Members Only | November 22, 2019 | Reading Time: 3 minutes

The Truth In Plain Sight Is No Guarantee of Trump’s Removal

Propaganda's true power will soon be revealed.

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The president’s last line of defense, according to Bloomberg reporting this morning, is that he never told anyone explicitly to extort Volodymyr Zelensky into a conspiracy to defraud the American people. If that sounds absurd, that’s because it is. But absurdity has a deep history in the tradition of political theater. That Donald Trump didn’t state clearly the magic words—Go forth and commit criminal acts in my name—may be all the Senate Republicans need to protect the worst president since the nation’s founding.

Emphasis on “may.” The Senate Republicans have already moved their original line of defense to keep pace with damning evidence that came to light this week. Lindsey Graham led a resolution in the Senate last month to condemn the House investigation. More recently, he’s told home-state supporters that as the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he would kill off a trial before it got started. He’s less resolute now.

The truth will set you free, as they say.

During a meeting yesterday at the White House with Trump and a group of Senate Republicans, Graham revealed there weren’t enough votes in the Senate to dismiss the case outright. There are 53 GOP senators. He would need 51 to dismiss. So some Republicans seem to be feeling the squeeze between party and country. That’s probably why Graham and the Senate Republicans had to convince the president that the question, as of now, wasn’t whether the case should be heard but how long the trial should be. The consensus appears to be about two weeks, according to the Post.

That depends on what the House Democrats decide the next step is. Before Gordon Sondland testified, the Democrats were focused on abuse of presidential power. After testimony by the EU ambassador, however, the Democrats have grounds for returning to obstruction of justice. Sondland said everyone was “in the loop,” meaning everyone knew what Trump wanted from the Ukrainians and why. “The loop” included the vice president, the secretary of state, the former head of the White House National Security Council and the acting White House chief of staff. These are the same people whom Trump has barred from working with the House investigators. As long as he forbids their cooperation, the Democrats are justified in charging Trump with obstruction.

As the Post’s Ruth Marcus argued earlier this week: “The administration’s high-handed order that witnesses not cooperate with the House probe and refusal to turn over relevant documents is an act of obstruction—and a likely count in the articles of impeachment. But the goal isn’t proving obstruction—it is getting at the truth.”

The truth has been in plain sight for months. Robert Mueller outlined in his report to the Congress at least 10 instances in which Trump obstructed his investigation into Russia’s disinformation campaign to move public opinion against the Democratic candidate in favor of the Republican. The House Democrats now appear ready for the next phase of the impeachment process. Politico reports this morning they want to hold at least on hearing related to Mueller’s report. But there should be many more.

In politics, though, the truth must be set free.

The blinding takeaway of Mueller’s report was that the Russians hurt Hillary Clinton to help her opponent. Implicit but crystal clear in that conclusion is that the president cheated to win. Furthermore, he thought he got away with it after Mueller’s report and subsequent House testimony had little if any affect on the public’s opinion of him. (Trump has always been unpopular, but the report didn’t make him more so.) Emboldened, the president tried cheating again, this time by involving Ukraine’s vulnerable president in a conspiracy to undermine another rival. The phone call at the heart of impeachment hearings took place the day after Mueller finished testifying.

Cheating (via bribery, in this case) is betrayal. Betrayal is a violation of public trust. Public trust is the root of the Constitution’s “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Here’s how House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff explained it recently:

“Bribery … as the founders understood bribery … was not as we understand it in law today. It was much broader. It connoted the breach of the public trust in a way where you’re offering official acts for some personal or political reason, not in the nation’s interest. Here you have the president of the United States seeking help from Ukraine in his reelection campaign in the form of two investigations that he thought were politically advantageous, including one of his primary rival” (my italics).

The truth being in plain sight, however, is no guarantee of removal. I really want liberals to understand that. We are entering a dark period in which the true and awesome power of indoctrination, disinformation and propaganda will be revealed. The truth will set you free, as they say. In politics, though, the truth must be set free.

And only the people can do that.

—John Stoehr

John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.

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