Impeachment: Justice or Joke

William Taylor and George Kent take an oath before testifying at the House impeachment hearing Wednesday. | Jim Lo Scalzo/Getty Images

Since 2016, Democrats have been promising that they would obstruct and eventually impeach Donald Trump after his victory over Hillary Clinton. In fact, it was even discussed while he was still a candidate. This appears to come across as preemptive in nature, planning what is essentially a political coup of the President. Of course such talk is common for news organizations like Fox News, but is it a reality?

When I went through and read articles like one on Politico on April 17th, 2016, the author had presented several predictions on Trump being impeached. Their “time travel” article talked about Trump using the National Guard to patrol city streets, rounding up Muslims, and reopening Alcatraz to use as a secret detention center. The absurdity of the article notwithstanding, the same manner of thinking seems to be quite common in Democratic circles. To them, Trump is evil incarnate. They never once gave him a chance to see what he could do and instead attacked him even before day one.

Why the vitriol against Trump? My best guess is because he beat them, because he comes across as either a buffoon or a bully, and because he is not one of them. I will not disagree that much of Trumps resistance comes from his constant Twitter barrage that comes across as childish and cruel. He is the complete opposite of President Obama, who came across as a statesman. No matter his political views, he was well spoken and clear and stuck with sharp rebuts against opposing viewpoints instead of striking out like a toddler who does not get their way. However, it does not mean that Obama was right or that Trump is wrong, it’s just how each approaches any given topic.

But being braggadocios, rude or childish isn’t enough to impeach a President. You need a valid crime. The Impeachment system gives Congress the ability to hold the President accountable for criminal behavior he performs while in Office. To date, this has only happened twice. Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were both recipients of Impeachment Proceedings, which passed the House but convictions withheld in the Senate. It is an important process, but Conservatives have accused the system of being weaponized for the losers of the election. Is it? To understand, we have to look into the basis of the recent attempt to impeach a President.

Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton all faced impeachment, though Nixon resigned before the proceedings.

There does appear to be a partisan bias in play. Major leaders on the left, as well as some of the more popular leftist politicians, have openly called for Trump’s impeachment since 2016. Five Democrats even introduced legislation in December 2016 to try and create a road map to impeach Trump, including Elizabeth Warren. Two news organizations, the Independent and the Washington Post reported that there was already a concerted effort to push for impeachment. Several websites were created also pushing this narrative, all within the first few weeks of Trump’s presidency. As a result, any call from Democrats to impeach the President must immediately be suspect.

There was the attempt to create impeachment with the Russian Collusion Investigation which failed to connect the Trump Campaign to the Russian government. The investigation also failed to show any evidence of obstruction though it did outline a few concerns. However, they made no recommendation for prosecution, which was still on the table regardless of the Office of Legal Counsel Memo’s opinion. Policy is not law, and recommending prosecution was still in their purview, even if the Attorney General would not have carried it out. Instead, they made the bizarre statement of saying that they could not find evidence that exonerated the President, a standard which goes against traditional legal precedent established by the Constitution and the Supreme Court: innocent until proven guilty. Even more bizarre was prior to the release of the investigation’s report, Congressman Adam Schiff made public statements that he knew of direct evidence of Trump’s collusion with the Russians to win the election. A statement that turned out to be a fabrication.

Then there was the Michael Cohen hearings where the same Democrats made implications that they would result in impeachment. Those hearings also died with nothing to come from them. It felt like an enormous amount of time, effort and money have been spent attacking a sitting President with nothing to show for it. It has been exhausting to watch. But the new attempt brings with it an appearance of corruption worse than what they accuse the President of committing. But appearances can be deceiving.

To understand the basis behind the current impeachment inquiry, we have to go back to 2014. During that year, Hunter Biden, the son of Vice President Joe Biden was given a seat at the board of a gas company in the Ukraine known as Burisma. He was hired by an oligarch named Mykola Zlochevsky. Hunter Biden, given the appearance as a recovering addict who was kicked out of the Navy for using cocaine and as an incompetent businessman, was put into a position where he made between $50k to $83k a month. The problem arises when people question whether he was qualified to do the job when he had no experience in the industry, couldn’t speak the language and didn’t even bother to relocate to the region. These issues are embellished as Biden did have some experience on the board of other industries, and he was an active attorney. Though he was a recovering addict, he was also a professional businessman and lawyer. Many executives relocate to industries they have no experience in because they have assets that can make them a valued additions.

Shortly after he was hired to the board, Victor Shokin, a Ukraine prosecutor started to investigate Burisma for business dealings between 2010 and 2012. According to Shokin, he was pressured to ease up on the Burisma investigation because of Biden’s involvement on the board. As a result, Shokin shifted his investigation to Zlochevsky and put the Burisma investigation on the back burner. According to Joe Biden, as he joked while at a speaking session that in 2015, he told Ukraine to terminate Shokin for failing to prosecute corruption. At that time, Shokin had two open investigations: Burisma and Zlochevsky. Biden told Ukraine that the US would withhold $1 billion in loan guarantees if that prosecutor wasn’t fired. A few months later, the Parliament did in fact vote to terminate Shokin. When the new prosecutor took over, the investigations into Burisma and Zlochevsky were closed with no action recommended.

In summary, the company Hunter Biden worked for as well as that company’s founder were being investigated by Shokin. Joe Biden and other world leaders complained that Shokin was holding up the prosecution of Burisma and Zlochevsky and demanded he be fired. Once he is fired, the investigations are closed. This alone does bring about questions of corruption. If they were concerned about Burisma and Zlochevsky not being prosecuted, why fire the prosecutor who was investigating the two and replace him with someone who would end up just closing those investigations.

To be clear, there is no evidence Biden did anything wrong. He could have just been used as a shield to protect Burisma. It would be hard for the Ukraine government to take action against a business who hired the son of the US Vice President. In fact, Shokin stated he was told to treat those investigations with kids gloves because of Biden’s involvement. On top of that, Obama officials expressed their concern about Biden being involved in the Ukraine issue with his son being associated with Burisma. It was also reported upon at the time as well.

Fast forward to July of this year when Trump called the Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. During this call to congratulate Zelensky on his election success, they discussed a variety of issues. This included complaints about the rest of Europe not supporting Ukraine financially and the need for military weapons to assist in Ukraine’s war with Russia. Towards the end of the conversation, Trump asked Zelensky for a favor, to look into Ukraine involvement in the hacking of the Democrat National Committee servers and the interference in the 2016 election. Trump then warned Zelensky to be careful who he was associating with because some of the same corrupt officials were still involved with the government. Trump then brought up the termination of Shokin under pressure by Joe Biden and suggested Zelensky look into it. At this time, the US was withholding military aid, but it was not discussed and Zelensky was unaware the funding was being withheld at that time. Because the funding was being withheld without his knowledge, there was no pressure for him to take any action on Trump’s behalf. Zelensky has even said that at no time was he coerced, forced or blackmailed by Trump into doing anything.

The call did not discuss military spending, it did not discuss fabricating information against Biden, it did not instruct Zelensky to provide any information they discover about Biden to Trump, and in the end, it was a call with Trump rambling in his now familiar manner. Was it appropriate? Probably not. Was it illegal? Not at face value.

The impeachment comes from a secret whistle-blower, who did not hear the call or read the transcripts, taking offense to the conversation and bringing his concern to member of Rep. Adam Schiff’s staff. Shortly after, the complaint was made to the Inspector General’s Office which found that there was partisan biased and that he had no firsthand knowledge of the call. He also admitted that he would not get the transcripts or call records in time to lawfully respond to the complaint, and therefore found the limited information he had access to to be of urgent concern and to be credible. That does not mean that the complaint was true or accurate, just that the complaint was credible and deserved further investigation.

And so here we are. Is this impeachment inquiry justice or a joke? It is still hard to tell. There is obvious partisan politics going on. If you watch the hearing, you can see Schiff restricting the ability by Republicans to ask questions. In one moment, Schiff changed his position from Chairman to Legal Counsel for the witness, when he tells the witness not to answer any questions regarding matters where the facts were not in evidence during questioning by a Republican. There are questions about Schiff’s involvement with the whistle-blower prior to his complaint. And again, Schiff was the same politician who claimed that he had evidence against Trump in the Russian Collusion Investigation which was false, and then read a fake transcript of the Trump/Zelensky call that was placed into the record. So there are some questions to the legitimacy of the complaint.

Did Trump have the right to tell Zelensky to look into Biden? Absolutely. There is enough there to question the events as they occurred. As the leader of our executive branch, he had the right to ask that of a foreign government. The only reason this is questionable is because Biden is a current presidential candidate. But being a presidential candidate does not shield you from the law. Had Trump fabricated the matter, and the facts that currently exist did not, then they have a legitimate complaint. But there is enough information to question whether there was inappropriate behavior there.

This matter gets more confusing when you start adding all the other players like Rudy Giuliani and the members of the media. They all cloud the issues with conflicting statements including inaccurate information. The media has an obvious agenda to mislead the public. For example, the National Review reported “The transcript showed that Trump repeatedly urged Zelensky to investigate Biden over the course of the call.” In reality, the transcript only had Trump mention Biden three times in two sentences throughout the entire conversation. And the only time he discussed the Biden matter was at the end in a passing moment and was not an issue discussed in any detail. He made no repeated effort to get Zelensky to investigate Biden.

So is this Justice or a joke? At this point, its a joke. The evidence is not there, its flimsy at best. At most, you have Trump making another one of his ridiculously worded conversations that has defined his entire presidency. You have an obviously partisan political agenda working against Trump, led by Adam Schiff and supported by Nancy Pelosi. This feels like a play for the elections. None of the current candidates is strong enough to compete against Trump. Biden is a bundle of confusion wrapped up in a box of gaffs. Elizabeth Warren plays the victim card to the point where people cannot take her serious. Shes a fake woman of color, who lied about being discriminated against for being pregnant and who makes threats towards the social class who already spends the most on taxes. Bernie Sanders is way out to the left. He is seen as a hypocrite being a wealthy millionaire who attacks billionaires. He has his hard core fans, but the moderate democrats will most likely not support him. No one likes Kamala Harris. She has low approval numbers with woman and the black community. With a weak candidate group, this may be the play. But Pelosi knows that they could easily backfire, she has said as much when she didn’t support impeachment previously. The Trump impeachment will be just like the last two impeachments, the President stays in Office.

The Democrats will lose no matter what happens with this impeachment. They lose, they look weak to their base that they couldn’t get the deal done, again. If they get the articles passed and the Senate doesn’t convict, which odds say they won’t, then they look like they got beat by Trump again. Couldn’t beat him, couldn’t impeach him. That will hurt their image. If they do impeach him and somehow the Senate convicts him, they alienate Trump supporters and could push for his return in 2020. Because impeachment does not prevent him from running again. And the odds are Pence will pardon him if he gets convicted.

This was a poor attempt at a legal coup of the President. It’s unfortunate to have gone this way, but it shows that the Democratic Party is not confident in their candidates. Worse, it establishes a precedent that any party can use the impeachment proceedings as a weapon to remove the Presidents who beat them. While Trump has numerous flaws, especially in his frequent Tweets, and his ability to embellish the truth and even flat out mislead the public, those are not impeachable offenses. He is not the first President to lie to the public and he wont be the last. And his lies are not even the worst we have ever seen by a sitting President. So the best way for the Democrats to get rid of Trump is at the ballot box. But by the time the 2020 elections roll around, Congress will have passed nothing to impact the lives of Americans in a positive way, they would have wasted time and money on an impeachment hearings, and they are likely to get beat again because they believe their own hype and continue to underestimate Trump. He is the most literal example of a “Teflon Don” that we can find. Dem’s may have stepped too far on this one. Only time will tell who it will hurt the most. Trump or the Democrats. In the end, the American public will most likely have suffered the most. And it is unfortunate.