Rich Moniak is a Juneau resident and retired civil engineer with more than 25 years of experience working in the public sector. His columns appear every Sunday.
On one stage in the nation’s capital, Congressional Democrats completed their inquiry and are debating two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. On another are the findings by the Justice Department Inspector General regarding the FBI’s Trump Campaign/Russia investigation. And soon to be playing is a report by Rudy Giuliani on his Ukrainian investigation.
And the national media reporting of each act is being tailored to their respective biased audiences.
On impeachment, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, took a relatively mild swipe at the hearings orchestrated by Democrats. Last week she said their minimal attempt to work with Republican committee members made the inquiry “appear more partisan” than necessary.
Murkowski, one of the most open-minded members of Congress, has yet to show her hand on whether Trump should be removed from office for asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to “do us a favor” by opening two investigations. One regarded alleged corruption by former Vice President and current presidential candidate Joe Biden. The other was the hacked Democratic National Committee (DNC) server that Trump thinks will prove Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 election.
If Democrats can’t impress Murkowski, then they’re mistaken to think any other Republican will agree that Trump abused the power of the presidency, or obstructed Congress by ordering White House officials not to testify.
Democrats should have followed the advice from the only legal scholar Republicans selected to testify before the House Judiciary Committee.
Jonathan Turley agreed that “a president can be impeached for abuses of power.” But regarding Trump’s action in the Ukraine case, “there needs to be clear and unequivocal proof of a quid pro quo.” And that hasn’t been proven because “there remain core witnesses and documents that have not been sought through the courts.”
Those witnesses, including Giuliani, John Bolton, and Mike Mulvaney, “clearly hold material information,” Turley said. All were subpoenaed but refused to testify. Turley’s message was to go all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary, to get their testimony.
One witness Turley didn’t mention is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland testified he kept Pompeo “in the loop” about the investigations Trump wanted Zelenskiy to pursue.
A spokeswoman for Pompeo called Sondland’s statement “flat out false.”
But Pompeo refused state that under oath, or let Congress question his justification for the investigation into possible election interference by Ukraine.
“We not only have a right but a duty to make sure we chase that down,” Pompeo said last month. “America should leave no stone unturned.”
That’s exactly why the FBI began its Trump Campaign/Russia investigation in 2016. That led to the Mueller investigation, which Trump incessantly called a “witch hunt.”
The Inspector General investigation of the FBI investigation began in March 2018. His report, released on Monday, states the information provided to the FBI “was sufficient to predicate the investigation” and “if true, reasonably indicated activity constituting either a federal crime or a threat to national security, or both, may have occurred or may be occurring.”
Attorney General William Barr disagreed. Reversing Pompeo’s “leave no stone unturned” argument, he declared the investigation was launched “on the thinnest of suspicions.”
Barr is also connected to Giuliani through the July 25 call. Trump asked Zelenskiy to work with both of them “to get to the bottom” of DNC server and Biden stories.
Although in a radio interview with Bill O’Reilly three weeks ago, Trump denied directing Giuliani to do anything on at all his behalf.
So perhaps Giuliani went to back Ukraine and turned over every suspiciously thin stone under Barr’s direction. Because Trump now says Giuliani is back with “a lot of good information” to give “to the attorney general and to Congress.”
And if all this doesn’t make you dizzy, there’s another report about an investigation of the investigators on its way. Barr ordered that in October.
None of this going to end well.
As Murkowski and Turley warned, the best Democrats will get is a partisan impeachment vote in the House.
Republicans will be no less delusional if they try to equate a partisan acquittal in the Senate to an exoneration of the president.
And the only Americans likely to be convinced by anything that Giuliani and Barr produce are Trump and his Republican base.