Given the historical significance of the occasion, I feel like I should document my thoughts about the impeachment process. I’ve been mostly Democrat ever since the Clinton impeachment (prior to that I actually worked for Bob Dole’s campaign, and I had a transitional period when I did work for the Libertarian Party). I’m not politically impartial, but I’m also not “loyal” to the Democratic Party. As for Trump, long before he entered politics I thought he was a crook, a thug, a narcissist and possibly an idiot... so I would be happy to see him leave the office. Nevertheless, I would hope that my years of experience in competitive debate — along with my history of switching affiliations — have given me the mental flexibility to set aside my biases and evaluate arguments and evidence on their own merit. So here goes.
But her emails: Trump suggested that Ukraine should investigate an alleged email server located in the Ukraine that hosts Hilary Clinton’s state department emails. There seems to be no evidence of any of that. But they keep talking about it. It’s the Bigfoot of electronic communications. Trump’s Call: It is patently obvious that Trump withheld aid in order to pressure an investigation into the Bidens. Without any concrete allegations, it is impossible to attach any “public good” to those investigations. Sondland’s testimony confirmed that Trump didn’t care whether the investigations even happened, he just wanted the appearance of an investigation, perhaps to stir up some classic FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt). Abuse of Power Charge: This is the real question. Can the President leverage congressional appropriations to pressure a foreign power for primarily personal political benefit? During the hearings, Democrats have repeated this question numerous times. Republicans have been evasive, sarcastic, sometimes childish trying to avoid a direct response to this question. Something Republicans have repeated is that the Democrats “have not proven their case.” But this is not a criminal court. The burden of proof is on both sides. To disprove this charge, the Republicans must demonstrate that Trump’s actions addressed a tangible public good that outweighs his private political interest in the Ukraine. In my opinion, the Democrats have proven Trump’s political motivation beyond any reasonable doubt. Now the Republicans need to prove something. Obstruction of Congress Charge: This one is obvious, but is subordinate to the first charge. If the Republicans can produce a specific allegation of wrongdoing by the Bidens, or concrete evidence of the fabled email server, then the Abuse of Power charge might topple. In that case, I would not consider the President’s stonewalling to be impeachable “obstruction”. (This is substantially the same position I took in the Clinton impeachment; his “perjury” was not impeachable because it was tangential, it did not pertain to an impeachable offense).
- Hunter Biden: Trump pressured the Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden and his involvement with Burisma. From what I can gather, there has been no specific allegation against Hunter Biden. Before investigating someone, it would seem that you should at least have some idea as to what they did wrong. A Republican talking point is that Hunter Biden “was paid $50k a month” for his position on the Burisma board of directors. But it seems unusual for Republicans to complain about excessive executive compensation. Biden’s compensation is high, but not really unusual. It’s less than the board members who oversee Fox News, for instance.
- Joe Biden: It has been repeatedly alleged that Joe Biden pressured Ukraine to fire a prosecutor (Shokin) who was investigating his son’s company, however:
[li] The prosecutor was failing to pursue corruption cases and there was no investigation of Burisma at that time.
- The company had been investigated prior to Hunter Biden’s employment on its board. There was no investigation to “quash” at the time of Biden’s intervention.
- Biden’s opposition to the Ukrainian prosecutor was not a personal campaign, it was a multi-lateral anti-corruption effort initiated from within Ukraine.
So that’s where I stand. Perhaps I will come back later to comment on the supposed “excessive partisanship” of this impeachment in comparison to Clinton’s. (Hint: the Clinton case was more partisan and totally political, as it did not pertain to a question of government function or public good).