Exhibit A in the upcoming impeachment proceedings, if you believe Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), is this transcript of a phone call between President Trump and the president of Ukraine. Anyone capable of passing a middle school civics test already knows an “impeachment inquiry” of the kind Democrats have announced is only step one in the process.
In a Senate with 47 non-Republicans, the “get Trump” forces must convince 20 Republican senators to vote to expel the president for a House impeachment effort to succeed. This is because Article I of the Constitution requires that two-thirds of senators vote to convict to expel the president. If all 100 senators are present, 67 must vote to get rid of Trump. This seems impossible based upon the current state of affairs.
So what is behind the coordinated media and Democrat campaign to drum up an “impeachment inquiry”? In one 24-hour period, the media rolled out the same Trump-Ukraine story with the same angle and often the same talking points within the same few hours on CNN, the Intelligencer, The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Guardian, Vox, Vanity Fair, and The Daily Beast, to name a few examples.
More tellingly, the phrase “in plain sight” appears over and over again in the supposedly independent media outlets that, in theory, wrote the articles at the same time, making it difficult or impossible for them to have directly copied from each other. Google search results bury the first dissenting coverage near the bottom of the second page. Of course they’re colluding with each other and coordinating with Democrats, but that’s another article for a different day.
To understand the significance of an “impeachment inquiry,” we need to go back to a blitz of document requests that House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrod Nadler sent in March 2019. Nadler sent requests to a withering list of 81 government officials, citizens, corporations, and probably a few zoo animals and cartoon characters. Each included a “schedule” of requested documents designed to burden and harass each of the unlucky recipients. The one to the White House requested a huge list of document categories, including any documents furnished to the special counsel team.
Since at least March, Nadler and other House Democrats have engaged in a public fight with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to force the House into a formal impeachment proceeding. Rep. Ro Khanna explained Nadler’s strategy: “What happens next is dependent on the courts. If the courts rule against the administration and the administration defies a court order, then I think it is a full-blown crisis.”
Congress’s authority to request documents is dependent on whether it has a legitimate legislative purpose for the documents. The purpose of the House invoking the phrase “impeachment inquiry” is to create a pretext to argue in court that it has a right to the documents.
The White House brushed off many of Nadler’s requests in this May 15, 2019 letter denying the requests because Nadler had “not articulated any proper legislative purpose” for pursuing matters already investigated by Robert Mueller, for example. Because impeachment is one of the enumerated functions of the House, document requests relevant to an “impeachment inquiry” might be able to overcome this objection.
The strategy of declaring an “impeachment inquiry” actually has little or nothing to do with a serious effort to put a case in front of the Senate based upon existing wrongdoing. Rather, it calls to mind the technique used to snare so many victims of the get Trump movement: the process crime. Democrats want to force the president into defying a court order upholding a House document request in order to meet the Khanna test for a full-blown impeachment proceeding.
As noted by the Los Angeles Times, the full House voted to initiate an impeachment inquiry against presidents Nixon and Clinton. This comes in contrast to what the Democrats are now attempting to do by announcing an impeachment inquiry without a full House vote. The absence of a declaration by the full House sets up the argument for the president that this “inquiry” is a mere political stunt by a rogue committee and not a legitimate legislative purpose endorsed by the full House.
Quick-to-panic Washington Examiner editor Phil Klein has posited that the Ukraine transcript is not a dud, but bad news for Trump. He says this because of president’s mention of all the help the United States has given Ukraine immediately before bringing up Joe Biden. Recall, Biden bragged on video about threatening to withhold aid from Ukraine until it fired the prosecutor who was investigating his son’s Ukranian company.
Klein seems to be saying that if the president asks Ukraine for information about Biden abusing his authority to protect his son, that’s a crime. Klein is buying the post-Trump rule that anything done to help Trump is a crime.
Thus, Klein, for some reason, says it’s no problem when Biden holds up U.S. aid to have his son’s investogator fired. But when a sitting U.S. president demands accountability for that misconduct, that’s a crime. And by potentially holding up U.S. aid to get to the bottom of that corrupt behavior, well, that makes it an impeachable offense.
It’s another blatant shoe-on-the-other-foot example that exposes the complete corruption of the rule of law in the get-Trump era. Trump is the constitutional master of the prosecutorial function within the executive branch, and he is well within his authority to insist upon an investigation, even if it involves a political opponent.
And yes, he also has every right to withhold aid from a foreign country if necessary to obtain information needed for the investigation. That’s a legitimate public interest. In contrast to the Trump/Russia collusion hoax, in this case Trump has made himself politically accountable to the decision and it is based upon a videoed confession by Joe Biden himself.
One final observation about this being bad for Biden: One thing that Trump has proven in the last five years is that bad media publicity has a way of helping the target in a primary contest because it starves his competitors of attention. You likely have no memory of what Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders did this week because of the Ukraine story. If the media thought they would get a two-for by kneecapping Biden and Trump in the same scandal, they may find a double boomerang instead.