Anne Applebaum nails it at The Atlantic. Here is a taste:
Those who live outside the Fox News bubble and intend to remain there do not, of course, need to learn any of this stuff. Judging by what has been published, the very worst thing that Tyrmand’s email cache could reveal (if it is authentic) is that some unattractive people sought to use Hunter Biden’s surname and connections to get business deals or score a visit to the White House for their clients. But we already know about Hunter Biden’s involvement with unattractive people, and his struggles with addiction; we also know that, under normal circumstances, dozens of people visit the White House every day. On the grand scale of misdeeds committed by politicians and their relatives, this kind of thing barely registers. Compare that with, say, the Trump family’s well-documented hotel deal with an Azerbaijani business family linked to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. Or the Trump family’s blatant use of its status to funnel money to its own companies. Or the Trumps’ illegal abuse of their charitable foundation. Or the president’s secret Chinese business bank account. The Trump family is a living, breathing, walking conflict of interest—so much so that much of Donald Trump’s foreign policy is most easily explained through the lens of his personal greed and his hotel investments, not as the emanation of any kind of American national interest.
Read the entire piece here.
I am just kidding, but this was certainly strange:
Let’s summarize and breakdown this argument:
- Dershowitz says that a president can engage in three types of quid pro quos: for the public good, for the political interest of the president, or for the financial interest of the president. It is often hard to distinguish which motive is at work at any given time.
- Trump, like any president, believes that his election is in the “public interest.” As a result, his call to investigate the Bidens was perfectly fine. It is worth noting here that Dershowitz’s entire argument is built on the idea that Trump did ask the Ukrainians to investigate his political rival. Not everyone on the Trump defense team seems to agree with this.
- If Trump does something that he believes will get him get elected, “in the public interest,” then it cannot be “the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.” In other words, Trump can do whatever he wants because he believes his presidency to be in the national interest. As several commentators have been pointing out in the last couple of hours, this is the equivalent of Richard Nixon telling David Frost “when the president does it that means that it is not illegal.”
- When Abraham Lincoln told William Tecumseh Sherman to “let the troops go to Indiana so that they can vote for the Republican Party” it was not an impeachable offense because Lincoln believed his own election was necessary for victory in the Civil War. I am still trying to figure out how Dershowitz thinks this example has anything to do with the current impeachment case. Lincoln was not soliciting foreign interference in an American election and withholding aid until he got it.
- It is dangerous to “psychoanalyze a president” or “get into the intricacies of the human mind.” I will let Adam Schiff handle this one in the video posted below.
- Presidents always balance national interest with motives rooted in party loyalties and personal interests when they make foreign policy decisions. It is thus impossible to understand which motives are corrupt and which ones are not. Again, I will let Schiff take this one.
Here is Schiff’s response:
This was one of the top moments of the entire trial. Schiff completely dismantled Dershowitz’s argument using the Harvard professor’s own method of argumentation.
As I see it, the House case is getting stronger by the day. This is happening for three reasons. First, Adam Schiff has been amazing. Second, the president has a weak defense. Third, John Bolton has a book manuscript.
- There was no quid pro quo (Jay Sekulow and Robert Cipollone).
- The Ukraine call was about “burden sharing.”
- Joe Biden, Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, Joe Biden, Joe Biden (Pam Bondi and Eric Herschmann).
- This impeachment is too partisan (multiple members of the defense team, including Ken Starr).
- This impeachment is too close in time to the last impeachment. We are in an “age of impeachment” and this is not good for the country (Starr).
- Trump is a corruption fighter and was investigating corruption in the Ukraine by calling for the investigation of Biden (multiple members of the defense team).
- The call was perfect (Cipollone). The call was not perfect (Robert Ray).
- There was a quid pro quo, but it doesn’t matter, because Trump did not commit crime (Dershowitz).
What a mess.
Unless something wild happens, the Senate will vote to keep Trump in office. But the GOP Senators who vote against removal need an argument to take to their constituencies. This is especially the case for the Senators who are up for reelection in November. The Trump defense team has offered an entire buffet of arguments. GOP Senators can pick the one that will work best with the people in their states. It doesn’t matter if the defense of Trump as a whole is coherent. It doesn’t matter if one presentation contradicts another presentation. There is something here for everyone.
Read the 6-page letter here.
Themes and commentary:
- Trump calls his impeachment an “unprecedented and unconstitutional abuse of power by Democrat Lawmakers unequaled in nearly two and a half centuries of American legislative history.” It is not unprecedented. It has happened twice before. It is not unconstitutional. It is not an abuse of power. It is fully within the power of the House to impeach. And I should also add that the Constitution is less than 250 years old.
- He says the “Articles of Impeachment” are “not recognizable under any standard of Constitutional theory, interpretation, or jurisprudence.” More than 500 legal scholars and over 750 American historians disagree.
- He says the “Articles of Impeachment” include no crimes, no misdemeanors, and no offenses whatsoever. You have cheapened the importance of the very ugly word, impeachment!” Just to be clear, a president does not need to commit a crime to be impeached. Impeachment is a political process.
- Trump writes: “By proceeding with your invalid impeachment, you are violating your oaths of office, you are breaking your allegiance to the Constitution, and you are declaring open war on American Democracy.” Actually, by impeaching the president, the House is following the Constitution. I’m not sure what Trump means by “Democracy” here, but the last time I checked democracy has something to do with the will of the people. Let’s remember that Trump lost the popular vote in 2016 by 3 million votes and about half the country wants him impeached and removed from office.
- Trump writes: “you [Pelosi] dare to invoke the Founding Fathers in pursuit of this election-nullification scheme–your spiteful actions display unfettered contempt for America’s founding and your egregious conduct threatens to destroy that which our Founders pledged their very lives to build.” I think Trump is equating “election-nullification scheme” with the articles of impeachment. If this is the case, then the House, by impeaching the president, is actually following what the founders laid out in the U.S. Constitution and the Federalist Papers. In other words, they are not showing “unfettered contempt” for the founders.
- Trump writes: “Even worse than offending the Founding Fathers, you are offending Americans of faith by continually saying ‘I pray for the President,’ when you know this statement is not true, unless it is meant in a negative sense. It is a terrible thing you are doing, but you will have to live with it, not I!” First, Trump obviously does not understand prayer. He cannot separate it from political partisanship. He is incapable of understanding the concept of praying for one’s enemies. Second, Trump is the one who must live this impeachment. Tomorrow he will be the third POTUS impeached. This will be his legacy.
- Trump continues to claim that he did not abuse power. The Ukraine call was “perfect.” He even appeals to Ukraine president Zelinsky as a witness.
- Trump again claims that Joe Biden used his position at Vice President to fire the Ukrainian prosecutor who was investigating his son’s company. First, Biden has been cleared of all wrongdoing. Second, Biden was going after a corrupt prosecutor–a prosecutor that most of America’s allies also wanted out of office.
- Trump calls the House’s article of impeachment on “obstruction of Congress” “preposterous” and “dangerous.” Actually, Trump did obstruct Congress on numerous occasions. Congress asked for witnesses and Trump did not allow them to testify.
- Trump writes, “Speaker Pelosi, you admitted just last week at a public forum that your party’s impeachment effort has been going on for ‘two and a half years,’ long before you ever heard about a phone call with Ukraine.” Indeed, some of the more progressive Democrats did call for Trump’s impeachment early, but Pelosi and Adam Schiff did not support impeachment before Ukraine. It was not until after the Ukraine call that most of the House members began taking impeachment seriously.
- Trump writes, “You and your party are desperate to distract from America’s extraordinary economy, incredible jobs boom, record stock market, soaring confidence, and flourishing citizens. Your party simply cannot compete with our record: 7 million new jobs, the lowest-ever unemployment for African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans….” Again, impeachment has nothing to do with the economy. The economy was doing pretty well when Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998. Trump is implying that he can do anything he wants as long as the economy is good.
- Trump makes an appeal to family: “You do not know, nor do you care, the great damage and hurt you have inflicted upon wonderful and loving members of my family.” I am sorry Trump’s family has to go through this, but I am having a hard time thinking about his family as “wonderful” and “loving.”
- Trump says that “more due process” was “afforded to those accused in the Salem Witch Trials.”
- Trump writes: “This is nothing more than an illegal, partisan attempted coup that will, based on recent sentiment, badly fail at the voting booth. You are not just after me, as President, you are after the entire Republican Party. But because of this colossal injustice, our party is more united than it has ever been before. History will judge you harshly as you proceed with this impeachment charade. Your legacy will be that of turning the House of Representatives from a revered legislative body into a Star Chamber of partisan persecution.”
- Most of the letter is an undisciplined rant. It is filled with Trumpisms–almost like an extended tweet. It reads as if Trump wrote a first draft and then someone edited it. Read it for yourself.
- Through the entire impeachment process Trump has said that he is not concerned about his legacy. This letter suggests that he is clearly concerned about it. It is written on White House letterhead. He wants future leaders to know he is innocent. As always, he is trying to control the narrative. The historians will sort it out.
- The letter is a revealing glimpse into the mind of this POTUS. I can’t imagine that anyone in the White House beyond Trump thinks that writing and sending this letter was a good idea. This is a presidential tantrum. Donald Trump continues to be unhinged. If the Senate does not remove him we can expect more of this next year.
Here is historian John Haas:
“Corruption So Foul: Joe Biden’s Conspiracy to Ruin America Forever and Why It’s Wrong to Profit from Family Connections in Politics,” a panel discussion at Hunterdom College, October 31, 2019 at 7:30.
Panelists will include Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Callista Gingrich, Elaine Chao-McConnell, Liz Cheney, Ronna Romney McDaniel, and many more.
I think Donald Trump Jr. was just added to the panel:
Addendum: No, this conference is not real. Apparently I needed to say this.