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The MPU Impeachment Journal

This column is a compilation of separate thoughts on impeachment and the state of American politics.


As I predicted on the podcast, the two limited and obtuse articles of impeachment that Nancy Pelosi and company adopted are woefully inadequate for the task at hand: galvanizing the nation’s attention and exposing President Trump’s lack of fitness for office. First, they do not allege actual criminal acts, a charge that Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans may very well use to prematurely dismiss the charges in the senate as legally meaningless. The terms bribery and extortion should have peppered the articles’ text, which should have contained one separate article just titled “Bribery and Extortion.” Similarly, opting for the amorphous term “Obstruction of Congress” instead of the criminal code crime of “Obstruction of Justice” was a fatal wimp out on the Democrats’ part.

Moreover, leaving out the Don McGahn incident and other obstruction of justices outlined in the Mueller Report allows Republicans to claim that the entire impeachment is over “one telephone call” instead of the panoply of Trump’s unconstitutional misdeeds over three (or more) years. Campaign finance corruption, emoluments, unlawful executive actions – these should all be in the mix on the senate floor. Make senators Susan Collins, Thom Tillis and Cory Gardner vote to acquit Trump of everything he’s done, instead of hiding behind a very limited single incident. That would have produced a national outrage commensurate with an impeachment trial.

I understand that the House majority’s expensive lawyers probably argued against using those legal terms. But having clashed with attorneys all through my television producing and corporate training careers, I’ve learned that lawyers have a very narrow view of the world that often misses the bigger picture. In this case, they lawyered the Democratic caucus right out of a meaningful impeachment trial.


For Mitch McConnell to stand on the senate floor and complain that Democrats have talked about impeachment since the start of Trump’s administration is the height of hypocrisy coming from the man who announced his goal of making Barrack Obama “a one term president” on the very first night of his first term in office.

Democrats had good reasons to anticipate impeaching Donald Trump. He showed a personality and temperament highly likely to violate the the oath of office. He had talked about forcing himself on women. He had run a scam university and was known for stiffing his contractors. He urged Russia to commit international computer hacking. He refused to sever his ties with his vast business empire, which right there promised to violate the emoluments clause (as he has for three straight years). He lied about charitable donations and it was common knowledge that he misused and abused his charitable foundation. He spoke in vulgar terms and showed little respect for women, children, minorities, international treaties, contracts, and laws. He hid his tax returns and lied about the reason. He regularly defied court orders (one of the charges he was eventually impeached over). His first national security advisor lied to the FBI within two weeks of his appointment to the job. His former campaign chairman was a known international scam artist. He fired his FBI Director for purely personal political reasons and lied about it on national television. He held private, off-the-record meetings with Putin. And as we later found out, he hectored his attorney general and White House counsel to obstruct justice for him. We would also learn he was negotiating with the Russian government to build a hotel in Moscow while actively running for president (the height of poor judgment and bad faith), and he used private channels to run his nefarious schemes, scams, illegal use of campaign funds, and he’s been a serial cheater on every wife he ever married. And his hero is Roy Cohen.

So yeah, people who weren’t mesmerized by his silly tweets and vulgar rallies could read his character and expect he would run afoul of his oath of office. What’s amazing is that 197 congressmen, 53 U.S. senators, and some 60 million Americans did not see it coming.


Trump keeps complaining about the Obama administration spying on him (which is factually untrue). Yet no one ever mentions that he professed to send private investigators to Hawaii to privately spy on President Obama regarding his birth certificate, an invasion of privacy that Trump had no legal standing to commit since he is neither a journalist nor a member of law enforcement. Now, it’s quite possible that he was lying about sending lawyers to Hawaii. But he still made the claim, just as he still keeps making the bogus claim that he was the one who was spied on illegally. People who live in glass houses should not be throwing private investigators.


The Republican Party has allowed itself to become the party of Trumpism. But as the defeats of Matt Bevin, Eddie Rispone, and Ed Gillespie demonstrate, even in red states, you can’t win on Trumpism if you aren’t Donald Trump. Someday The Donald won’t sit in The White House. And the politicians who anchored their careers to him and his perverse style of governing may just find themselves submerged in the anti-Trump backlash that will inevitably rise.


Many Americans think that the senate impeachment trial will be no big deal because the outcome is pre-ordained. Nothing could be further from the truth. There has only been one impeachment trial in modern American history, which established a limited set of precedents for how presidential impeachments should proceed. But Mitch McConnell shows the potential to rewrite the impeachment process and with it all future presidential impeachments ad infinitum. 

If McConnell refuses to allow any prosecution witnesses, he’ll upend the precedent set by the Clinton impeachment trial, when Monica Lewinsky and two other witnesses gave video taped depositions. Or worse, he might submit the entire case for early dismissal which, if successful, could drastically minimize the significance of the impeachment process and forever alter the precarious balance of power between the three branches of government. Should McConnell rig the process to avoid a real final verdict of guilt or acquittal, future Congresses may be more empowered to use the impeachment process as a glorified form of presidential censure. 

It is imperative that impeachment not be dumbed down or diminished to be something other than what the Founders meant it to be: a sober and serious examination of a president’s fitness for office. If the majority party can swat away articles of impeachment without a serious examination of the charges brought by the House, future presidents will be emboldened to break the law whenever their party controls the upper chamber. 

Impeachments will always be a political and partisan endeavor, as they are the product of a political system. But that doesn’t mean we should allow one party to summarily revise the rules that have held U.S. presidents accountable to the people for 232 years.

Article 1 of the Constitution gives the senate sole power to” try all impeachments.” But it does not give the senate majority leader sole power to rewrite the impeachment language in Article 1 for posterity.

 

Kevin Kelton is the co-host of The More Perfect Union podcast and a founder of Open Fire Politics.

 

Saying The Quiet Part Out Loud (Ep. 236)

The MPU gang wraps up 2019 with a look at the pending senate impeachment trial, the rumored China trade deal, and the winnowing of the Democrats’ presidential primary debate stage. The hosts end their final 2019 podcast with a personal glimpse at their wishes for the holiday season and year to come.

Impeachment Carols (Ep. 235)

In this episode, Greg returns as the gang banters about the articles of impeachment and how the loss of Kamala Harris affects the Democratic primary field.

Impeachment Turmoil on Ukraine Cannot Distract Us From Putin’s Game There

by D.J. McGuire

“You may not be interested in strategy, but strategy is interested in you.” – Leon Trotsky

One of the apparent consequences of the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump over his attempt to strong arm Ukraine into smearing Joe Biden is the fading of Russia and of Vladimir Putin from the drama. Putin himself celebrated his regime’s return to the shadows recently (NBC).

Russian President Vladimir Putin says he’s pleased that the “political battles” in Washington have put on the back-burner accusations that Russia interfered in U.S. elections.

“Thank God,” he told an economic forum in the Russian capital on Wednesday, “no one is accusing us of interfering in the U.S. elections anymore; now they’re accusing Ukraine.”

Of course, this is exactly what Putin wanted. The worst case scenario is part of what he’s getting now – less attention for what he had his regime do in 2016 to help Trump amid the arguments about whether Trump committed impeachable offenses (spoiler: he did). On top of that, Putin knows that millions of Americans are gaslighting themselves into believing he didn’t interfere, but rather was framed as part of a Rudy Goldberg scheme hatched out of Ukraine. So he’s already playing with house money.

That does not mean, however, that Putin has stopped paying attention to Ukraine, or to Washington. In fact, Putin is slowly getting the very thing Robert Mueller reported Russia wanted vis a vis Ukraine when its intelligence apparatus reached out to the Trump campaign in the first place.

Lest we forget, this is what Mueller reported back in April:

Separately, on August 2, 2016, Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort met in New York City with his long-time business associate Konstantin Kilimnik, who the FBI assesses to have ties to Russian intelligence. Kilimnik requested the meeting to deliver in person a peace plan for Ukraine that Manafort acknowledged to the Special Counsel’s Office was a “backdoor” way for Russia to control part of eastern Ukraine; both men believed the plan would require candidate Trump’s assent to succeed (were he to be elected President).

What was that “peace plan”? Mueller answered thusly:

Under the Yanukovych-backed plan, Russia would assist in withdrawing the military, and Donbas would become an autonomous region within Ukraine with its own prime minister. The plan emphasized that Yanukovych would be an ideal candidate…

According to Mueller, Manafort claimed he “had said to Kilimnik that the plan was crazy.” Yet Mueller also reported that Manafort lied to him on numerous occasions, an assessment backed by Judge Amy Berman Jackson (CNN).

How did Judge Jackson come to this conclusion? Mueller answers in a foot note:

In resolving whether Manafort breached his cooperation plea agreement by lying to the Office, the district court found that Manafort lied about, among other things, his contacts with Kilimnik regarding the peace plan…

So we know a Russian intelligence agent reached out to his associate in the Trump campaign about a plan to cement Putin’s control over Eastern Ukraine, meaning it was a priority for Putin. Recent events are showing us something else: battered by the revelations regarding Trump, Ukraine’s president is close to giving Putin what he wanted (DW).

The Ukrainian government signed an agreement Tuesday with pro-Russia separatists, Russia and European monitors that will allow a local election to be held in separatist-controlled regions in eastern Ukraine.

The agreement was signed after the parties met in the Belarusian capital of Minsk, and is seen as a major step by the new Ukrainian government under President Volodymyr Zelenskiy toward resolution of the conflict in eastern Ukraine between Kyiv and pro-Russia separatists.

In preparation for the election, the Ukrainian government and separatist leaders said they would withdraw troops from two locations in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions next week.

… The president has faced criticism that Ukraine is giving concessions to Moscow and for following a policy of appeasement with Russia.

That came less than a week after the memorandum of the Trump-Zelensky call was released to the public.

One might also note that Manafort’s assertion that he blew off Kilimnik’s plan has an additional weakness: Germany has long been a fan of it, minus Yanukovych (Reuters). Indeed, it was originally called the “Steinmeier formula” – after Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who first floated it in 2016. As the Kyiv Post notes, it has never been popular in Ukraine itself.

That hasn’t stopped Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel from pushing it, however. Meanwhile, whatever Trump might think of the idea himself, those who might tell him why it’s a bad idea have been … otherwise occupied, as the editors of the Washington Post noted over the weekend:

Virtually every senior official who worked on the relationship in the past two years has resigned or testified in the impeachment inquiry and been denounced by the president.

That makes it a lot more difficult for anyone serious about resisting Putin’s irredentism from having Trump’s ear …

… which is just another benefit to Putin of this scandal.

D.J. McGuire – a Never Trump neoconservative – has been part of the More Perfect Union Podcast since 2015. He is also a contributor to Bearing Drift.

DJ ❤️ Mayor Mike (Ep. 233)

This episodes covers Trump’s interference with Navy discipline, the closing testimony in the House Intelligence Committee impeachment hearings, the most recent Democratic debate, and DJ’s latest crush on a candidate.

Roger Stone Table Dance (Ep. 232)

This episode looks at Roger Stone’s conviction, the latest impeachment testimony, new twists in the 2020 primary race, and how the latest high school shooting affected the hosts personally.

OK Boomer (Ep. 231)

This week’s podcast looks ahead to the opening of the public impeachment inquiry, the entry of Michael Bloomberg into the Democratic primary race, the new education plans proposed by Pete Buttigieg and Kamala Harris, and what the “OK boomer” culture war is really about.

Pathological Liar (Ep. 230)

This episode talks about how Democrats can use Trump’s documented pathology of lying to their electoral advantage, the latest from the primary campaigns, and what the outcomes of this week’s statewide elections can portend for the 2020 race.

The I-vote Cometh (Ep. 229)

 

On this week’s podcast, the MPU hosts discuss the sad sagas of Katie Hill, Harvey Weinstein, Trump versus Pelosi, and the GOP candidate who’s shoplifting America’s heart.

Ben Cline Betrays Conservatives and Beclowns Himself in Joining SCIF Stunt

by D.J. McGuire

There was a time when conservatives in general – and Republicans in particular – took national security seriously.

We can argue about when that era ended; after Wednesday, no one can argue the fact that it has ended. Dozens of Republican Congressmen proved that when they chose to violate the Secured Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) where the current impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump is being conducted. In the process, these clowns delayed testimony for nearly five hours and violated all sorts of security regulations by bringing in their phones (a flat-out violation).

One of these fools – at least in rushing the SCIF – was Virginia’s own Ben Cline (R-6th District), as can be seen from this Washington Post story (third video, titled “Desperate”: Lawmakers react to Republicans disrupting impeachment inquiry testimony; Cline can be seen about 24 seconds in as he pats his fellow committee crasher on the back).

Thus, less than two weeks before Election Day, Cline provided the perfect reason why I will be voting for the straight Democratic ticket on November 5 – with the full understanding that I am possibly the only one against the rest of the Bearing Drift contributors on this.

At first, I was going to be merely theoretical (although I still think correct) about how the GOP needed to by punished – hard and deep – for Trump, how the lesson needed to be sent to every single Republican on a ballot from now until he is defenestrated (either via impeachment and conviction or by losing re-election). I would then shift to how the Virginia Republicans behaved over the last two decades (three tax increases and rejected Medicaid expansion with a tax cut while accepting Medicaid expansion with “work requirements” that disincentivize entrepreneurial behavior and increase regulation of poor people).

Cline’s clown show, however, took this to an entirely new level of mandatory punishment for the GOP/RPV.

Nearly all of my fellow BD contributors who weighed in on the 6th District race in 2018 insisted that Ben Cline was the nice guy in the race for the GOP nomination. He was more reasonable than Cynthia Dunbar. His experience as a Delegate would mean he would keep his head down and do for his constituents – just as the Republicans running for state and local office this year are supposed to do.

Instead, he violated clearance rules in a manner that would make Hillary Clinton’s private server explode. He participated in the compromising of a SCIF. Mieke Eoyang (a former staffer of the House Intel Committee) explains what these fools did:

“Foreign adversaries are constantly trying to figure out what goes on inside those rooms to figure out what the US knows about them, to out US high-level sources in their governments, to know what the US government knows and use it against us.

“But in ‘storming the SCIF’ without observing the security protocols, Rep. Gaetz et al, endangered our national security & demonstrated they care more about a political stunt than protecting intelligence information. I cannot emphasize enough how serious this is.”

So if Ben Cline can beclown himself like this, what can we expect of the rest of this bunch?

No one can say with a straight face that the Republican Party of 2019 is anything remotely like the party the led us to victory in the Cold War, fought for freer trade, and defended American interests robustly abroad. For many 2019 Republicans, that’s a feature rather than a bug.

However, we now also know that the Republican Party of 2019 thinks “more about a political stunt than protecting intelligence information” – and that Virginia Republicans, rather than an exception to this rule, have become an example of this rule. That is what Ben Cline showed us all on Wednesday.

Ben Cline deserves neither power nor office. He exemplifies a party that needs to be taken to the woodshed, and the only way they will listen is if the voters replace them – all of them – with Democrats (I can’t even bring myself to accept Republican-in-all-but-name Chris Peace – sorry, Andrea). It’s a harsh remedy, but the Republicans have done this to themselves …

… especially Ben Cline.

D.J. McGuire – a self-described progressive conservative – has been part of the More Perfect Union Podcast since 2015. He is also a contributor to Bearing Drift.

Repackaging Medicare For All (Ep. 228)

 

This episode covers Trump’s sellout of the Kurds, John Bolton’s sellout of Rudy Giuliani, Mitch McConnell’s sellout of Thanksgiving, DJ’s sellout of Christmas music, and Kevin’s attempt to sell Medicare For All.

Rudy’s Partners In Crimea (Ep. 227)

This MPU episode covers the Turkish incursion into Syria and what ethnic cleansing of the Kurds might look like, Rudy’s unfortunate Ukrainian pals and what a straw donor scheme might look like, Trump’s growing impeachment headaches and what a senate impeachment trial might look like, what the fourth Democratic debate might look like, and AOC’s 30th birthday and what a $300 haircut actually does look like.