The Trump-impeachment spectacle.
In the rancorous and contested impeachment of President Donald Trump, leaders in both parties are exhibiting the unprincipled career-politician cowardice and evasions of inconvenient facts which are standard operating procedure in Congress and the Oval Office. Moreover, the Democrats predictably are wasting their fire on dubious and smaller offenses as they give no thought to prosecuting Trump for his actual and most egregious crimes. Further, they are actively promoting the imperialistic new cold war against Russia in order to justify this impeachment spectacle.
Certainly, there is an abundance of good reasons for progressives to detest Trump, but it does not follow that every Trump opponent is their savior or that every attack on him is both fair and consistent with social justice.
Content. The Democrats’ first article of impeachment alleges a corrupt abuse of office, specifically: (1) that Trump attempted to coerce Ukrainian President Zelensky to announce two investigations by Ukraine, (2) that his sole purpose was to use said announcement to help his 2020 reelection; and (3) that Trump’s means, namely withholding of Congressionally-appropriated military aid, harmed US national security. One of the two investigations was to be into Joe Biden and his son Hunter in reference to possible corruption probes into a Ukrainian gas-production company, Burisma, which had recruited Hunter Biden to serve on its Board. The other was into the allegation that Ukrainian government officials interfered in the 2016 US Presidential election to hurt Trump’s chances of winning.
The relevant facts.
(1) Contrary to frequent Republican denials, Trump did attempt to coerce Zelensky to make the demanded announcement, by temporarily withholding Congressionally-approved military aid to Ukraine.
(2) Hunter Biden had accepted the highly-paid position on the Burisma Board of Directors, knowing that he had no qualifications for it. Notwithstanding Democrat evasions, he also knew (or should have): that his recruitment was solely because he was the son of the then-VP Joe Biden, and that his selection was intended to shield a notorious bribe-giving company in a country with an extremely corrupted government.
(3) Joe Biden, who should have recognized the conflict of interest and corrupt purpose, evidently made no effort to prevent or discourage his son from serving on said company’s Board.
(4) Although Ukrainian government intervention in the 2016 US Presidential election is a falsehood; Trump, in his paranoia, apparently chose to believe it to be fact.
(1) Did he do it? While Democrats attempt to make their case by marshalling actual facts; Trump’s Congressional Republican loyalists, taking their cue from the President, evade and misrepresent the facts in an attempt to exonerate Trump with false assertions that he did not do what he clearly did.
(2) Did he act with criminal intent? The Democrats, with their obsession to find justification for impeachment, have certainly chosen to interpret Trump’s intent as criminally corrupt; but they are willfully blind to alternative and potentially innocent interpretations as to his intent. In fact, there is nothing in the record to indicate that Trump condoned or abetted any Ukrainian crimes; and the fact that Trump mentioned only the two examples of alleged impropriety which were salient in his mind does prove that he cared nothing about other issues involving corruption in the government of Ukraine. The Democrats’ contention, that Trump’s demand of Zelensky was solely for partisan gain, remains an unproven assumption based upon what they choose to believe, but cannot prove, was in Trump’s mind. Thus, his pressure tactic cannot be conclusively determined to constitute a purely corrupt and self-serving criminal act.
(3) Was scrutiny of the Bidens’ behaviors warranted? Although no evidence has thus far been brought to light that either Biden committed an overt criminal act; Joe Biden, in condoning his son’s employment by the Ukrainian gas company, acquiesced to a corrupt relationship. Their Burisma actions and inactions were certainly a legitimate target for investigation. The very announcement thereof would virtually guarantee some very appropriate scrutiny of the matter. Who, but blindly partisan Democrats would object to such scrutiny? Nevertheless, the Democrats persist in evading the inconvenient fact of the impropriety of what the Bidens did.
(4) Does partisan benefit make investigation illicit? Although the requested Ukrainian announcement would bring public attention to Biden’s negligent inaction on his son’s involvement with Burisma and may possibly have been of some partisan benefit to Trump; it can be argued that any such personal benefit was coincidental to Trump’s legitimate effort to expose and combat corruption and malfeasance in the government of a recipient of hundreds of millions of dollars in US foreign aid. Moreover, even if Trump were motivated solely by self-serving partisan concerns; that would not render this, or any other investigation of suspected corruption, illicit.
(5) Was it a crime? Notwithstanding the dubious and conflicting assertions by Trump loyalists, Trump’s temporary withholding of the military aid in order to obtain Ukrainian action, with respect to events which Trump believed involved corruption in Ukrainian politics or election meddling against the US, does not clearly qualify as a crime. If Trump’s suspension of military assistance was technically a violation of the Impoundment Control Act (of which Trump was likely ignorant), that would hardly constitute a “high crime” justifying impeachment. Joe Biden, as VP, had similarly withheld appropriated aid in order to coerce Ukraine to fire the corrupt Ukrainian then-Prosecutor-General; and no Democrat calls that a crime.
(6) Judgment? Given Trump’s atrocious record, it is clearly difficult for either Democrats or progressives to be dispassionate in judging his actions. Nevertheless, with a dispassionate evaluation of the factual evidence in this case, one must conclude: that the Democrats have, at best, a very weak case; and that their evidence does not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Trump is guilty of this specific alleged abuse of power.
The second article of impeachment alleges obstruction of Congress with respect to its investigation of Trump’s actions vis-à-vis the appropriated military aid to Ukraine.
The relevant facts.
(1) Trump ordered potential witnesses to defy Congressional subpoenas for eye-witness testimony and ordered blanket refusals to provide subpoenaed documents.
(2) Republicans argue: that legitimate objections such as executive privilege and attorney-client privilege justify the President’s actions, and that the Democrats’ remedy was to contest the matter in the courts.
Analysis. The Republicans’ defense is untenable, because Trump’s obstruction was to everything requested by the Congress, while Trump’s principal response was to denounce the impeachment investigation as an illegitimate witch-hunt. Trump’s defiance is clearly an obstruction of Congress in the exercise of its oversight responsibility. The evidence proves beyond any reasonable doubt that Trump is guilty on this article.
Betrayal of US national security?
The Democrats build their case against Trump based upon claims that his withholding of military assistance to Ukraine was a betrayal of US national security.
(1) The US government under Obama, with bipartisan support, incited and abetted the 2014 coup which ousted the democratically-elected President of Ukraine, not because of his corruption, but because of his refusal to abandon neutrality and align Ukraine with the EU and NATO.
(2) Rightwing (including outright fascist) Ukrainian chauvinists, having seized control in Kyiv, abrogated a law providing for language rights for Russian and other minorities. These and other policies of the Ukrainian coup regime provoked the majority ethnic-Russian populace in Crimea to rebel and seek reunification with Russia of which Crimea had been part until Khrushchev transferred it to Ukraine in 1954 without the consent of its populace. Russia responded to Crimea’s 2014 request by re-incorporating it into Russia. The chauvinistic anti-Russian stance of the coup regime also provoked the revolt of the mostly ethnic Russian populace in the Donbass region thereby beginning the current civil war.
(3) The US and NATO hypocritically argue that separation of Crimea from Ukraine without the latter’s consent is a violation of international law. They evade the fact that the US and its allies bombed Serbia in 1999 to compel its acquiescence to the separation, against Serbia’s will, of its predominantly ethnic-Albanian Kosovo province.
(4) The West responded to Crimea’s self-determination by commencing a new cold war against Russia with sanctions and military exercises in former Soviet republics on the borders of Russia. These hostile Western actions, as well as the expansion (from 1999) of NATO into former Warsaw Pact countries (including former Soviet republics), were in violation of promises made by the US and NATO in order to obtain the needed Russian agreement to the reunification of Germany.
(5) Russia apparently provides sufficient material assistance to the Donbass rebels in order to have the leverage to incentivize Ukraine to make a reasonable peace settlement which will respect Russia’s national security interest as well as respect the human rights of the ethnic Russian minority in Ukraine.
(1) Forcing Crimea to return under control of Ukraine (as the US and NATO and their client government in Kyiv demand) would be a violation of its people’s right of self-determination and thereby constitute an injustice.
(2) While the Putin regime in Russia certainly has grievous faults (especially in its domestic policies), the Democrats’ allegation of Trump’s betrayal of US national security rests wholly upon the false assumptions: 1st, that Russian actions vis-à-vis Ukraine are a threat to the West rather than a defense of its own national security; and 2nd, that Trump’s withholding of military assistance to Ukraine facilitated Russian aggression (while it is the US and NATO which are the actual aggressors).
(3) It is against the interest of the people of Ukraine, of Russia, of the US, and of western Europe to continue this new cold war (which was commenced by the Western alliance under Obama).
(4) Those who benefit from this new cold war are only: the war profiteers, the pandering and jingoist politicians, and the foreign-policy experts and operatives (in DoD, DoS, NSC, and the intelligence agencies) whose careers rest upon perpetuating the notion of foreign threats (most of them spurious) to the national security of the US and its allies. In fact, it is the Democrats who, in this instance, are betraying the real US national interest (which is for peaceful international relations) as well as basic social justice principles.
Congressional Democrats never miss any opportunity to vilify Russia for allegedly attacking “our democracy” by assisting the Trump campaign in the 2016 US Presidential election. Completely absent from the discourse is any acknowledgement of the long history (beginning with the 1948 Italian election) of US interventions in the national elections of numerous foreign countries (including the stealing of the 1996 Russian election for US favorite Boris Yeltsin). Russian intervention in the 2016 US election pales in comparison with many of the US interferences in other countries’ elections. Moreover, the Russian effort to sway the 2016 US Presidential election outcome was the least significant factor in the outcome, far eclipsed by: the flawed Democrat candidate and her mismanaged election campaign, abstentions on account of Democrat failure to deliver for their base constituencies, and the electoral college system as well as other anti-democratic features of US elections. In fact, US elections are rife with anti-democratic features: political discourse dominated by capitalist funding, gerrymanders, voter suppression, party leaders rigging the nomination process to favor the establishment candidate, convention superdelegates, etc. Moreover, the system is rigged in most states to maintain the 2-party duopoly which excludes and/or marginalizes all other parties. In actual effect, voters usually choose between candidates who are selected, not by the people, but by big-money interest groups and allied establishment political insiders.
Trump’s real crimes.
The real reasons that Trump should be prosecuted and removed include: (1) his murderous economic sieges which oppress millions and kill many thousands in Iran, Venezuela, and other countries targeted by Western imperialism; (2) his abetting mass murder in Yemen; (3) his violations of international human rights conventions, including the rights of asylum seekers; (4) his child cruelty crimes (family separations and other abuses perpetrated against immigrant children); (5) his incitements of white supremacist racial hatred resulting in murderous acts of domestic terrorism; (6) his bigoted attacks (via executive orders as well as his judicial and executive branch appointments) on the rights of women and of racial and religious minorities; and (7) his abetting the perpetrators of future climate catastrophe.
(1) These crimes are not unique to Trump. Many of the same and/or related crimes were perpetrated under previous Presidents (including Democrats Obama, Clinton, Carter, Johnson, and Kennedy) going back to Harry Truman. A few illustrative examples, far from a complete list. It was “deporter-in-chief” Obama: who first imposed sanctions on Venezuela, who backed extremely destructive rebellions against anti-imperialist governments in Libya and Syria causing massive suffering to the peoples of those countries, who first abetted the Saudi war on the people of Yemen, and who backed actual and attempted coups against popularly-elected governments in Honduras and Ecuador. “New Democrat” Clinton imposed a murderous sanctions regime on Iraq which caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands, mostly children. It was Carter who initiated the US-sponsored reigns of death and destruction in Nicaragua and Afghanistan by beginning the US arming and funding of the Nicaraguan Contras, and of the Islamist Mujahidin in Afghanistan. Kennedy and Johnson: incited and/or abetted numerous coups mostly against popularly-elected social-reformist governments, violated chemical weapons and other human rights conventions as they waged war against the people of Vietnam, and sponsored rightwing Cuban-exile gangs committing murder and sabotage in Cuba and elsewhere. Many more such crimes of the US government could be cited.
(2) Both Parties in Congress embrace (on the pretense of national security or of support for “democracy” and “human rights”) the bipartisan notion that the US should arrogate to itself the privilege of trying to decide for every vulnerable country throughout the world which political actors are to govern its people.
(3) Nearly every politician in Congress, regardless of Party, votes: for new cold war resolutions; for abetting the gross human rights violations and ethnic cleaning crimes of the Zionist state; for economic sieges which violate international human rights conventions; for grossly excessive military budgets; and so forth.
Analysis. Career-politician Congressional Democrats will generally not even broach the real crimes of Trump (as listed above). Why not? Because, they, along with previous Presidents of both Parties, have been deeply complicit in such crimes.
Neither Party in Congress is making its decision based upon a fair evaluation of the evidence. The Democrats, under pressure from much of their base, are voting to impeach and remove on relatively trivial issues and based upon a prejudged interpretation of ambiguous factual evidence. Meanwhile, the Republicans, under pressure from their pro-Trump base, are voting against, regardless of the evidence.
Progressives must break with the Congressional Democrats and actively oppose the continuation of the unjustified new cold wars (against Russia and China), lest the existential threat of climate catastrophe be joined by the existential threat of nuclear Armageddon. Moreover, as activists for social justice, progressives must oppose the rampant bipartisan militarism and imperial interventionism which is at the root of US foreign policy. Trump’s impeachment and trial has been achieved thru new-cold-war Russia-bashing and embrace of US imperial interventionism; and, insofar as that is the means to bash Trump, it is absolutely obstructive to the pursuit of progress and social justice.
Author: Charles Pierce Date: 2019 Dec 18, updated 2020 Jan 27.
Charles Pierce is: a working-class retiree, a past union steward and local union officer, and currently a researcher and writer on history and politics. Other articles by Charles Pierce can be accessed by google search at https://specter-cp.home.blog.