The whistleblower complaint is now public. It’s very serious stuff. It’s backed up by the notes released yesterday by the White House, too. Here’s something that jumped out at me:
If this is true, that is evidence of a cover-up. Not necessarily a criminal cover-up, but a cover-up all the same. The officials, including the lawyers, likely knew that Donald Trump had probably broken federal election law, and were trying to hide the evidence.
There is no doubt now that this must be investigated thoroughly by Congress.
There has been a lot of talk for years on the Right about the “Deep State” — the unaccountable bureaucracy that supposedly really runs the US Government, and that will do its best to undermine Donald Trump. Let us suppose that the Deep State really exists. Wouldn’t it be a terrible abuse of its power if the Deep State tried to strongarm a foreign head of state to use his power to interfere in the US presidential election to favor a particular candidate? Let’s say agents of the Deep State attempted to extort a favor from a foreign leader, tying much-needed US assistance to his willingness to launch an investigation into Donald Trump’s business dealings. Wouldn’t we all know how dirty that was? Wouldn’t Republicans be baying at the moon for justice?
Of course. Don’t lie to yourself. Of course we on the Right would be doing that — and we would be correct to!
There is substantial evidence that President Trump betrayed the national security interests of the United States by using the power of his office to compel a foreign head of state to investigate Trump’s chief political rival in an upcoming election. That is an abuse of power, straight up. If the so-called Deep State were doing this on behalf of Joe Biden, we would know exactly what we were looking at.
This does not mean that impeachment is the appropriate remedy. Noah Rothman writes about the risks to the Democrats. Excerpt:
So what happens if Trump is impeached by the House, acquitted in the Senate and re-elected nonetheless next November? Impeachment will remain a remedy for presidential misconduct only in theory. In practice, that constitutional maneuver will have been neutralized for all but the gravest and most unequivocal episodes of mismanagement. Democrats, sensing that the strike against Trump backfired, will have lost the ultimate instrument of deterrence. Vindicated at the polls, the president’s conduct is certain to be even more reckless. And unless you count the power of subpoena and theatrical committee hearings as a check on the presidency, Trump will be unleashed like never before, imbued with a sense of invulnerability.
You can see why the party’s leadership in the House was keen to avoid this outcome. Democrats will make significant sacrifices in pursuit of the president’s impeachment, and the risks are serious.
Rothman goes on to say that if Trump has done what he appears to have done, then he deserves to lose re-election. Still, let’s recognize that Rothman’s scenario is true, in this sense: If Trump is impeached, survives it, and wins re-election, the next four years will be grim, as the president will have concluded that he is invulnerable.
I wrote yesterday about why many of us on the Right might conclude that even though Trump might be a crook, it might yet be important to vote for him. Tl;dr: because the Democratic Party represents a more serious, more consequential form of moral disorder than the president’s crookedness.
But let me take the other side here, for the sake of argument. Doing what Trump appears to have done is far, far more serious than having sex with an intern in the Oval Office and lying under oath. If conservatives are willing to overlook this behavior in Trump, and, if it is substantiated, not deliver any serious consequences for it, then we really will have unleashed him in a second term to be as reckless as he wants to be. What will he do with that power? Should any president, left or right, have that kind of de facto power? Many of us on the Right have for years complained about the imbalance of power between Congress and the increasingly powerful executive branch. If the allegations against Trump are substantiated, and Congress — which is to say, ultimately, the Republicans in the Senate — will not hold the executive accountable for extorting domestic political favors from a foreign head of state using the power of the presidency, then they will be guilty of having created conditions in which tyranny can flourish.
And if we — yeah, me too — are so afraid of the Democratic Party in power that we support Trump even if these charges are proved, then I don’t see how we avoid this moral stain, and responsibility for whatever follows.
Think about it: if Trump really did do what it looks like he did, and doesn’t have to pay a price for it, and gets re-elected, what is he likely to do in his second term? We already know that he has no moral compass. He will have learned that Congress will not hold him responsible, and if he wins re-election, neither will a majority of the American people.
The thing to keep in mind is that none of this had to happen. Donald Trump brought all of this onto himself (along with Rudy Giuliani). There was no reason for Trump and Giuliani to go rooting around in Ukraine, looking for dirt related to the 2016 election (Hillary lost!), and to use against Biden. Hunter Biden’s sleazy business dealings are certainly a fair issue in the 2020 race, should Joe Biden get the nomination, but the potential payoff from finding dirt in Ukraine would not remotely be worth the risks. Yet Trump did it anyway, because he goes with his gut, and has no moral sense. He has put his party and his voters in the position of having to defend the indefensible, over and over. He’s corrupting us all.
Last weekend I wrote about a situation in my neighborhood, in which a beleaguered 60-year-old woman lives with her mentally ill, violent, abusive son, a 6’5″ man in his twenties. It’s a nightmare for her, but she persists in it, because she’s too afraid of the alternatives (e.g., for him, jail or homelessness). That poor woman is a symbol of conservatives under Trump.
One more thing: if Trump is impeached, and if he is re-elected, I don’t know what happens to this country. I really don’t. If I were a Democrat, and that happened, I would lose a lot of faith in this country and its people. I’m not a Democrat, or a liberal, but I would lose a lot of faith in this country, if that happened (even if I participated in it by voting for Trump, or withholding my vote).
But then, if Democrats take over, given their beliefs and policies on issues that matter deeply to me, I would also lose a lot of faith in this country. I see no good future for us as a nation, no matter what.