The most striking thing about the impeachment report presented on Tuesday by the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, chaired by Democrat Adam Schiff, is how openly partisan he is.
Don't get me wrong. President Schiff is strongly partisan and no one would expect him to be any different. A serious attempt at impeachment, however, should try to attract support from Republicans and independents. Schiff gives no chance for that. His narrative is the political accusation of the Democratic base against Trump. There is no pretense of at least presenting the other side of the story, even if only to refute it.
To repeat what I argued in the book Faithless Execution (2014), impeachment is counterproductive if there is no plausible chance of removing the president from power. Filing an impeachment case under circumstances in which the president will surely be acquitted in the eventual Senate trial (where a two-thirds majority is required for conviction and dismissal) serves only to encourage further executive excesses.
That is why impeachment is a historic rarity, even when the House (where only a simple majority is required to present impeachment articles) is controlled by the president's opposition party. Prudent lawmakers understand that it is not just a waste of time to seek futile impeachment; It also promotes division in society and dysfunction in government.
Schiff is not trying to build a broad public consensus that the president should be removed from office. His report is a campaign document for 2020. His heavy hand will only irritate Republicans. This includes many who are not particularly delighted by the president but want to see a fair process.
There is also the argument I made in the previous column: If there really were a crime that should be punished with impeachment, which was evidently serious and raised serious doubts about the president's aptitude for office, there would be no need to distort it. It would only be necessary to describe it directly and non-partisanly. Schiff, by contrast, is turning around.
The report, for example, begins by criticizing the president for deviating in his talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky from a "standard package of discussion points prepared for the president based on official US policy." But it is the president, not the "political community," who makes American foreign policy. If President Trump does not share the "interagency" view that Ukraine is a strategic ally, and doubt that we should happily pour financial and military aid into a deeply corrupt country, that is the position of executive policy. It's not abuse of power when the president disagrees with the State Department, the Security Council, Adam Schiff, the New York Times, etc.
Schiff describes Gordon Sondland, Trump's ambassador to the European Union, as a co-conspirator in Trump's deep corruption. In presenting it, the report notes that he donated $ 1 million to Trump's inaugural ceremony, implying that he bought his position, dismissing career diplomats. Is this really where Schiff wants to get? Presidents often grant embassies to their top supporters – a tradition that President Obama has enthusiastically maintained. How did the Democrats suddenly decide now that this is corruption?
Most striking is that the report alleges that Trump demanded Ukraine's help in two investigations just for the benefit of his reelection campaign in 2020. This is not true, but it leads to descriptions of the two investigations that are totally misleading.
Almost no one doubts that the president hoped that the requested investigation of Ukraine would result in political benefits for him. But that was not the only goal to encourage them – which is an important distinction, as all presidents expect their public actions to help their personal political position.
The first of the two investigations mentioned in the July 25 Trump-Zelensky connection involved interference by Ukraine in the 2016 elections. Schiff misrepresents this investigation in two ways. First, he indicates that the investigation should be conducted solely for Trump's political purposes in 2020. In fact, it was primarily about (a) refuting Trump's fraudulent collusion story with Russia in 2016 and (b) exploring the Ukraine's meddling in the 2016 campaign.
Schiff ignores the Justice Department's ongoing investigation into the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation. Democrats reject this investigation and want the public to see it as a politicized extension of Trump's 2020 campaign. It is, however, as legitimate as Mueller's investigation (also approved by the Justice Department and accused of being political by supporters of Trump). It is routine and appropriate for governments to seek each other's help in investigations – especially when the obligation to help is codified in a treaty, such as Washington and Kiev have had for 20 years.
Schiff's report conceals this fact by continuing to pretend (as the Democrats did at the Schiff hearings) that there is only one narrative of Ukraine's collusion in 2016: a conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that invaded the Democratic Party email accounts. Regrettably, Trump accepted this discredited idea and talked about it with Zelensky during their conversation. This allows Democrats to say that Trump is trying to undermine the intelligence community's assessment that it was Russia that committed the cyber crime. But while the president is wrong to engage in unmasked narratives, his focus was to lay the blame for the illicit actions of the 2016 campaign, not political positioning for the purposes of the 2020 campaign.
More to the point, Schiff continues to ignore significant evidence that Ukrainian government officials stepped in the 2016 elections to promote Clinton and harm Trump – including with a court ruling. Coordination between the Obama administration, the Ukrainian government and Democratic agents is a legitimate area of investigation for the ongoing investigation into the origin of the investigation into Trump and Russia. Contrary to the history of the Democrats, regurgitated in Schiff's report, there is no contradiction in believing that Russia broke into e-mails to harm Democrats and that Ukraine interfered with harming Trump.
The second investigation discussed by Trump and Zelensky (although highlighted most prominently in Schiff's report) was a Ukrainian inquiry into potential corruption by former Vice President Biden and his son Hunter. During the Intelligence Committee hearings, Schiff falsely presented Trump as if he had asked Zelensky to "invent" incriminating evidence about Biden. In fact, Trump asked Zelensky to look into a situation where there were (and are) real reasons for suspicion – for example, the fact that Burisma, a corrupt energy company, put Hunter Biden on his board and generously compensates him, when Joe Biden became the Obama administration leader in Ukrainian politics; and the fact that Biden had extorted the Ukrainian government, under penalty of losing $ 1 billion in funds that the country desperately needed to dismiss the prosecutor investigating Burisma.
Far from confronting these inconvenient facts, Schiff's report ignores them, concluding conclusively that "the allegations about Vice President Biden were made without evidence" and that the prosecutor was removed only because US and European officials believed he was corrupt. . But of course there was no evidence of Biden presented at Intelligence Committee hearings because Schiff denied Republicans the right to present them. Moreover, it is arrogant of Democrats to claim that there was nothing in the allegations about Biden when it is undeniable that there was a glaring conflict of interest. And while it is certainly possible that the Ukrainian prosecutor in question was removed for corruption reasons, it is also quite plausible that he was dismissed because his investigation could have brought undesirable attention to the comfortable agreement between Hunter Biden and Burisma, and therefore to the vice president.
In no serious and objective investigation, the court would deny one side the opportunity to present its position and then write a report concluding that no evidence supported the position of that side.
But this is not a serious and impartial tribunal that weighs conflicting claims. Adam Schiff is a hardliner. His report would make you believe that there is nothing unusual about Biden's suspicious situation, but that Donald Trump – though he eventually granted Ukraine defense funding without drawing any promise of investigation – somehow makes Richard Nixon look like a saint. .
© 2019 National Review. Posted with permission. Original in English