MSNBC anchor Brian Williams always begins his segments by stating the number of days we have spent under the Trump administration. Williams’ opening line somehow suggests that the Trump administration’s days are numbered.
This administration has survived many scandals that would normally lead to a president stepping down or suffering unimaginable political disasters. The firing of James Comey in May 2017 is the first of many such scandals. Then the administration survived a government shutdown, endless probes of his cabinet members, a hush money payment to a porn star, to name just a few. In each of these instances, we believed we had seen a new low in the Trump administration. Yet, the administration seemed to go even lower. The latest scandal in the Trump administration is actually capable of bringing down this house of cards.
In August 2019, an anonymous whistleblower delivered a complaint to the chairmen of the intelligence committees in both the House and Senate. The complaint, addressed to Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina and Representative Adam Schiff of California, expressed the whistleblower’s “urgent concern” over information that the author had received. The complaint stated that the President of the United States “is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S Election.” Allegedly, the President was “pressuring a foreign country to investigate one of the President’s main domestic political rivals.” According to the report, Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General Barr are involved in this effort.
These efforts of Donald Trump represent a gross violation and utter disrespect to the office of the Presidency and the Constitution itself. Stephen Colbert is accurate in depicting that the Trump administration is comparable to that of an organized crime, but without the “organized” part.
The key to this case is a call that President Trump made to the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The complaint stated that after exchanging basic pleasantries, the President used this call not to discuss US-Ukraine relations, but “used the remainder of his call to advance his personal interests.”
Personal interests here refer to Trump’s willingness to do everything to get himself re-elected. The whistleblower complaint explained that Trump “sought to pressure the Ukrainian leader to take actions to help the President’s 2020 re-election bid.” Trump insisted that Zelenskyy investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter’s activities in Ukraine. Aside from telling a foreign country to investigate a political rival, Trump also insisted that the Ukrainian President “assist in purportedly uncovering that allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S presidential election originated in Ukraine, with a specific request that the Ukrainian leader locate and turn over servers used by the Democratic National Committee.” Trump personally designated Barr and Giuliani as his “envoys” to Zelenskyy.
One of the more interesting aspect of this complaint is the revelation that White House staffers had been expressing concern about what they saw as abuses of power they had witnessed by the President. The complaint states further that discussions were held as to how best to respond to the President’s phone call.
The nature of the calls Trump made was disturbing enough to members of the White House that they decided to launch concerted efforts to “lock-down all records of the phone call.”
The complaint wrote that the President’s actions “constitute as a serious or flagrant problem, abuse, or violation of law or Executive Order,” and that Trump’s actions would cause serious damage to US efforts to curb foreign interference in elections.
It was also recently revealed that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had listened in on the President’s call, and questions were raised as to why Pompeo would let the President of the United States misuse American diplomacy for personal gains.
Former New York Mayor Giuliani was also asked by various committees within the House of Representatives to turn over documents relating to his communications with Ukrainian officials.
A Ten-Day Ordeal for the Trump Administration
The Washington Post broke the story on September 18th, 2019, explaining that the whistleblower complaint related to a communication between Trump and “a foreign leader” that included a promise that was “regarded as so troubling.” In the next few days, a media frenzy ensued in the attempt to identify which “foreign leader” was involved in the call with President Trump.
Trump shocked everyone with his stunning admission regarding the call, as he confirmed that he had asked President Zelenskyy to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter. This is a clear case of collaboration with a foreign power to investigate a domestic political rival. In other words, Trump sought to “collect dirt” on Joe Biden in order to use it for his own personal advantage in the US 2020 presidential election campaign.
House Democrats had had enough, and Speaker Pelosi formally announced that the House would begin a formal impeachment inquiry stemming directly from the call that the President made to the Ukrainian leader.
Then on September 25th, the White House released the transcripts of the call, which did not help at all in their efforts to control the narrative. The “dam broke.” Representative Adam Schiff, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, spoke of the calls as a “mafia-style shakedown” of a foreign leader.
It was also discovered last week that the White House, during Trump’s administration, has generally been protecting “politically-sensitive” transcripts and information. This is in contrast to what is standard protective measures for things relating to matters of national security. This showed that the White House attempted to cover up not only the Ukraine transcripts, but also other “politically-sensitive” material. What other transcripts is this White House is hiding from us?
Making things worse for Trump, the acting Director of National Intelligence, Joseph Maguire, noted in his testimony to the House his full support of the whistleblower’s actions, noting that the complaint was “totally unprecedented.”
Trump’s response included his typical soundbites, mostly tweeting that this inquiry is a “witch-hunt” and “presidential harassment.” Trump attacked the whistleblower as a “spy,” accusing the individual of treason.
Republicans in both houses of Congress are divided on the issue. Some, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, are openly dismissing the Democrats’ inquiry. Senator Mitt Romney of Utah expressed his concern, though said that all facts from the case must first be heard. And Will Hurd, Representative from Texas, argued that the complaint deserves to be investigated further.
The Democrats will begin their impeachment inquiry by subpoenaing documents and calling witnesses to testify on the matter in the next few weeks. Members of Trump’s inner circle, including Secretary of State Pompeo, have already rejected their subpoena requests.
It is the personal belief of this writer that an impeachment inquiry is necessary. Anyone who accuses the Democrats of launching an impeachment inquiry only for political purposes has failed to see the gravity of the damage this President has already done to his office, as well as his betrayal of the oath of office he took in January 2017.
We have also seen a passive GOP-majority Congress that has not held this President accountable for his actions. We have seen a White House staff and Cabinet that offers blind loyalty to the President, rather than loyalty to the country — shown by their obvious attempts to cover up this serious matter, and perhaps other matters that we haven’t yet uncovered.
The New York Times Editorial Board recently published their argument that closely reflects my opinion on impeachment:
“A president’s use of his power for his own political gain, at the expense of the public interest, is the quintessence of an impeachable offense. It was, in fact, one of the examples the Constitution’s framers deployed to explain what would constitute ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’, the standard for impeachment.”
When the public interest is severely threatened by the will of a single man, this is where the line has to be drawn.