Cartoon by Peter Kuper
All of Trump's Defenses Against Impeachment Are Doomed
TIME: We’ve reached the part of this tired charade where even those who’ve tried to escape the obvious conclusion now know that the emperor has no clothes. The mounting evidence from career diplomats, and Trump’s own political appointees, has laid bare his self-serving ploy in Ukraine.
Many people have become numb to this Administration’s wrongdoing after almost three years of constant scandal. Some feel that no matter what Trump does, he’ll never be held accountable. Why should they invest time in today’s awful news, when it will give way in a few days or weeks without anything changing?
This is the challenge the Democrats face as they open public impeachment hearings this week. Can they get the country to pay attention? Can they produce a coherent narrative that will help people understand this most serious of Trump Administration debacles?
Trump has, per usual, thrown out a barrage of defenses, hoping something will stick. So far nothing has. Here are the key defenses he’s tried and those he’ll likely move on to next, and why they all fail.
The Defense: Trump’s July 25, 2019, call with new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was “perfect.”
The Reality: Despite what Trump has claimed repeatedly, anyone who followed the president’s directive to “read the transcript”— actually a memo of the conversation that at least one witness has told Congress excluded some pertinent information — knows that even this sanitized version of the President’s call exposes the scheme to public view. Rudy Giuliani, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and Trump appointees Ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland and Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker worked toward the call where Trump would tell Zelensky, “I would like you to do us a favor” and ask for the announcement of an investigation that everyone now knows was about Joe Biden and his son. Trump was intent on extracting the favor before he would permit the purchase of American military equipment and release over $400 million in aid to Ukraine, which suffered the loss of 13,000 people in five years during the conflict with Russia, and agree to meet with Zelensky. Far from a perfect call, it was a scheme to have a foreign country intervene in our election. It was so far off the mark that when White House officials learned about it, they stashed the record of it on a highly classified server, apparently in hopes it wouldn’t come to light. You don’t have to cover up legitimate government operations.
The Defense: The whistleblower must come forward and their identity must be exposed.
The Reality: Trump has called for the whistleblower’s name to be disclosed, but whistleblowers aren’t required to come forward and there are good reasons to protect them when they choose not to. Whistleblower laws protect the identity of these anonymous truthtellers so they can expose government abuse and fraud without subjecting themselves to workplace reprisals or worse. Even Senator Chuck Grassley, a Trump ally, said the whistleblower’s identity should be protected. Whistleblowers are tipsters whose information leads to opening an investigation. If the tip is untrue, the investigation will not pan out. But if it is — and virtually everything the whistleblower in this case said has been confirmed — then they have done an enormous service to the country. Here, aid for Ukraine was released just days short of a scheduled announcement by Zelensky on opening an investigation that could have affected the course of our future election. This is precisely what our founding fathers wanted to prevent when they condemned foreign influence in our elections. If the whistleblower isn’t a firsthand witness who’ll testify at trial, the tip ends their involvement. There isn’t a requirement in criminal cases that prosecutors disclose their identity if they don’t testify. And outing the whistleblower could deter future whistleblowers from coming forward >>>
Joyce White Vance is distinguished professor of the practice of law at the University of Alabama, a former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama and an NBC News and MSNBC legal analyst.