This has been a very significant week in the “war on Trump” (hey, I can get away with saying “war on Trump” since Donald Trump accused a completely constitutional impeachment inquiry of being a “coup”).
So many important things happened this week, you may have been a bit overwhelmed and become insensitive to their significance. So Politico asked five reporters to say what stood out as “the biggest development of a crazy week”. Interestingly, they came up with five different things. Here they are (with my commentary):
Natasha Bertrand, national security reporter: Definitely that two associates of Rudy Giuliani who are in many ways at the heart of this Ukraine scandal — Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman — were indicted on campaign finance charges. The indictment could shed more light on the pair’s campaign, alongside Giuliani, to discredit former Vice President Joe Biden and remove the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Masha Yovanovitch. It also signals an intensifying crackdown on illicit campaign contributions, at a moment when Trump’s inaugural committee is under criminal investigation for potentially receiving donations from illegal foreign sources. Parnas and Fruman, born outside the U.S., are alleged to have funneled up to a million dollars in foreign cash into political action committees and campaigns, including Trump’s.
I really wish people would stop referring to their crimes as “campaign finance violations”. I don’t care if that is the technical name for it. What these two foreign nationals did, with the knowledge of Rudy Giuliani and the involvement of Donald Trump, was funnel around a million dollars from a Ukrainian government official and a Russian businessman into Republican political action committees (PACs) and directly into a Republican congressman’s campaign (both are illegal) in order to buy political influence (which is corruption).
UPDATE: Note that accepting money (or soliciting campaign dirt) from a foreign entity is illegal, so if a politician does it and the foreign entity asks for a favor, the foreign entity could blackmail the politician if they don’t deliver. So the politician is in serious debt to a foreign entity, when the politician’s allegiance should be to their country. So the politician isn’t just violating some obscure campaign rule, they have become a security risk in order to win an election that they don’t believe they could win fairly.
These two also ran a successful campaign (under Giuliani’s direction) to get Trump to remove the US ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, because (according to her sworn testimony) she was trying to stop their corrupt activities. In an ironic twist, this campaign seems to have been started by the corrupt prosecutor that Joe Biden got removed (with the support of our European allies). Oh, and these two were also working with Giuliani to dig up dirt on Joe and Hunter Biden (also illegal).
One tries to avoid the word “treason” but what else can this be called?
Darren Samuelsohn, senior White House reporter: The news about the Giuliani associates was definitely big. But I’ll throw a curveball here and go with someone we hadn’t been thinking much about of late: Robert Mueller. U.S. District Court Chief Judge Beryl Howell’s questions and commentary during a hearing Tuesday suggested she’s leaning toward ordering the release of the special counsel’s grand jury materials. If that happens, she’d be handing House Democrats a bounty of new information in their impeachment inquiry — the kind of stuff that would become ammunition in an expanding probe beyond Ukraine. The Justice Department would also be all but certain to appeal a ruling from Howell that goes against them, thereby setting up a much bigger fight that seems headed to the Supreme Court.
Robert Mueller declined to indict a sitting president, but he also made it clear that the proper alternative to indictment of a president was impeachment. Therefore, his grand jury materials should be handed over to the impeachment inquiry. I hope this happens.
Andrew Desiderio, congressional reporter: The biggest development of the week, in my book, came at the tail end when the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld House Democrats’ subpoena for eight years of Trump’s financial records from his accounting firm, Mazars. It’s a huge loss for the president, after having lost a bid to quash the subpoena in a lower court. Trump has done everything he possibly can to avoid his financial records and tax returns from getting into the hands of his political enemies — and he may have no further recourse this time. But even beyond this specific battle, Friday’s ruling from a three-judge panel gives a big boost to congressional oversight authority. “Contrary to the president’s arguments, the committee possesses authority under both the House Rules and the Constitution to issue the subpoena,” one of the judges wrote.
I would vote for this one to be the most significant of the week, for two reasons. First, the appeals court reached their decision in just a few days (the lower court ruling happened earlier this week!). That kind of blazing judicial speed can happen only when when a decision is pretty obvious. As I have already pointed out, Trump is claiming that he is above the law and cannot be even investigated, let alone indicted or impeached.
Second, if they appeal this to the Supreme Court, it will be very interesting to see what happens. Trump has been able to stack the Supreme Court in his favor, and my guess is that he will pressure them to rule in his favor (which would move our country from a constitutional democracy toward a dictatorship). That will definitely be a constitutional crisis.
Consequently, SCOTUS will likely decline to take the case, which means that Trump’s financial records will be released to Congress. At that point, Trump will become even more unhinged and will probably try to discredit the courts, including his own stacked Supreme Court. Which itself is something of a constitutional crisis.
Kyle Cheney, congressional reporter: In a week of big developments, the one I think will be most consequential is former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch’s decision to defy the State Department to testify in the House’s impeachment investigation. With her decision, she set a template for other witnesses to come forward even if they’ve been ordered not to — and already a second State Department ambassador, Gordon Sondland, is preparing to follow suit. Yovanovitch’s testimony itself was significant, too. She obliterated some of the conspiracy theories that led Trump to oust her and revealed that she was given a word of support from John Sullivan, the deputy secretary of state, even as Trump pulled her from her post in Ukraine.
There are reports that other whistleblowers are starting to come forward (with at least one confirmed). With any luck, this will become an avalanche that sweeps Trump away. Remember that Nixon’s fall and resignation happened over the course of only a few weeks when everyone, including his Republican allies, deserted him.
Josh Gerstein, legal affairs reporter: I’m going to go off the board (is that allowed?) and say that the most significant impeachment development of the week was Trump’s decision to have U.S. troops stand aside as Turkey invades Syria. Of course, it has nothing directly to do with the current grounds Democrats have asserted for impeachment, but the move shook many of Trump’s key supporters to their core.
People who have stridently defended Trump at some cost to their own reputations, like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), were caught completely off guard by the president’s decision to abandon the Kurds — longtime U.S. allies. Other Trump backers even popped up in unexpected places like MSNBC to denounce the move. Why anyone in the political fight of his life would piss off his closest friends is hard to fathom. The impulsive, widely criticized move and the scramble to clean it up also undercuts arguments from Trump that that his unorthodox telephone diplomacy is as consistently “perfect” as he maintains.
This item seems very significant, because if there is anything that unites Republican politicians it is support for our military. Trump’s former Defense Secretary James Mattis says that Trump has guaranteed that “ISIS will resurge. It’s absolutely a given that they will come back.” Will more Republicans turn against Trump because of this?
Unfortunately, I do have some doubts. After all, Republicans have totally abandoned fiscal responsibility (and their claimed hatred of deficit spending, which they were only too happy to use repeatedly as a weapon against Barack Obama). They also seem to have abandoned their religious morals when they embraced a liar, cheat, and philanderer as their president. Indeed, some conservatives believe that the Republicans have abandoned conservatism. Will abandonment of the Constitution be that difficult for them?
The point of this post is that in just under a week, there have been (at least) five things, any one of which could bring down the Trump
crime syndicate administration.
What will next week bring? The same article asked the same reporters this question as well (along with others), and the reporters had some interesting answers. It is worth a read.
And finally, a humorous look at this: