A Shameful Abuse of Congressional Power

The rise of the hot air balloon of impeaching President Trump has taken place without any attention to several material factors that assure it is not an airworthy concept and is doomed to a hard landing.

First, and as I have been writing and saying until I am almost blue in the face, not one scintilla of evidence has been adduced that President Trump was seeking a false judgment on the conduct in Ukraine of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. He was asking for an investigation, not seeking to dictate the conclusion. Trump said to President Volodymyr Zelensky in his famous July 25 telephone call that it “looked horrible,” but was clear he was seeking a neutral judgment of whether there had been influence-peddling or other wrongdoing. There is absolutely no legal or ethical problem with that, so this entire controversy has been even more fatuous and unfounded than it appears.

The foreign service witnesses made evident throughout the unspeakable proceedings of the House Intelligence Committee their personal and policy animosity to Trump. Some—such as Fiona Hill, English as she is—communicated their animus more graciously than others (namely, the stuffed-shirted Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman). Nevertheless, none of them suggested they believed Trump was agitating for a false accusation against the Bidens.

The government of the United States, administration and Congress, and the entire American population have a right to know if the former two-term vice president was involved in influence-peddling in Ukraine (or elsewhere), and since it has been raised, they all have an equal right to be reassured that he was not. (What Hunter Biden may have done on his own is of no concern to anyone but himself and, if it was improper, prosecutors.)

None of these histrionics and deluges of defamatory argument that have empurpled the airwaves have created the least suggestion of anything improper about President Trump having asked whether a former vice president and prominent candidate for president had or had not committed crimes in office involving a foreign country. It is a howling mystery why that fact has not been emphasized. One can only assume that it will be if this nonsense is dumped into the lap of the United States Senate for a trial.

Bunk Allegations

It is also the fact that the president has the absolute constitutional right to conduct foreign policy as he judges, so long as his own conduct is not in itself illegally motivated. Given that President Trump advanced to Ukraine the aid Congress had approved, and sold (effectively gave) that country the Javelin anti-tank missile that the Obama Administration had withheld, and that the investigation he had wished for has not occurred, there is no basis for alleging that there was anything improper in this president’s management of relations with Ukraine.

Trump was correct in requiring evidence that Ukraine act on its terrible problem of official corruption, and the foreign service officers who have testified have confirmed that he did exactly that. The president’s policy, though it unfolded in his usual somewhat unorthodox way, successfully reconciled and united the legitimate objectives of deterring and repelling Russian violations of the Ukraine border without humiliating Russia so that it might recoil to a closer intimacy with China, and incentivizing reform in Ukraine.

The allegation that is the source of the impeachment inquiry is on its face, bunk. The president certainly made it clear that he wanted the Bidens investigated by the Ukraine government, and it is probably correct that this wish was in the combination of his motives for approving the payment of the money Congress had voted for Ukraine. But that it was the primary consideration for approving such aid, the famous quid pro quo, has not been remotely proved. It has not even really been claimed by the Schiffite witnesses. None of them claimed that it was the sole motive or the principal motive; the best they could do was surmise, almost entirely on the basis of hearsay, that it was among his motives. This has no probative value at all; it is utterly worthless evidence in the allegation of a crime.

The Justice Department has already ruled that the investigation of Biden, had it occurred, (and lost in all this confusion is the fact that such an investigation should be made), did not constitute for legal purposes a thing of “value” and was therefore ineligible as consideration that would make foreign aid conditionalized upon it a crime. That is, even if the president had clearly stated that aid from the United States to Ukraine was given on the promise of an investigation of the Bidens, that still does not constitute leveraging payments of tax-paid funds to a foreign government in exchange for something which is in itself corrupt and incriminating.

And even if the president had made such aid to Ukraine conditional on an investigation of the Bidens, (no evidence of that), and had directed that the investigation produce a condemnation of the Bidens (no evidence of that either), that this was the reason for giving the aid (even though the investigation hasn’t happened and the Ukrainian president has denied it and there is no evidence of it), and even if there was reason to argue that this was something of value for the president to receive, (extremely tenuous and doubtful and rejected by the independent opinion of the justice department), there is absolutely no constitutional or jurisprudential reason to believe that this constitutes a high crime or misdemeanor, equivalent to bribery or treason as the Constitution requires for the impeachment and removal of a president.

A Pastiche of Gossip and Smears

Finally, the sleazy Schiffite proceedings at the House Intelligence Committee were so lopsided, arbitrary, and contemptuous of the rights of the Republican minority on the committee and those of the president as the investigated party, no American court could possibly accept a requested prosecution that emerged from such a vitiated and tainted proceeding.

Given all of the foregoing facts—which are indisputable—the country, despite the wall-to-wall disinformation effort of the non-Fox media, seems already to be asking why this unmitigated foolishness is distracting the attention of the country and the world at all. Any Democratic member of the House of Representatives who votes to send this pastiche of gossip and smears to an impeachment trial, and any senator who votes to convict on it, should be removed by their electors at the first opportunity, and many will be.

Representative Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) is an abominable and totalitarian sleaze-merchant and procedural assassin, and the country cannot have failed to notice that, too. (Maybe Kanye West should run against him for the alleged honor of representing Hollywood.) All that can be said is that Schiff is a less incompetent assassin than Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), the porcine and mendacious bungler wallowing in the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, who struck out with hearings on Robert Mueller’s feebly attempted putsch.

This entire impeachment inquiry has been a disgrace, a shameful abuse of powers, and the authors of it should be punished as only the voters can do. If it goes one faltering step further, they will be.

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About Conrad Black

Conrad Black has been one of Canada’s most prominent financiers for 40 years, and was one of the leading newspaper publishers in the world as owner of the British telegraph newspapers, the Fairfax newspapers in Australia, the Jerusalem Post, Chicago Sun-Times and scores of smaller newspapers in the U.S., and most of the daily newspapers in Canada. He is the author of authoritative biographies of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Richard Nixon, one-volume histories of the United States and Canada, and most recently of Donald J. Trump: A President Like No Other. He is a member of the British House of Lords as Lord Black of Crossharbour.

Photo: Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images

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