Issues & Insights

The Impeachment Report Is Damning All Right … For Democrats

I&I Editorial

Amid falling support for impeachment and worries that it will backfire against Democrats, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff released a 300-page report he says proves that President Donald Trump committed high crimes and misdemeanors worthy of removing him from office.

And if you read only the summary, you might think they’ve got the goods.

The House impeachment report claims to have “uncovered a months-long effort by President Trump to use the powers of his office to solicit foreign interference on his behalf in the 2020 election.” (You can read the report here.)

It says that the “scheme subverted U.S. foreign policy toward Ukraine and undermined our national security in favor of two politically motivated investigations that would help his presidential reelection campaign.”

And it argues that “To compel the Ukrainian president to do his political bidding, President Trump conditioned two official acts on the public announcement of the investigations: a coveted White House visit and critical U.S. military assistance Ukraine needed to fight its Russian adversary.”

So the Democrats’ entire impeachment case rests on two pillars. First, that Trump threatened national security by withholding an aid package to Ukraine. And, second, that he did so in order to get Ukraine’s new president to publicly announce investigations into two supposedly bogus scandals – Joe Biden’s son, and Ukraine’s efforts to keep Trump out of the White House – simply to wound Biden politically.

But read into the report, and then look through the Republican response, and you come to realize that the Democrats fail to support either claim. In fact, in some ways, they make Trump’s case for him.

The report never actually accuses Trump of engaging in bribery.

Despite all the foreboding tones and dark insinuation, the impeachment report never actually accuses Trump of bribery. In fact, the word “bribery” appears only four times in the entire 300-page document: once when it quotes the impeachment clause of the Constitution, twice in reference to accusations of bribery against Biden, and once in defending the impeachment inquiry itself.

Trump’s actual crime apparently was not following the “script.”

Despite its attempt to paint a picture of Trump as a corrupt leader, the report actually showcases that at the heart of the impeachment are the hurt feelings of career bureaucrats.

The report says that, in advance of Trump’s call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, “NSC staff had prepared a standard package of talking points for the president based on official U.S. policy. The talking points included recommendations to encourage President Zelensky to continue to promote anti-corruption reforms in Ukraine, a pillar of American foreign policy in the country as far back as its independence in the 1990s when Ukraine first rid itself of Kremlin control.

“This call would deviate significantly from that script.”

Removing a president from office for not sticking to a set of bureaucratic talking points would set an interesting precedent.

The hold on aid wasn’t mysterious after all.

The impeachment report repeatedly claims that the reason for holding back the aid package was a big mystery. But the report itself inadvertently solves that puzzle.

It notes that soon after the Defense Department put out a press release announcing military aid in 2018, Trump started asking questions, including one “related to international contributions.” It quotes one official saying that it was “relatively unusual” to receive such questions from the president.

So Trump appears to be guilty of asking tough questions about an aid package, and expressing concerns that other countries aren’t ponying up – an objection Trump has raised repeatedly when it comes to Europe’s free-riding off the U.S., and a complaint he specifically brought up during the call with Zelensky.

The report also manages to make it clear that, apart from anything having to do with Biden or the 2016 elections, Trump didn’t think much of Ukraine, even after it elected a reformist president.

Schiff’s report recounts how after the Ukrainian elections, Ambassadors Gordon Sondland and Kurt Volker, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson visited the country and came back impressed with the new president. They “’took turns’ making their case ‘that this is a new crowd, it’s a new president’ in Ukraine who was ‘committed to doing the right things,’ including fighting corruption.”

The impeachment report goes on to say, however, that “President Trump reacted negatively to the positive assessment of Ukraine. Ambassador Volker recalled that President Trump said Ukraine is ‘a terrible place, all corrupt, terrible people’ and was ‘just dumping on Ukraine.’”

Trump’s take might have been wrong, but being wrong about the political situation in another country can’t be grounds for impeachment.

So it appears Trump had two reasons to put the aid package on hold.

Trump’s open disdain for Ukraine also helps explain why Zelensky, in the call with Trump, was emphatic that he plans to “drain the swamp” and that “We brought in many, many new people. Not the old politicians, not the typical politicians, because we want to have a new format and a new type of government.”

Schiff ignores relevant context whenever it conflicts with the narrative.

While Democrats act as though the delay in the military aid package is extremely suspicious, such holds are, in fact, relatively common. There had even been a prior hold on Ukraine aid under Trump. As the Republican report explains, “Catherine Croft, a former NSC director, offered an example in her deposition, explaining that OMB paused the sale of Javelin missiles to Ukraine in November or December 2017. This pause, too, was eventually lifted and Ukraine received the missiles.” (You can read the Republican report here.)

And while the Democrats insist that “The allegations about Vice President Biden were without evidence, and the U.S. Intelligence Community had unanimously determined that Russia, not Ukraine, interfered in the 2016 election to help the candidacy of Donald Trump,” Trump was well within his rights to raise these issues.

After all, there really was something sleazy going on with the fact that Hunter Biden had taken an extremely lucrative position on the board of a corrupt Ukrainian energy company while his father was Obama’s point man on Ukraine.

And despite the Democrats’ insistence that there is no evidence Ukraine tried to derail Trump’s election, there is ample evidence that it did. As the Republican response correctly points out, “Democrats have posited a false choice: that influence in the 2016 election is binary – it could have been conducted by Russia or by Ukraine, but not both. This is nonsense.”

The report buries Ambassador Volker’s impeachment-damning statement to the committee.

From the Republican report, we learn that Volker, “the key American interlocutor trusted by the Ukrainian government,” told investigators that the Ukrainians “never raised concerns to him” about the hold on military aid “until after the pause became public in late August.” In other words, after Trump’s supposed quid-pro-quo call with Zelensky.

When Schiff tried to get Volker to testify in his closed-door deposition that the Ukrainian government must have felt pressure to investigate Biden once it learned that the security assistance was delayed, Volker hit back.

Here’s what he said in response:

But, Congressman, this is why I’m trying to say the context is different, because at the time they learned that, if we assume it’s August 29th, they had just had a visit from the National Security Advisor, John Bolton. That’s a high level meeting already. He was recommending and working on scheduling the visit of President Zelensky to Washington. We were also working on a bilateral meeting to take place in Warsaw on the margins of a commemoration on the beginning of World War II. And in that context, I think the Ukrainians felt like things are going the right direction, and they had not done anything on – they had not done anything on an investigation, they had not done anything on a statement, and things were ramping up in terms of their engagement with the administration. So I think they were actually feeling pretty good by then.

We could go on with other examples of how this report falls far short of justifying Trump’s removal.

Suffice it say that even Democrats must realize that Schiff and company have only dug their impeachment hole deeper with this remarkably thin and tendentious report.

– Written by the Issues & Insights editorial board.

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  • I do believe that the Rule of Law and Truth and Fact have been forgotten by Schiff and Nadler and the democrats. As attorneys you would think they know what these items are. They have all changed their tune since the Nixon and Clinton impeachments.

    • I seriously doubt that the word “forgotten” is applicable. “ignore” is closer to the truth.

    • I think they know perfectly well the rule of law, facts and truth. They are just not interested in them when they stand in the way of their political agenda.

  • I still think Trump’s chances of surviving impeachment are 50/50.
    You never count Satan out. Just when you think you have him under control, he pops out with a new surprise.

    • Really, at this point what new surprises could Schiff have? Satan’s shot his wad; “Cocaine” Mitch is chomping at the bit to start the most entertaining impeachment process since Bill was making specially flavored cigars.

  • The fact of the matter is that the administration had until the end of the fiscal year to disburse the aid to Ukraine.
    They met the deadline.
    The Democrats could care less about aid to Ukraine. They only want to impeach Trump as well as get Democrats elected to the Presidency or Congress. The impeachment hearings are being used as a means of interfering in the 2020 election process.
    The Ukrainian government admitted and apologized for interfering in the 2016 election. When Trump sought cooperation in investigating 2016 election interference and Biden’s conflict of interest in forcing the firing of the prosecutor investigating Burisma, many bureaucrats who had been involved in the Biden deal panicked, changed whistleblower rules on hearsay, and approached Democrats in Congress for damage control.

  • Three of the four witnesses scheduled for today have baggage. Noah Feldman has been seeking impeachment since 2017. He claimed Trump was guilty of defamation yet Trump was later proved correct. Michael Gerhardt post Clinton impeachment wrote of only bipartisan agreement in impeachment was correct. He also specified fair rules in committee hearings. Neither of which happens in either Intelligence or Judiciary. Pamela Karlan is a $1000 contributor to Warren’s campaign.
    On another note how is it that Schiff has transcripts of Nunes, Guliani and John Solomon’s phone calls?

  • Corrupt intent: “Impeachment Report Says Trump Solicited Foreign Election Interference”

    Legal intent: Pres. Trump believed the Hunter/Joe Biden story, having been recently exposed to the public, was a horrific example of what he pledged he would clean up during his campaign and was elected to office to do.

    Since Donald Trump is not below the law, he wears the cloak of innocence until removed by the preponderance of the evidence. But more importantly, he is also the chief executive officer of a co-equal branch of government and must be treated equally — fairly — which he has not been in the House impeachment process, therefore; this process is itself unconstitutional.

  • From everything we heard leaked to the press vs. what we actually saw the Dems had nothing but a group of people testifying that they were involved a childhood game of telephone. Not ONE had any direct knowledge of anything the President had told them to do that might have been impeachable. Their assertions were based on their “feelings” not orders from above.

  • “The hold on aid wasn’t mysterious after all. ”

    In addition to what the article says, the hold was actually required by law. The NDAA, which passed with the votes of both Pelosi and Schiff, requires the president to certify that a country is working to root out internal corruption before aid money can be released.

    The Elephant in this Living Room is the fact that Biden has openly confessed to a quid pro quo with the Ukraine that his own people claim is a High Crime. (In fact the same crime they’re accusing Trump of). Trump is not only allowed but required to try to look into it.

  • In this article is mentioned,quote “There really was something sleazy going on with the fact that Hunter Biden had taken an extremely lucrative position on the board.”
    This lucrative position made him $500,000 a year. Really enormous amount of money.
    On the other hand Ivanka Trump and her husband, full time advisers to president Trump made that year only pitiful 80 million part time.
    But this Biden, we should do some thing about it. He is making so much money.

  • “And despite the Democrats’ insistence that there is no evidence Ukraine tried to derail Trump’s election, there is ample evidence that it did.”

    Baloney. Cite to a *reputable* source, please.

  • If you insert Biden for Trump through out the document, you’d actually have the truth. Vice President Biden, with the knowledge and support of President Obama, threatened to withhold foreign aid to the Ukraine unless they ended an investigation into Burisma. This is undeniable. Biden not only admitted it, he bragged about it. So, no big deal? Well, yes it is a big deal. The only reason to focus on this investigation is that it reveals Joe and Hunter’s corruption and abuse of power. So, Obama/Biden blackmailed a foreign government for personal financial and political gain.

    • jmstettner, not only is Biden’s son (and the ex VP) wrapped up in this scandal, Pelosi’s son, Kerry’s step son, and Romneys son (I believe) are wrapped up on the Bursima scheme. Hunter Biden and Kerry’s son were also wrapped up in a deal with China, which involved billions of dollars. Perhaps this is why the Democrats are up in arms about ‘corruption’ (their definition of it, which only involves Republicans) and quickly want to impeach (also without involving the courts as Turley mentioned)?

  • they can’t convict trump, whether they want to or not……. its pretty clear mitch is going for the world’s speediest trial, despite even Trump wanting this drawn out and fully explored because trump knows this would be a major cleansing of both sides of congress.

    Mitch will start the trial and call a few witnesses of no consequence, just like the democrats did, ………….No One…………….. will get near the substance of this because there are too many fingers in too many illegal pies on both sides of the aisle.

    The corrupt republicans have to be furious at the corrupt democrats, not because they are attempting to impeach the president but that they were so unimaginative that the only thing they could do to make even a weak case is something that literally points the fingers right back at every corrupt soul in congress.

    I used to think the democrats were slier than this, I was wrong, both sides of the corruption on capitol hill are equally inept, I suspect they know the level of ineptness they have hence why they turned to corruption.

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