In the week since I last wrote about the accusations made against President Trump as a result of his July 25 telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, a lot has happened. Both the rough transcript of the call and the “whistleblower complaint” that supposedly resulted from it have been released, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has formally commenced impeachment proceedings against the president.
Both the transcript and the complaint are now required reading for anyone claiming to be politically informed. They raise a number of questions about the conversation and the unidentified “whistleblower,” but they manifestly do not demonstrate that Trump should be impeached.
Remember the running gag on Seinfeld that the whole show was about “nothing”? This is going to be a “Seinfeld impeachment”: it, too, is about nothing.
Rush Limbaugh was precise last week in describing the desperation and hysteria now besetting the Dems because no matter how hard they try, they’ve been unable to reverse the results of the 2016 election.
First, there was the Obama-CIA-FBI spy-op on Trump’s campaign and him personally, an enormous abuse of power that was comprised of conspiracy and other criminal conduct. That resulted in the two-year Mueller investigation that came up empty.
Now there’s the “whistleblower complaint” about Trump’s conversation with Zelensky in which Trump is alleged to have suborned Zelensky in an attempt to — in Hillary Clinton’s terms — “buy” yet another government’s interference in a U.S. election.
Even people who should know better — such as Peggy Noonan and Chris Wallace — are saying that the transcript and the complaint are a sufficient basis to conclude that Trump’s conversation with Zelensky constituted impeachable conduct. It’s unfashionable to do so, but let’s stick to the facts and the law.
In the conversation, Trump asked Zelensky to commence (or recommence) two investigations. The first is in aid of the ongoing Barr-Durham investigation into the abuses of power by the CIA and FBI in conducting the spy-op against Trump and his 2016 campaign:
I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike … I guess you have one of your wealthy people … The server, they say, Ukraine has it. (Ellipses in original. According to the release, ellipses indicate inaudible content.)
CrowdStrike is a cloud-based internet security firm that the DNC hired to investigate how hackers — later identified as Russian security agents — had stolen DNC and Clinton emails. Some of the computer servers from which the Russians operated to intercept the emails were (are?) believed to be located in Ukraine.
Trump went on, but before he did he indicated that he was switching subjects:
The other thing. There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that, so Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it … It sounds horrible to me.
In 2018, Joe Biden bragged publicly that he told the Ukrainian government that unless a prosecutor who was investigating, among other things, the gas company Burisma, was fired, he would have withheld $1 billion in U.S. aid to Ukraine. At the time, Biden’s son, Hunter, was a member of the board of directors of Burisma. Hunter Biden was hired without any expertise in Burisma’s business.
In the first instance, Trump was asking for Ukrainian help in investigating the background of the “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation — the spy-op that the CIA and FBI mounted against his campaign. That investigation is being conducted here by Attorney General William Barr and U.S. Attorney for Connecticut John Durham. Trump’s request is for Ukrainian help in that investigation.
That request is not only unimpeachable conduct, but it’s also specifically permitted by a U.S.-Ukraine treaty signed during the Clinton administration.
It’s called the “Treaty with Ukraine on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters,” signed in 1999 and ratified by the Senate in 2000. It requires that when a crime is committed in one country and evidence or witnesses related to the crime are in the other, the nation in which the crime was committed can request the other nation to investigate, find evidence and witnesses, and provide access to them to the nation in which the crime was committed.
As I’ve written many times, the abuses of power by the CIA and FBI amount to violations of several U.S. criminal statutes, including the false statement statute (18 U.S. Code Section 1001) and the conspiring to act under the color of law to deprive Trump of his legal right to run for president (18 U.S. Code Section 242).
It’s so obvious that this request by Trump was legal and appropriate that only political hacks such as Pelosi and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) Chairman Adam Schiff could miss that fact.
In the second instance, Trump asked Zelensky to look into Biden’s action in demanding the prosecutor’s firing in exchange for receiving $1 billion in aid. That, too, is a crime for which Biden could still be liable to prosecution. Here again, there’s nothing wrong or inappropriate under the treaty about Trump’s request. Just because someone is your political opponent doesn’t mean he’s exempt from prosecution (at least unless the opponent’s name is Clinton).
Trump’s request regarding Biden’s admitted misconduct does seem politically aimed. But there’s nothing in the treaty that excludes evidence of a crime because it may be of political benefit to anyone.
The problem, if there is one, is Trump’s using the names of Barr and Rudy Giuliani, one of his personal lawyers, interchangeably. Then again, there’s no requirement that the president pick a diplomat to perform a diplomatic mission, and there’s no ban on him using his own lawyer to do so.
Now, please, consider the “whistleblower” complaint.
If you read it you know that it is entirely based on hearsay. The complainant has zero direct knowledge of the facts and repeatedly makes allegations based only on information received from others.
The whole purpose of the laws protecting whistleblowers in federal agencies is to enable someone who has direct knowledge of facts that constitute a violation of law or regulation — and who doesn’t trust his superiors to do anything about them — to go around the chain of command to the inspector general and possibly Congress to report wrongdoing.
The fact that Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community’s inspector general (IC-IG), accepted the complaint at all indicates he has a personal bias in favor of action against Trump. The complaint, which alleges actions by people outside the intelligence community — Trump and White House staff — is entirely outside his jurisdiction. Moreover, the IC-IG — shortly before the complaint was lodged — reportedly removed the requirement for personal, direct knowledge from the form on which whistleblower complaints are made.
The fact that the IC-IG labeled the complaint “credible and urgent” proves that the IC-IG did so in willful evasion of the law describing his jurisdiction. Atkinson wanted Congress to create, as Pelosi and Schiff have, an uproar when the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel told the acting Director of National Intelligence that, because the president and the White House are not part of the intelligence community, he should not turn the complaint over to Congress because the law did not require him to do so.
From these facts we have to infer that Atkinson may have either collaborated with the so-called whistleblower or was directed to so by someone higher within the CIA, such as CIA Director Gina Haspel. The IG-IC is supposedly working directly for the Director of National Intelligence. The acting DNI, Vice Admiral Joe Maguire (U.S. Navy, Retired) is someone I know to be entirely trustworthy and not at all political. (He demonstrated that last week in a HPSCI hearing chaired by Schiff.)
Haspel, who is former CIA director John Brennan’s protégé, is comprehensively untrustworthy.
When you read the complaint — please do — you will see that it reads like a carefully prepared legal brief. I’ll bet dollars to donuts that the “whistleblower” (who may have been a CIA employee stationed at the White House) had a lot of help crafting it.
Remember, please, the help Sen. Dianne Feinstein gave to Christine Blasey-Ford, the person who alleged sexual misconduct by Justice Brett Kavanaugh in his confirmation hearings. Feinstein reportedly found lawyers for Blasey-Ford and her staff helped prepare Blasey-Ford’s testimony.
We don’t know if Schiff and his staff helped the whistleblower prepare his (her? their?) complaint, but it’s entirely likely.
There’s one allegation in the complaint that is based on something other than the facts shown in the transcript of the Trump-Zelensky call. It is that the transcript of the call was placed into a standalone computer system managed directly by the National Security Council (NSC) reserved for codeword-level intelligence information.
That action was, according to the complaint, a possible abuse of the system and not the first time under the Trump administration such transcripts or recordings were placed into that system “solely for the purpose of protecting politically sensitive — rather than national security sensitive — information.”
That allegation was enough for Schiff and other Democrats on his committee to insist that it was a “cover-up” to conceal that conversation in the White House system.
Baloney. As you will see in reading the transcript, Zelensky said some very unkind things (but true) about German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron in regard to their failure to give more aid to Ukraine. This is precisely the kind of information that would embarrass Zelensky and cause Ukraine political damage. It’s exactly the kind of information that should be concealed from the public and other governments.
We don’t know how many presidential conversations former president Obama had that were put into that NSC system or some other such system to ensure they’d be concealed. Trump should find out and tell the world how many there were, when they happened, and who was on the line.
The allegations in the whistleblower complaint and the facts shown by the transcript are nothing. There’s nothing in either document to indicate Trump committed the “high crimes and misdemeanors” that the Constitution sets as the criteria for impeachment.
When this impeachment attempt fails — as it will — the Dems will try something else before the 2020 election. From a few reports in the Washington Post we can infer that they’re preparing to say Trump is complicit in any interference in the 2020 election by Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, or the Gambino crime family.
Mark these words: if Trump is reelected next year, the Dems — and their partisans in the intelligence community and the media — will maintain a steady drumbeat of these sorts of charges against him. Their political hysteria won’t allow them to stop.