Is Trump’s July 27th phone call to the Ukrainian president an impeachable offense?
The first question to consider is whether the president’s request that Ukraine investigate his potential adversary in the next election constitutes a crime. It probably is under the campaign finance laws. They prohibit the solicitation of a contribution to a political campaign from a foreign source. Does the request for and investigation of an election opponent constitute a “contribution”? It is certainly a request for one. This would probably fall into the category of an “in – kind” contributions and accepting the benefit of such an investigation would constitute a “thing of value” under the Campaign Finance law. An attempt at doing unlawful act is equivalent to actually doing it. None of this requires a quid pro quo under the law or requires that the request be complied with.
There is much room for legal argument on this and the courts have yet to give an interpretation of these provisions of the campaign finance laws under these unique circumstances. But, does impeachment require that an actual crime be committed? Probably not. An impeachable offense is what the Congress says it is. Congress’s determination under the Constitution would be beyond the jurisdiction of the Court’s. So, for example, if Congress determined that lying about a sexual encounter is impeachable, why would Congress be limited to any legally technical definition of high crimes and misdemeanors? Moreover, it is also a fair interpretation, especially looking at Alexander Hamilton’s writings about this, that the president’s violation of his oath of office or conduct determined to be contrary to the country’s fundamental legal processes is impeachable.
Republicans nevertheless continue to argue that Trump’s request must be coupled with a price or, that is, there must be a quid pro quo. But no one seems to ask the Republicans what if there was a quid pro quo? What would be their position then? It seems they would have to concede that an express condition for receiving military aid, then being held up, was to undertake an investigation of the Bidens, that that would be clearly unlawful and equivalent to a bribe. But, once conceding that, then the question would be, wasn’t Trump’s request under the context of the conversation quite clearly an implied condition for continued support? The circumstances would be similar to your rich uncle who is helping to pay your way through college asking you for a favor. Isn’t there some kind of implied threat or condition or element of coercion there? Ukraine is totally dependent on and beholden to the US for military support. They are in Desperate Straits. They are at War. Half the country is occupied by Russians and Russian-backed rebels. No explicit quid pro quo was necessary. Trump simply made a request that Ukraine could not refuse.
Republicans have argued vigorously that evidence of Trump’s wrongdoing is hearsay. This, in spite of the nearly verbatim transcript of the phone call. This argument fails to recognize that impeachment is not a regular legal process as in cases brought in our courts. Congress in any impeachment proceeding defines the rules and procedures. It has exclusive jurisdiction to make its own decisions on what evidence is admissible. Besides that, technical court hearsay rules are not always rational or practical. Think, for example, about what you know about facts important to your everyday life. Probably 95% of what you know is from hearsay. So that is a bogus
Rudy Giuliani has made the argument on Fox News that under Article 2 of The Constitution the president has complete authority to make whatever deals he wants with foreign countries. What this argument fails to recognize is that the framers of the Constitution, who had just freed themselves from the bonds of an absolutist British King George, surely did not have in mind to make the president another king of any kind. No one at Fox News ever asked Giuliani if the president’s authority was boundless or whether the president could make any kind of a corrupt political deal with a foreign country and be guiltless.
A few other miscellaneous comments or questions be worth considering.
First, in case of impeachment proceedings doesn’t the claim of executive privilege go away? How can the president claim executive privilege when his own conduct that is at the center of the controversy? If he in fact has committed high crimes and misdemeanors he can’t possibly defend by saying you can’t prove it because all the evidence must be excluded under the protections of executive privilege.
I am wondering, too, is there any evidence that president Zelenski or anyone in the Ukraine actually undertook an investigation requested by Trump? Not that that matters, just asking? Why isn’t anyone asking this?
President Trump, Rudy Giuliani and Fox News have harped incessantly on the supposed wrongdoing of Joe Biden and his son Hunter. But we have yet to see any specific allegations of wrongdoing. This is not just a matter of there being no evidence. It is a matter of there being no specific claim or allegation. If this was so terrible why can’t they say what they think it was?
Fox News has obsessed over the fact that the so-called mainstream media has not tracked down Hunter Biden to interview him. But, wait a minute, Fox News is a news organization so why don’t they track him down and interview him if that is so important?
One other interesting speculation is: what if Trump is impeached, convicted by the Senate and removed from office. Impeachment does not disqualify him for running for office again. There is nothing to prevent him from running for president again in the next election. What about that?