Terry H. Schwadron
Oct. 4, 2019
It now seems clear: We have a president who governs by conspiracy theory.
With Truth receding far into the rear-view mirror, Donald Trump walked out of the White House yesterday and, stunningly, doubled down on his illegal outreach to foreign countries to invite China to join Ukraine into launching investigations to dirty up Democratic rival Joe Biden. If there had been any debate among Republicans about whether the Trump phone call summary reflected a public ask to Ukraine for an investigation to sully Biden, extending the call to China in a open, uncomplicated, normalizing sort of way should make the facts of the impeachment debate something on which everyone can agree.
There was no claim that it was a joke, and no attempt to hide it. This was Trump rising on his hind legs to bay outwardly at the moon that China, too, should help his political effort — in brazen illegal abuse of presidential power.
And yet, with very, very few exceptions, the silence from Republicans is overwhelming.
Instead, we saw Republican congressmen emerging from a session with former Ukraine envoy Kurt Volker doing their best to argue that the testimony had not proved anything towards impeachment.
That in itself seemed at odds with the report in The Washington Post that Volker was said to have testified that he repeatedly told Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani that the Ukrainian officials offering derogatory information about the former vice president and his son were unreliable.
Meanwhile, The New York Times reported that two Trump envoys to Ukraine, Volker and Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, drafted a statement in August for Ukraine’s that would have committed Ukraine to pursuing investigations sought by Trump into his political rivals, according to three people briefed on the effort said.
We have a full-blown mess with daily developments that stretch credulity — not about illegalities and abuse of power — but rather about whether the widening circle of people touched by Trumpian magic have any sense about them at all, about whether they even recognize what is true, consistent or even reasonable.
We had Vice President Mike Pence, on tape, reminding all that reaching out to foreign governments for participation in domestic politics is a no-no, only to find out that Pence’s defense for going to Ukraine to do exactly that was somehow pure of spirit. We are supposed to swallow whole the idea that Pence’s staffer who took part in the July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenyy somehow never told him that Trump indicated that promised defensive weapons would be sent to Kiyv as soon as Zelenyy did Trump a favor — dirtying Biden.
We’re supposed to fully accept that Giuliani either was fully authorized by the State Department to pursue a re-opened Biden investigation in Ukraine or that he was merely a vessel for Trump’s personal needs, which were and have remained totally pure.
We are expected to believe that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the former CIA director, who sat in on the phone call that there was no linkage between weapons and the requested favor.
Well, Trump himself blew all that out of the water again yesterday, by just blurting out that not only Ukraine, but China too — the same China that wants to end the trade wars — should be starting a major investigation of allegations involving Biden and his son, Hunter, for trading on the former vice president’s family ties.
Mind you, each day, we keep hearing that there is no evidence of wrongdoing by Biden or Hunter Biden — however it may leave shadows of using his father’s connection to join a group that advised others about foreign investments. Investigators, reporters, foreign governments and prosecutors all say there was nothing to investigate here as potential crimes.
At the same time, we learned from the State Department’s own IG, its internal governance officer, about Giuliani dropping off documents about Biden wrongdoing that basically just repeated the same debunked conspiracy theories that have been battered down time after time.
All of which makes it ever more weird that Trump would emerge from the White House to give voice — and expand to China — the desire to govern by conspiracy plots.
In case there was a question, Ellen Weintraub, headof the Federal Election Commission tweeted yesterday after the president’s remarks that such an act is illegal as accepting help from a foreign government.
Let’s be clear: The act here is an abuse of power, whether the House impeaches, whether the Senate votes him guilty, and whether he is ousted from office.