Sunday, January 07, 2018

The impeachable offense that doesn't have to be a crime

Good article in Vox, if somewhat over-skeptical, about the Steele Dossier. It acknowledges the dossier was proven correct, in advance of general knowledge, about the extent of contact between Russia and the Trump campaign. It then says the dossier focused on six claims, none proven as of yet.

This is the key one:

4) Trump’s team knew and approved of Russian plans to deliver emails to WikiLeaks, and offered them policy concessions in exchange.

The dossier claims that Trump and his campaign team had “full knowledge and support” of Russia’s leak of the DNC emails to WikiLeaks, and that in return, Trump’s team “had agreed to sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue.”

This is obviously a subject of ongoing investigation, but none of the conversations about Russian dirt on Clinton that have come to light so far demonstrate what the dossier claims.

If true, it means Trump betrayed America's interest, not to mention the Ukrainian people threatened and killed by Russian forces, in order to collaborate with a hostile authoritarian for purposes of sabotaging American democracy for Trump's personal benefit. Regardless of whether collusion is illegal, this easily satisfies grounds for removal. Republicans who think Hillary should be locked up for careless email security could hardly deny it, although they will.

I can think of two defenses for Trump: first that he was too incompetent and uninvolved to actually know about the deal, and second that he thought the revised Ukraine position was actually in America's interest.

As to the first, I think it fails when the changed campaign platform on Ukraine came to light in July. Trump should have inspected and found out what was going on. Incompetence is an impeachable offense if it's bad enough, and this hits that mark. As to the second, I find it unbelievable that Trump would actually care enough to change the GOP position, and it still involves after-the-fact collusion with potential espionage without alerting the FBI.

The political question for Democrats is whether they should get serious about impeachment, even assuming it's justified. Trump won't get removed when you need two-thirds of the Senate, so it won't actually accomplish the goal. I think it is clear that Democrats should investigate the hell out of all this, I just don't know, if they take the House and possibly the Senate, whether they should push impeachment.

My final, ironic note is that I actually agree that the US shouldn't be overtly arming Ukraine with lethal weapons - we should do it covertly, with about as much of a fig leaf as the Russians are using. That really has nothing to do with the Trump campaign motivations, however.

13 comments:

Russell Seitz / Bright Water said...

Many of the leaked West Wing briefs more recall the Pentagon Papers than email gossip. Brian's juicy phrase :

"collaborate with a hostile authoritarian for purposes of sabotaging American democracy"

applies as much to the to K Street minions of pols like John Podesta as those of The American Petroleum Institute.

David B Benson said...

Brian, could you please explain the last paragraph?

Fernando Leanme said...

What would Ukraine do with USA supplied weapons? Attack Russia?

jrkrideau said...

Silly nit-picking but "Papadopoulos .. told Australia’s ambassador to the United Kingdom ..." is impossible. There is no Australian ambassador to the United Kingdom and never has been.

Everett F Sargent said...

Don't look here ...
High Commission of Australia, London
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Commission_of_Australia,_London
"The High Commission of Australia in London is the diplomatic mission of Australia in the United Kingdom."

... or here ...
Diplomatic mission
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diplomatic_mission

"A diplomatic mission or foreign mission[1] is a group of people from one state or an organisation present in another state to represent the sending state/organisation officially in the receiving state."

... or here ...
List of High Commissioners of Australia to the United Kingdom
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_High_Commissioners_of_Australia_to_the_United_Kingdom
"The position has the rank and status of an Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary and is currently held by former Minister for Foreign Affairs Alexander Downer, who is the son of Hon Sir Alexander Downer, who held the post from 1964 to 1972."

... or here ...
Ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ambassador#Ambassador_extraordinary_and_plenipotentiary
"Because members of the Commonwealth of Nations have or had a common head of state, they do not exchange ambassadors, but instead have High Commissioners, who represent the government, rather than the head of state."

... or here ...
High commissioner (Commonwealth)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_commissioner_(Commonwealth)
"In the Commonwealth of Nations, a high commissioner is the senior diplomat (generally ranking as an ambassador) in charge of the diplomatic mission of one Commonwealth government to another. Instead of an embassy, the diplomatic mission is generally called a high commission."

So please forgive the severely retarded and really fake US MSM for using the term "Australia’s ambassador to the United Kingdom" because the 'so called' ambassador is really His Excellency Alexander Downer.

Oh and BTW, Impeachment is a really stoopit idea.

Russell Seitz / Bright Water said...

JRKR & EFS can both declare victory .
The United Kingdom does not receive ambassadors-- the Court of St.James's does.

jrkrideau said...

Good to see Russell grasped the issue so clearly. However the Court of St James has never received an Australian ambassador.

Barton Paul Levenson said...

FL: What would Ukraine do with USA supplied weapons? Attack Russia?

BPL: Defend Ukraine.

jrkrideau said...

@ Fernando
What would Ukraine do with USA supplied weapons?
Sell them to the highest bidder?

Brian Schmidt said...

As to my last paragraph, Russia hypocritically views selling "defensive" lethal weapons to Ukraine as a provocation that forces them to respond. (I put quotes because it's hard for a weapon to be purely defensive, but I expect as between Ukraine and Russia, Ukraine will be on the defense.)

I think the way to increase the risk to Russia for doing something stupid while decreasing the risk they'll react is to sell them semi-covertly, which would also be a nice bit of retaliation for their ridiculous claims that they're not intervening.

As for Ukraine selling the weapons, I doubt it - they need them.

Jeffrey Davis said...

Implicit in all this is the belief, shared by all, including his supporters, is that Trump is in thrall to Putin, that he has diminished us and threatens our sovereignty for no other reason than his financial benefit. Who doesn't actually believe that?

jrkrideau said...

Moi?

I think that Trump would probably sell his grandmother if the price was right but "Trump is in thrall to Putin" in the way US paranoiacs put it is unlikely. Stated bluntly, the Russians are not that stupid.

That Trump is horribly, criminally, exposed for money laundering and other illegal deals with oligarchs in Russia and other former Soviet republics, probably the Ukraine, and, very likely, numerous other countries seems almost certain.

Russell Seitz / Bright Water said...

JRKR, who needs an Ambassador? Some deep mystery of protocol compelled St. James's to receive Grey Gowrie's father the Governor General as Viscount of Canberra.