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Impeachment probe and D.C.s’ political stalemate

By Askia Muhammad -Senior Editor- | Last updated: Nov 26, 2019 - 10:31:50 PM

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WASHINGTON—After more than 45 hours of bombshell public testimony from more than a dozen witnesses—ranking military and diplomatic personnel with hundreds of years of combined service among them—the public phase of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald J. Trump came to an end in mid-November. The House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment inquiry investigating heard that the president committed “improper” and “unusual” acts, in order to pressure the government of Ukraine to announce an investigation into his domestic political rival Joe Biden.

U.S. Representative Adam Schiff
The House Intelligence Committee and its Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) will now compile a report of its investigation for the House Judiciary Committee. The Judiciary Committee will decide whether or not to draft articles of impeachment— the “charges” against Mr. Trump—for a vote on the House floor, where Democrats hold a decisive majority, possibly by year’s end.

Most observers consider it all but impossible— absent some new, even more shocking evidence—that the President will be removed by a two-thirds vote after a trial in the Republican-controlled Senate.

In fact, Republicans in the House remain opposed to impeachment. Some condemn the investigation process itself, while others insist the witnesses who have testified are simply disgruntled employees who disagree with their boss’s (the president’s) lawful authority to conduct foreign policy.

“You know, it’s important to remind ourselves that this is the impeachment of the president of the United States,” Sunsara Taylor, a political analyst at WBAI-FM New York, told this writer in a hearing analysis on WPFW-FM Washington. “This is a momentous and historic, whether it’s a snooze fest, whether it’s gripping, whatever it is, this is not typical and it’s happening at a time that is extraordinary: extraordinary divisions and open fighting at the top of society.”

Republicans are trying to hold on by undermining and opposing every step of the process. “My takeaway was that (with the public testimony of Gordon Sondland, the Trump-appointed Ambassador to the European Union) a bombshell was dropped, that there is direct connection with the quid pro quo; and that the conservatives and Republicans are trying to undermine the process” Gloria Browne-Marshall, professor of Constitutional Law at John Jay College of Law in New York City, said in an interview.

“The Republicans are making it appear as though without the testimony of (certain GOP chosen) witnesses, this is not a real legitimate hearing. All this is making it into a circus atmosphere. And I’m concerned that as the Republicans (are using) Trump and making him out to be a victim, just doing what all presidents do and following some policy. I think that’s making the practice more difficult to actually have a smoking gun,” Prof. Browne-Marshall continued.

Impeachment supporters argue that Mr. Trump must not be allowed to function “above the law,” insisting that Mr. Trump’s “true crimes” far exceed the narrow “national security” investigation by the Intelligence Committee into Ukrainian matters. “Here we have a regime which has carried out unspeakable crimes, doing it right as we speak to migrants at the border,” Ms. Taylor continued, “We just had a report come out about 100,000 children in detention, a world record of children being held in detention under Trump in this country at this very hour.

“There’s reproductive rights on the chopping block. There (are) Christian fascists packed into the courts at every level, including the Supreme court there are Christian fascists determining our mental policy and put in charge of scientific institutions so that they’re preaching from the officers of the state. These people are packed throughout.

“It seems what Trump has done is to use international foreign policy for his own personal political gain,” Ms. Taylor continued. “But not being discussed anywhere in these impeachment hearings are the many, many crimes against the people that this administration has committed.

“It came out, just in the last week. Stephen Miller’s open White supremacist, emails, and all of this now shaping immigration policy, and the concentration camps at the border, and the ending of asylum, and the Muslim ban, and all of this, has become even more revealed, (but) we’re not talking about that,” she said.

E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland testifies on Impeachment Hearing.
What is being talked about is the testimony of Ambassador Gordon Sondland, a $1 million Trump inauguration contributor who had the portfolio of the European Union. He testified that "everyone was in the loop,” including the White House and State Department, concerning Mr. Trump’s efforts to secure an announcement of an investigation of Mr. Trump’s rival and former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, and their business dealings in Ukraine.

Mr. Sondland testified in minute detail—down to the names of staffers and code words used internally to identify officials like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo—how Vice President Mike Pence, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney, former national security advisor John Bolton and others knew the intimate details of Mr. Trump’s plans.

“Was there a quid pro quo?” Mr. Sondland testified. "With regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.”

John Dean, the White House counsel to President Richard Nixon, who was once dubbed the “master manipulator” of the Watergate scandal, said Mr. Trump had a rough day during the impeachment hearing. “What struck me today in listening to these two witnesses is they already have more than they had against Richard Nixon to impeach him,” Dean said on CNN Nov. 20. “Just on all accounts because the evidence is there.”

Mr. Dean, who ultimately turned on Mr. Nixon and cooperated with prosecutors, said that the kind of evidence revealed so far against Mr. Trump, didn’t come out until much later in the Watergate proceedings. Early on, he said, “it was my testimony, a few people that were lower in the pecking order than me, and it happened before the tapes.”

The infamous Watergate tapes weren’t released until more than a year after Mr. Dean’s June 1973 testimony. The “smoking gun" tape—a 1972 conversation in which the president spoke with his chief of staff about trying to stop the FBI from investigating the Watergate break-in—was made public on Aug. 5, 1974. Mr. Nixon announced his resignation three days later as Republican lawmakers abandoned him in wake of the mounting revelations.

It is unlikely that Mr. Trump will resign, or that Republicans will abandon him. “I think it’s very interesting for the Republicans trying to build up the defense of the president, stitching together this accusation where they want to talk about almost anything but the evidence and they want to say the Democrats and the deep state have been after Trump since day one,” Prof. Browne-Marshall said.

But Committee Chairman Schiff called the testimony of ambassador Sondland, “among the most significant evidence to date" in the ongoing impeachment inquiry.

“The knowledge of this scheme, this conditioning of the White House meeting, of the security assistance to get the delivery of what the President wanted—these two political investigations that he believed would help his campaign—was a basic quid pro quo,” Mr. Schiff told reporters during a break in Ambassador Sondland’s testimony.

There is at least one grassroots movement, which threatens direct action in the streets to ensure a House vote in favor of impeachment.

“So the evening before the full House impeachment vote, which probably will take place sometime in the mid-December, all around the country, we are going to take the streets to say nobody is above the law,” Jonah Minkoff-Zern, co-director of Public Citizen’s Democracy for the People Campaign said in an interview.

“We are going with hundreds of thousands of us around the country to really help shape history by showing that there is strong popular support to impeach and remove a president who thinks it’s okay to use military aid, to pressure a foreign government to interfere in our elections.”