Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Arrogance on Parade

Gary Fouse

Pamela Karlan

I watched much but not all of the impeachment hearings today, and to me, the Democrats did not help their case for impeachment. Not only did they not move the needle in terms of changing anybody's opinion, especially those in Congress who will be voting, they gave the American public a view of academic arrogance with their 4 law professors who testified about whether Trump legally deserved to be impeached. (At least, that's the case with at least 2 of them. Three were pro-impeachment, and one -called by the Republicans- was against impeachment.)

Stanford Law School Professor Pamela Karlan and Harvard Law School Professor Noah Feldman came across as highly partisan, impassioned and arrogant advocates for removing President Trump. Karlan was especially shrill-yes, shrill- with her rants against Trump, even going so far as to make a joke at the expense of the President's son, Barron. (She later apologized, but added that she wished Trump would apologize for things he has said.) She said she was insulted that a Republican member of the committee had commented that she and the other three witnesses were not fact witnesses since they had no personal knowledge of the facts of the case other than having read them. Several times, it seemed she was about to lose her composure.

In contrast, Jonathan Turley of the George Washington University Law School, a liberal himself who voted against Trump, but who was called as a witness by the Republicans because he opposes this impeachment, showed class. Having watched him on TV for years, I consider him articulate and intellectually honest. He made his points very effectively, quite the opposite from Karlan, who when she wasn't railing against Trump, seemed to spend half of her time telling us about the law in Merry Olde England and someone named the Sheriff of Windsor. In short, she embarrassed herself. Feldman reminded me of one of those "I'll fight for you" lawyer commercials we see on TV all the time.

Who's next, Michael Avenatti?

Thursday, November 21, 2019

What If There Was a Quid Pro Quo?

Gary Fouse

Hat tip The Hill

Yesterday, Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland testified in his opening statement that there was a quid pro quo as to a presidential call with President Trump and a White House visit in exchange for Ukrainian President Zelenskyy committing to investigating Ukraine's alleged involvement in the 2016 US election and investigating the Bidens. He also presumed that military aid was tied to the above commitment by Zelenskyy. The testimony went back and forth with Democrats and Republicans making their own arguments about Sondland's presumptions and the one thing that Trump said directly to him over the phone. "I want nothing. No quid pro quo".

To the media, Sondland's testimony was a "bombshell" Last night on ABC Evening News, David Muir and his correspondents highlighted Sondland's presumptions while explaining away what Trump actually said to Sondland, pointing out that this conversation occurred after the White House had become aware of the whistle blower's complaint. The media concluded that Trump was covering his backside. Meanwhilke, the headline caption on the TV screen was "Bombshell testimony". It was anything but.

At this point, it is pretty clear that the House will vote to impeach Trump, and the Senate will vote not to remove him. The Democrats seem to be pinning their hopes on some smoking gun that will show up proving there was a quid pro quo.  So what if this is true? So what?

My own common sense tells me that in all likelihood, there was a quid pro quo. Trump did want Ukraine to investigate that country's alleged involvement in the 2016 election and he did want them to investigate the entire Burisma scandal, which includes having an unqualified Hunter Biden on its board of directors and Joe Biden's successful demand that the prosecutor investigating Burisma be fired if Ukraine wanted one billion dollars in aid.

In the case of Trump, Republicans point out that Ukraine got the aid, the phone call from Trump, and the meeting with Trump (at the UN) while no investigation was launched.

But let us assume that there was a quid pro quo. Is this not a common part of international diplomacy? For example, is there a quid pro quo when Trump conducts his diplomacy with North Korea? If Norea Korea halts its nuclear weapon program, the US will do this or that. Of course.

But Gary, you say: Trump wanted Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, who is a front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020. Biden is his political rival.

True. But does that change things?

US foreign aid is hinged to the receiving country not being engaged in corruption, however vague that condition is. Ukraine is corrupt, as are many other countries receiving US aid. In return for our aid, they are supposed to at least demonstrate they are taking steps to fight corruption in order that they may be "certified". Often, that is a sham because it is deemed in our interest to continue aid to a particular country. When I worked with DEA in Thailand in the 1970s, that country was riddled with corruption-and still is. They get plenty of US aid. I could go on and on.

Part of the corruption angle in Ukraine is that they allegedly improperly engaged in meddling in out 2016 election. The controversy over Crowdstrike and DNC hacking, and whether it was done by Ukraine or Russia is a matter of dispute. It is not a matter of dispute that during the election, the Ukrainian ambassador to the US wrote an op-ed criticizing then candidate Trump. The Ukrainian embassy in Washington has confirmed that they were approached by a DNC operative during the campaign who tried to enlist their help in digging up dirt on Trump and Paul Manafort. Rightfully or wrongfully, Trump likely feels that he was the victim of a lot of dirty tricks during the election, and that Ukraine had a role. After all, a Ukrainian court issued a statement that there had been meddling by their country. So is Trump justified in asking Ukraine to investigate that matter? I think he is.

As to the more important matter of the Bidens, that is also a legitimate issue, and if Joe Boden gets the nomination, expect to hear much more about it in those campaign ads. Then-Vice President Biden traveled to Ukraine and demanded that the president fire the chief prosecutor-who was investigating Burisma, a company accused of corruption, which had put Hunter Biden on its board of directors though he had no qualifications for the post. Biden told the president that if the prosecutor wasn't fired within 6 hours, Ukraine would not get the aid it had been promised-some one billion dollars. Within 6 hours, the prosecutor was fired. How do we know all this? Biden bragged about it on tape while speaking before the Council on Foreign Relations. Of course, he left out the information about his son being on the board of Burisma and that Burisma was under investigation.

Quid pro quo.

So let us assume the worst: Suppose Trump did have a quid pro quo that included an investigation of the Bidens, and let's assume he did it for purely political reasons. What is worse, the action of Trump in his phone call to Zelenskyy or Biden's demand to the previous Ukrainian president?

And here is another point: If Trump cannot ask for an investigation of Biden because he is a potential opponent in a future election, doesn't that give Biden-or anyone else in a similar position, literally, a license to steal? Is Biden immune from an investigation into his action simply because he is running for Trump's job? No.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Adam Schiff's Gross Mischaracterization of the Trump-Zelensky Call

Gary Fouse

Today, Adam Schiff (D-CA), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, did something truly despicable. Already having seen the unredacted transcript of President Trump's July 25 conversation with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, he then made up his own dialogue and read it into his opening statement. Below is what Schiff said today in opening the hearing with the testimony of National Intelligence Director Joseph McGuire.

Here is the transcript itself as turned over to Congress. Nowhere does it say things like Trump telling Zelensky, " I want you to make up dirt on my political opponent".

Schiff is now claiming that his words were meant as a parody of what Trump told Zelensky. It is true that in his remarks, Schiff used terms like, "in essence" in presenting his version. But Schiff is not a stupid man. Far from it. He structured his words very carefully as to give the viewer a certain impression while adding just enough language to give him his escape hatch when his mischaracterization was pointed out-as it quickly was.

In addition, Schiff is not a man who deals in parody. Humor is not in his bag.He presents himself as a serious, reasoned, and  moral voice. It is a facade. Schiff is a deeply partisan politician who deals in cleverly disguised dishonesty. This is a man who for months claimed to have the evidence that Trump colluded with the Russians-evidence that has never materialized on a narrative that has been discredited by none other than Robert Mueller himself.

Now come this latest rabbit hole about Ukraine and Schiff is leading the charge armed with false information. Did Schiff, in his opening remarks, make any mention of the underlying issue behind the Trump-Zelensky conversation-that then VP Biden threatened the then-Ukrainian president with cancellation of one billion dollars in US loan guarantees if he didn't fire the chief prosecutor investigating Burisma Holdings, who had mysteriously placed Joe's son, Hunter Biden, on its board of directors and paid him some 3 million dollars over the course of three years? Biden himself is on videotape telling an audience that he did exactly that and got the results he wanted. Should that not be investigated by both countries?

One can only pray that the vast majority of the American public will see this for what it is-the latest made up scandal in a never-ending quest to remove Trump from office.