Terry H. Schwadron
Oct. 19, 2019
It’s been a banner week for destruction and dissolution, from the totally avoidable killing fields of Northern Syria that sprang up within days of bad decision-making by Donald Trump to the opening fissures from within the White House itself over Trump’s plots to win political points with an unauthorized and illegal campaign led by his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
It is a drip of information turned into a flood.
Where we find ourselves at the end of the week is disarray in the White House and a Congress that — across bipartisan aisles — believes the president to be near unhinged about foreign policy, but somehow still splits along party lines about whether they even want to find out the depths of illegal maneuvering by the same president.
It’s a weird bifurcated and unsettling feeling about the role of government, about trust, about national security and about the rule of law. It is certainly suffused with both evidence and strong feeling that we need to get beyond the Trump era as soon as possible.
The no-holds-barred meeting at the White House between Trump and his team with congressional leaders that masked a personal attack on Speaker Nancy Pelosi simply shows the degree of disarray. These politicians — people who work for us, let’s remember — have work to do on a new budget, on guns, drug prices as well as an understandable foreign policy. To the degree that they can overcome personal animosities, they show no combined respect for institutions and the U.S. Constitution because Trump sees himself beyond either’s reach.
Trump can’t get out of his own insulting ways in pursuit of his egotistical self-preening.
The sudden, but now increasing drip of unrestrained desire to tell the truth is running directly into the abrasive and protective partisan arms of House and Senate Republicans willing to say anything, even if crazy explanations, to keep impeachment and any questions that might unearth actual information towards impeachment from happening.
What seems important is that these tell-all testimonies are coming from career professionals who have worked for both Republican and Democratic administrations, and over the serious objections of the Trump White House. Indeed, the now-parade of witnesses to a plot to circumvent diplomatic protocol and national security — to say nothing of laws governing campaign finance and interference in elections by foreign governments — has vastly superceded the original complaints of the still-anonymous whistleblower complaint.
These people who testify are heroic, since they each and together are putting their professional and personal lives on the line for the sake of American legitimacy and truth-telling.
Then we had Chief of Staff Mike Mulvaney all but acknowledging that the dealings with Ukraine absolutely represented a trade of military weaponry for partisan political goals — before trying to take it back by denying what he had said on widely distributed video.
On the one hand, we have nearly everyone except the most die-hard Trumpists believing that Trump needs protection from himself, that he has dealt actual death as the result of his unchecked gut. And on the other, just as we’re seeing more whistleblower-type national security folks willing to brave Trump’s disdain to tell Congress what actually went down with the Ukrainian shenanigans.
New subplots emerged this week: Rudy is out making money and lobbying for foreign countries, all in campaigns outside the control of the State Department, said the national security professionals who testified. Chief of Staff Mike Mulvaney was directly involved in running point on efforts to win international help for the Trump reelection campaign, according to the testimony. Rudy and Trump worked either with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo or around him throughout; his chief deputy resigned last week in protest that Pompeo had politicized the department. It was a week in which John Bolton, the former national security adviser, was said to see Rudy’s involvement as a “hand grenade” against national security.
This was not about a single phone call. It was a plot that ran against all restraints of U.S. law.
Every time Trump spoke this week, he made his situation, and that facing the country, worse. He attacked the Speaker, Democrats, tried to get a condemnation resolution passed against Rep. Adam Schiff, D-CA, who heads the intelligence committee, derided former general and Defense Secretary James Mattis, equivocated about Rudy Giuliani’s indicted Ukrainian partners, both distanced and embraced Rudy himself, and generally slung mud in every direction without realizing that, like his absurd letter to Turkish leader Erdogan, would land on his own head.
The contrasts in reality and the obvious hypocrisies abound.
Republicans want us to see evil in Hunter Biden working for an energy company in Ukraine while his father, Democrat Joe Biden, joined a chorus of European voices in calling for replacement of the then-top Ukrainian prosecutor. But they don’t want to acknowledge that Trump’s own children are working in the White House while making millions from their businesses, or involving themselves directly in politicking, even in engaging in shady meetings with Russian officials.
Rudy Giuliani wants us to see his efforts as heroic, when it has emerged that he is making $500,000 for representing Ukrainians involved in, yes, corruption in Ukraine.
Trump and his cadre of House Republicans are calling for transparency and due process while seeking to unmask the White House whistleblower who started this latest chapter while stonewalling any appearances by federal government officials before congressional committees that Trump calls a “kangaroo” court. Meanwhile, yet another Giuliani associate in the dealings has been arrested by the FBI, further endangering Giuliani himself.
Set the whistleblower report aside. We have had a half-dozen White House national security officials who have testified to the reality and details of a White House campaign to use the Oval Office to trade weapons aid to Ukraine for an agreement to re-open investigations of the Bidens, in search of partisan political dirt. These actions are wrong and illegal. They also are impeachable as abuse of power.
Plus, we continue to hear new reports about Trump himself: ProPublica got its hands on tax documents that show Trump cheated on valuing his properties overly high for loans, and overly low for taxes — a practice experts call “fraud.” Other courts are still weighing whether Trump’s bankers must disclose Trump’s tax information and other financial information.
Plus the announcement that the White House will hold the next G-7 international meetings at Trump’s Miami Doral property is bound to end up boomeranging in these impeachment talks. It appears to be a prime example of breaching the Constitutional ban on emoluments — financial benefits to the president.
We’re on a path now, meaning that the House will have the votes — once they decide they have the gumption or see the legal advantage — to make the charges official. It means there will be a target on Senate Republicans to decide whether partisan politics is more important than rule of law.
Let’s hope we get it right.