By the way, the National Republican Congressional Committee, the campaign arm of House Republicans, is a CrowdStrike client — which you’d think would bother the Republican congressmen pretending there’s legitimacy behind the CrowdStrike nonsense.
Now for the other hand. The Democrats want to rush to impeachment based on a political calendar that would have them skip the steps required to fully make their case. The sole Republican witness in Wednesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing on impeachment, George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, made a strong case that the impeachment strategy the Democrats are pursuing is deeply flawed.
“If you’re going to accuse a president of bribery, you need to make it stick, because you’re trying to remove a duly elected president of the United States,” Turley testified.
Former national security adviser John Bolton, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and Trump fixer Rudy Giuliani should testify before Congress if we’re to get all of the facts out. The White House won’t let them testify and has gone to court to prevent it. The Democratic response is to preemptively forgo any effort to contest that decision and skip ahead to the claim that their refusal to testify voluntarily is an abuse of power.
“If you make a high crime and misdemeanor out of going to the courts, it is an abuse of power. It’s your abuse of power,” Turley said.
While Turley didn’t fully acknowledge that the White House is acting in bad faith by complaining about the process while refusing to participate in the process at all — it won’t even provide exculpatory documents, likely because they don’t exist — he nonetheless makes a good point.
Democrats are hampered by the fact that many of them have been banging the impeachment drums since the day Trump was elected. Their belief that they’ve finally got him dead to rights doesn’t absolve them of the responsibility of going through all of the motions to prove their good faith, even if that might be unpopular or mess up their political timetable. Their process isn’t a “hoax” or “show trial,” but reasonable people can be forgiven for feeling like the Democrats are trying to railroad a guilty man.
That’s a bad precedent, regardless of whether you agree with me that Trump is guilty.
Jonah Goldberg is a Creators Syndicate columnist.