Well, it was quite a morning. I was just drinking my first cup of French roast coffee and swallowing a few pills when the teevee cut to the hearing. I sat through all of it. I have a few observations.
Defending Trump—or Not
Only one Republican congressman—or maybe two, depending on how you count—actually defended what Trump did. The one clear defender was Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Idiot). Meanwhile, one other Republican said the phone call was “not OK.” At least, I believe those were his words.
In sum, the Republicans members of the Intelligence Committee tried to score points, but the points they tried to score were tangential to the substance of the charges against Trump.
“No Quid Pro Quo”
Rep. Ratcliffe (R-Idiot) tried manfully to uphold the White House talking point that there was no quid (US military aid) in exchange for a quo (dirt on the Bidens). But the “transcript” has Trump using the word “reciprocal.” Friends and neighbors, “reciprocal” means quid pro quo. And, when Zelensky* said he wanted to buy some anti-tank missiles, Trump responded, in the next sentence, by asking for a “favor.”
So that dog won’t hunt.
I have long heard from experienced litigators that it’s important not to impose on yourself the burden of proof on a legal element that isn’t actually necessary to prove the case. Consistent with that thought, a fellow lawyer whom I greatly respect has said the Democrats should urge that impeachment is justified whether or not there was a quid pro quo.
The general principle is salutary, but I’m not sure it applies in this case. First, the ground is littered with evidence of quid pro quo. Secondly, it’s the withholding of military aid that adds so much to vileness of the deed.
“The Bidens are Corrupt and Trump Has the Right to Ask for Investigative Help”
Inviting foreign government oppo research should be enough for impeachment. Inviting foreign government oppo research + withholding military aid to coerce foreign government operation surely ought to be enough.
But, to clench the case with a lot of folks, you need to make the additional point that the dirt Trump wanted Ukraine to dig up was bogus dirt. You need to prove that, even if Hunter Biden made an unwise career move, his pappa’s actions were in fact opposed to Ukrainian corruption, not in support of it. And that case is factually complicated.
In that connection, it will be recalled that Republicans control the Senate—and that at least some of them want to investigate Biden.
I say, investigate away. And thank you very much.
“The Whistleblower Relied on Hearsay”
Lots of the Republicans beat that drum this morning. But the answer is, well then, let’s find out who the whistleblower spoke to, and call all of them before us, and find out first hand what they know.
Acting Director Maguire’s Integrity or Lack Thereof
The Democrats made a mistake in focusing the hearing on Maguire’s integrity. First off, Maguire’s integrity has no bearing on whether Trump has committed impeachable offenses. Second, Maguire came off as a chain-of-command guy thrust into a situation where he was out of his depth.
So, that dog didn’t hunt, either. Probably the wrong conclusion—exercising poor discretion is not the same as immorality—on a tangential issue, leveled against an individual who seemed sympathetic to me, and I suspect to most others as well.
“Maguire Violated the Whistleblower Act”
I haven’t studied the matter, but, based on this morning’s hearing, the question appears debatable.
“Maguire Exercised Poor Discretion”
The gist of Director Maguire’s testimony is that, while he was not compelled to disclose the complaint (based on the statutory interpretation he felt bound to follow), he nevertheless had discretion to disclose it to Congress. And, furthermore, that he would have exercised his discretion to disclose it, but for the fact that it was based on a conversation protected by executive privilege—which is, of course, the President’s prerogative to waive or to assert.
But, generally speaking, one may not hide behind a “privilege” to cover up a communication in furtherance of a crime or fraud. By logical extension, the President ought not to be able to hide behind a privilege in order to cover up a communication made in an effort to undermine the Constitution.
A wiser man that Acting Director Maguire would have seen that.
“Did You Talk with Trump about the Whistleblower Complaint”
Maguire refused to answer that question, on grounds of privilege, but let the fixed impression that yessiree, indeedy, he did that very little thing.
The privilege, however, would extend only to cover up the substance of a conversation, not identification of a topic discussed. Maguire apparently did not know that.
Trump’s Three Big Mistakes
In conclusion, let me talk about mistakes. You probably know Christopher Columbus’s three mistakes: when he started, he didn’t know where he was going; when he got there, he didn’t know where he was; and when he came back, he didn’t know where he had been.
By like token, Donald J. Trump has made three colossal errors. That is because Donald J. Trump is a delusional nincompoop.
His first error was to think that the “transcript” he released is exculpatory, when it fact is inculpatory.
His second error was failure to recognize that, by releasing the “transcript,” he was waiving any colorable claim of executive privilege concerning the subject matter of the document.
His third error was not understanding that his actions were going to lead him into a world of hurt.
* There seems to be some controversy about how many y’s are in the Ukrainian president’s name.