About all this

Sometimes there’s so much to say about what’s going on that it’s, honestly, almost paralyzing.  I feel like any one angle I take doesn’t even come close to doing justice to the totality of threat Republicans are currently placing our democracy under.  And, it’s a busy week and I really can’t spend 30 minutes writing a post.  But, I gotta say something.  So, semi-coherent thoughts (and tweets).

1) Ambassador Taylor’s testimony was sooooo damning.  David Graham with a great summary:

Though Taylor’s account aligned closely with what was already known, he offered more damning detail than had been available in any previous publicly revealed testimony. Taylor, whom Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appointed as America’s top diplomat in Kiev earlier this year, offered an account of how the administration held up military aid while pressuring Ukraine’s president to mount investigations of a natural-gas company on whose board Vice President Joe Biden’s son sat, and of alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election.

With that, Trump’s defenses have failed on every side. Though the president was reportedly adamant that the exchange not be called a quid pro quo, it doesn’t matter what it was labeled, since it apparently was, in fact, a quid pro quo. Nor does the excuse that Trump was simply trying to use American leverage to fight corruption stand up. The president was seeking to aid his own personal reelection prospects using American statecraft as leverage—a clear abuse of power. (It’s also still possible that the administration broke the law by trying to hold up the funds.) Nor can the president claim ignorance of the scheme, since multiple witnesses have attested to his personal involvement.

“The president used the machinery of government to advance his private interests instead of his own administration’s public policy,” Daniel Fried, a former State Department official in Republican and Democratic administrations, wrote in an email. “Taylor’s statement outlines in devastating detail that there was indeed a presidential-mandated ‘quid pro quo,’ that the substance of the U.S.-Ukrainian relationship was to be made conditional on the Ukrainians acting on behalf of the president’s partisan interests.” [emphases mine]

Love this twitter thread from Judd Legum:

2) Also, needs to be emphasized that the defense that Trump is just looking to fight corruption is just a complete and total sham (obviously).  The Post, “Trump administration sought billions of dollars in cuts to programs aimed at fighting corruption in Ukraine and elsewhere.”

Also, Taylor’s testimony makes clear that Trump was far more interested in a public statement, than in an actual investigation of corruption.

3) OMG, I’ve written before that Republicans are totally abandoning the rule of law, but it has truly reached epidemic proportions as they contort themselves to extreme degrees to defend the indefensible.  Aaron Blake:

It’s hardly breaking news that President Trump has an uneasy relationship with the rule of law. He campaigned on putting his unindicted opponent in jail. He has attacked judges individually and the judiciary as an institution. He allegedly asked his FBI director for loyalty and to lay off a top aide. He tried to get his first attorney general to launch politically expedient investigations. Robert S. Mueller III laid out five instances in which there was significant evidence that he obstructed justice. He’s declining to cooperate with his own impeachment inquiry. And he even criticized his Justice Department for indicting two Republican congressman.

What hasn’t been chewed over quite as thoroughly is how much this attitude has infected those around him — many of them in the Republican Party, which prides itself as the party of the rule of law.

And the past 24 hours have been full of activity on that front.

They began Tuesday night with Matthew G. Whitaker, Trump’s former acting attorney general, taking to the airwaves of Fox News to declare that a president abusing power not only isn’t a crime, but also isn’t even impeachable.

“Abuse of power is not a crime,” Whitaker said. “Let’s fundamentally boil it down. The Constitution’s very clear that this has to be some pretty egregious behavior.”

Even for a team of supporters accustomed to moving the goal posts for Trump, taking “abuse of power” and suggesting it would not clear the bar was something.

Then came Wednesday morning, when a throng of Republican congressmen, led by Rep. Matt Gaetz (Fla.), decided to storm the proceedings of the House impeachment inquiry to highlight concerns about its process. They effectively shut it down for five hours and caused the testimony of Defense Department aide Laura Cooper to be delayed…

And when a judge asked him whether that would also be the case if Trump, as he so famously intoned, shot someone on Fifth Avenue in New York City, Consovoy responded in the affirmative.

“Local authorities couldn’t investigate? They couldn’t do anything about it?” U.S. Appeals Court Judge Denny Chin asked. “Nothing could be done? That is your position?”

“That is correct,” Consovoy said, noting that any crimes could be handled once the president was out of office.

4) And that political stunt with the SCIF room was a gross violation of national security concerns that would put most people who tried it in jail.

5) And, oh my, Republicans with “the process!” as they have no actual defense.  Nice piece by Jim Newell on this.  But there complaints are like the complaints of an alleged murdered saying he didn’t get to cross-examine witnesses at the grand jury.  That’s not how grand juries work!  Or impeachment inquiries.  And Republicans know this.  Truly epic levels of bad faith.

6) And lastly, just because we’re on impeachment and this would’ve gone in quick hits later this week anyway, a great historical analysis of “high crimes and misdemeanors” from a law professor.  Do not let anybody tell you there needs to be a crime to be an impeachment (it’s designed for gross abuses of power).  This is exactly the scenario the Founders envisioned.

In the end, the best argument against the claim that impeachment requires criminality is not the overwhelming weight of contrary history and precedent, but the sheer dangerous absurdity of the proposition.

The British Parliament invented impeachment and the American Framers poached the institution as a means of saving their respective constitutions from tyranny or catastrophic mismanagement by hereditary, appointed, or elected rulers. It would be daft—and the Framers were not daft—to hobble this “indispensable remedy” by confining it within the idiosyncratic limits of the statutory criminal law available at any given point in time.

Both action and inaction by the chief magistrate, if sufficiently dangerous to the republic, must be impeachable if impeachment is to serve its intended purpose. Even conduct motivated by a sincere and deeply held principle can be a constitutional “high Crime.”

Or suppose that a president were to announce one morning that henceforth he would take no account of congressional statutes or administrative regulations and would instead rule by decree. That is, so far as I know, no crime. But does anyone doubt that such a decree would be impeachable?

Or suppose, to bring the case still closer to home, a president were to subordinate himself and the interests of his own country to a foreign power because he or his family could make money by doing so. Or because the foreign country agreed to help him secure reelection. Does anyone seriously suggest that the question of whether such behavior is impeachable turns on the niceties of ethics rules or campaign-finance laws?

Impeachment is not an antique legalism, but an essential tool for securing the safety of the American constitutional order against those who would corrupt or destroy it. An Englishman once said, “Impeachment ought to be, like Goliath’s sword, kept in the temple, and not used but on great occasions.” This aphorism is often cited as a caution against the frivolous unsheathing of impeachment’s blade, but it is also a reminder of the breadth and power of the weapon in times of need. This is such a time.

7) I just want to finish by saying how saddened and disturbed I am by the obscene amount of anti-democratic, unconstitutional, bad-faith response from Republican politicians.  It truly demonstrates how fragile our democracy actually is and causes real concern for how they may react in November 2020.

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