With 290 days until the 2020 U.S. presidential election, the impeachment of President Donald Trump dominates the news. On Wednesday, January 15, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi signed the two articles of impeachment against Trump, who is charged with abuse of presidential power, and obstruction of Congress.
Prior to signing the articles, Pelosi announced the names of the seven impeachment managers she has chosen to present the case for impeachment to the Senate. They are House Representatives Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Val Demings (D-Fla.), Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Jason Crow (D-Colo.), and Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas). After the signing of the articles, Pelosi and the impeachment managers walked across the Capitol to the Senate chamber to deliver the articles, per protocol.
The articles charge that Trump abused his power by withholding already-approved military aid to Ukraine, as well as the promise of a White House meeting with Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskiy in order to pressure Zelenskiy to announce an investigation of Democratic primary candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who held a high-paying job as consultant to Burisma, Ukraine’s largest energy provider. The articles further charge that Trump obstructed Congress by blocking key evidence and testimony.
The Senate formally accepted the articles on Thursday. On Thursday afternoon, Chief Justice John Roberts, who will preside over the trial in the Senate, administered the jurors’ oath to all 100 senators, to swear to deliver “impartial justice.” It should be noted, however, that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already openly promised not to be impartial.
“This is an example of all of the president’s henchmen,” Pelosi reflected, “and I hope that the senators do not become part of the president’s henchmen.”
The actual trial is expected to begin on Tuesday, January 21.
Meanwhile, The Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan agency that reports to Congress, has determined this week that Trump’s hold on the military aid to Ukraine was a violation of federal law governing how the White House may disburse funds approved by Congress.
“Faithful execution of the law does not permit the President to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law,” the decision states. “OMB withheld funds for a policy reason, which is not permitted under the Impoundment Control Act.”
Though impeachment does not require violation of a federal law, this development will no doubt be significant as the impeachment trial plays out. Republicans are already trying to point out that the GAO is pointing the finger at the OMB (Office of Management and Budget), not at the president. It was the president, however, who ordered that the military funds be put on hold.
And as impeachment trial preparations were brewing this week, additional evidence was unearthed, appearing to confirm the nature of Trump’s motivation in his plan to have the Bidens investigated.
Trump maintains that he was simply motivated by his concern about corruption in Ukraine for the sake of “the American people.” Strong evidence indicates, however, that Trump was motivated purely by personal gain — uncovering dirt on the Bidens, or, at the very least, stirring up controversy and casting doubt on Joe Biden’s integrity as he runs for president.
Lev Parnas, a former associate of Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has provided documents and granted interviews containing information that indicate that Donald Trump was directly involved in the Ukraine pressure campaign, and that his motivation was for personal gain, not for the good of the U.S. Further, Trump’s intent was to investigate the Bidens, not to investigate general corruption in Ukraine.
James Hohmann of the Washington Post writes, “Evidence of the president’s hands-on role bolsters the Democratic case that Trump himself abused his power, not outside advisers who were pursuing personal interests in the president’s name.”
Included in Parnas’ documents was a message thread from March 2019 between Parnas and Robert Hyde, a current Republican candidate for Congress in Connecticut. The subject of the messages was former ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, who was recalled from her post by the Trump administration in May 2019. In his interviews with the media this week, Lev Parnas confirmed that Yovanovitch was seen as an obstacle to Trump’s plan for investigation of the Bidens.
The messages suggest Hyde and others may have been following the diplomat in Kiev. “They are moving her tomorrow,” Hyde wrote to Parnas. “The guys over there asked me what I would like to do and what is in it for them.”
He then noted that Yovanovitch turned off her phone and computer.
“They are willing to help if we/you would like a price,” Hyde said. “Guess you can do anything in the Ukraine with money … what I was told.”
“Lol,” Parnas responded, indicating “laugh out loud.”.
Several days later, Hyde wrote: “It’s confirmed we have a person inside.”
Though the U.S. State Department continues to remain silent about the exchanges and the possibility of unauthorized surveillance of Yovanovitch by associates of Trump, Ukraine has announced that it will launch an investigation.
“Ukraine’s position is not to interfere in the domestic affairs of the United States of America,” Ukraine’s Interior Ministry stated. “Ukraine cannot ignore such illegal activities on the territory of its own state.”
Parnas has since said that he didn’t take the exchange seriously. Hyde, too, dismissed it as a joke.
Though some of Parnas’ new information still needs to be corroborated, other portions of it support the existing evidence against Trump and his associates. It’s yet to be determined whether, or if, this new evidence will be used in the Senate impeachment trial.
On the other side of the world, Russia’s entire cabinet resigned on Wednesday. Russian president Vladimir Putin had, earlier on Wednesday, announced that he would be pushing through reforms to the constitution. The changes would redistribute power so that parliament and the prime minister would have more power, but Putin’s successor as president would be considerably weakened. Putin, whose term as president ends in 2024, could then take on a new role and continue to be a powerful figure in the Russian government. (Speaking of abuse of power…)
Putin simply thanked his former government and said that “not everything worked out.”
Given what our president has successfully been able to get away with, given his statement, “Then I have an Article 2 (of the U.S. Constitution), where I have the right to do whatever I want as president,” and given that our current GOP largely disregards the checks and balances system of our three-branch government, we can only hope that Election 2020 eliminates the possibility of something similar happening in the U.S.
Impeachment process moves ahead amid new revelations from Lev Parnas | CBS News [2020-01-16]
Trump reacts to photograph of him with Lev Parnas: “I take thousands of pictures” | Global News [2020-01-16]