The Senate Republicans came up with a new strategy over the weekend to defend the president against accusations of abusing the authority of his office for personal gain.
The plan goes like this: OK maybe it was quid pro quo when Donald Trump asked Ukraine’s president to investigate his American rivals in exchange for military aid, but it wasn’t the bad kind. The bad kind is corrupt. The good kind is what America has been doing since World War II, nudging nations toward just governance. Trump was only asking Ukraine to fight corruption. The Bidens just happened to be in the mix is all.
Kevin Cramer of North Dakota said, per the Post, that “there’s lots of quid pro quos” in US foreign policy. “We’ve done quid pro quos a lot of times,” he said. “The question isn’t whether it was quid pro quo; the question is: Was it corruption?” Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said the US puts conditions on foreign aid all the time. “Those are legitimate reservations. There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s not impeachable.”
Well, it turns out the president’s hand-picked ambassador said nuh-uh. Actually, he said Tuesday to House investigators, Trump was quite explicit about what he wanted from Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s new leader. In fact, Trump didn’t want him to really investigate Joe and Hunter Biden for corruption. All he wanted was for him to merely say he was. The key was Zelensky himself saying it publicly and loudly, probably so Trump could later point to it as evidence of whatever false accusation he invents.
Gordon Sondland is Trump’s ambassador to the European Union. “I now recall speaking with Mr. [Andrey] Yermak, where I said that resumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks,” Sondland said in an update, referring to an aide to the Ukrainian president. “Soon thereafter, I came to understand that, in fact, the public statement would need to come directly from President Zelensky himself.”
So, yeah, that’s the bad kind of quid pro quo. It’s, you know, what they call extortion.
When all is said and done—that is to say, when the Republicans have stopped lying so much—a pattern should become clear. This is how Donald Trump operates. It’s what he’s done since taking office. It’s what he did as a businessman. It’s what he did just days ago when he floated the idea of shutting down the federal government unless the House Democrats quit trying to impeach him. For the president, all quid pro quo is corrupt quid pro quo, because every exchange is to benefit him personally. This pattern is difficult to see under a mountain of Republican lies. But that’s not the only pattern.
The Republicans said recently that the impeachment inquiry was illegitimate as long as the House hasn’t authorize it. So the House authorized it. Is it now legitimate? Nope. Then they said Trump’s actions were impeachable if they were corrupt. So we know they were sooper corrupt. Are they now impeachable? Don’t hold your breath.
The Republicans can’t be trusted to commit to a clear standard of what counts as impeachable conduct. You could say their faithlessness was pre-ordained. Lindsey Graham, the president’s staunch defender, led the GOP’s prosecution of Bill Clinton’s Senate trial in 1998 when he was a House member. The standard then was lying. Lying!
Clinton lied to a grand jury about his sexual relationship with an intern. Then he dragged his feet when cooperating with investigators. That counted as obstruction! So lying and obstruction (sorta) were enough for Graham to lead the way in “cleansing the office.” “Impeachment is not about punishment. Impeachment is about cleansing the office,” he said. “Impeachment is about restoring honor and integrity to the office.” And now? “I’ve written the whole process off,” he said. “I think this is a bunch of BS.”
Given that Donald Trump has lied more than 13,000 times since 2017, and given that even the US Department of Justice is actively obstructing justice, it’s fair to ask at what point would Trump meet the Republican standard of impeachable conduct. The signs are not encouraging. Some Republicans appear willing to look treasonous to save the president, suggesting that even treason would fail to meet their so-called standard.
Rand Paul said he’d be willing to name of the whistleblower whose complaint is at the heart of the impeachment inquiry. That would be illegal, for one thing. For another, Paul’s statement appeared coordinated with Russian state news outlets. Julia Davis, an expert of Russian media, wrote in the Daily Beast Wednesday that as soon as Paul asked the US press corps Tuesday to unmask the whistleblower, the “Kremlin-controlled heavy hitters—TASS, RT, Rossiya-1—disseminated the same information.”
The move, she said, was “a 2019 re-play of ‘Russia, if you’re listening.’”
How far are the Republicans willing to go? It doesn’t look good.
Jeff Sessions’ fate is a warning for us all
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions lost his primary race to be the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Alabama on Tuesday night in a landslide, according to Decision Desk HQ. Early returns showed him losing the shot to win back his old seat by more than 20 points to opponent Tommy Tuberville, who will face off against Democratic Sen. Doug Jones in November.
It wasn't a surprising loss for Sessions, though it is a brutal one. He gave up his seat in the Senate to become President Donald Trump's attorney general, and he lost his big chance to return because his one-time benefactor turned against him. Trump enthusiastically endorsed Tuberville while viciously and repeatedly denouncing Sessions.
‘Self-destruction of the president’: Trump stuns observers with off the deep end press conference
President Donald Trump clearly misses holding rallies filled with thousands of his fawning supporters hanging on his every self-aggrandizing word. So on Tuesday, at a press event ostensibly staged to discuss his new executive order withdrawing recognition of Hong Kong as independent from China, he decided to indulge himself by launching into a meandering campaign-style monologue for the reporters in attendance.
He leaped from topic to topic, sometimes in a single run-on sentence, and often failed to complete thought. He took aim at his election opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, attacking a laundry list of the Democrat's policies that he twisted and distorted. Recalling a campaign theme he has long ignored, Trump called out Biden's son, saying: "Where's Hunter?"
Trump is unraveling before our eyes — and the next four months could be particularly dangerous: Mental health experts
Donald Trump on Friday commuted the sentence of his crony, Roger Stone. As Mitt Romney tweeted, "Unprecedented historic corruption: an American president commutes the sentence of a person convicted by a jury of lying to shield that very president."
So the president of the United States takes action to help his buddy, a convicted felon, but he cannot take decisive steps to combat the coronavirus pandemic and save lives. This is an act of corruption of the highest order. And this is an example of Donald Trump's mental disorder and a stark preview of his unraveling over the next four months leading up to the November election.