by Errington C. Thompson, MD –
Ernest Thayer wrote the famous poem “Casey at the Bat” in 1888.
The poem is about baseball, overcoming long odds, and American idealism. Mudville represents the average American city: it is no place in particular but everywhere in general. The poem is a piece of American history. Smile.
Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, declared earlier this month that the House was going to open a formal impeachment investigation of President Trump. Her words were thoughtful. They were forceful. They had none of the hesitation and caution that we have seen over the last six to 12 months. What changed?
Somewhere, hidden in the Washing-ton, DC, apparatus, was a whistleblower complaint. The whistleblower allegedly overheard or was told about a conversation that Donald Trump had with newly elected President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. During this conversation, Donald Trump tried to pressure Zelensky into opening an investigation into former US Vice-President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. By all accounts, neither of the Bidens has done anything wrong.
Stop! Let’s think about this for a second… Donald Trump is the President of the United States. If he thinks that an American citizen has committed a crime, he could personally ask the FBI to open an investigation. I suspect that he actually tried to do this but was told that asking the FBI to open an investigation into a political opponent would look suspicious. But, we know that once the Donald gets something into his head, he is not going to let it go.
There is a “rough transcript” of the two presidents’ conversation. It’s not a word-for-word transcript but a transcript nonetheless: a sequential report of what was said. I suspect that over the next days to weeks, we will find out exactly how this document was generated. Needless to say, just like the Nixon tapes and their famous 18-minute gap, this transcript has several strategically placed ellipses that suggest that key content was removed. It takes about 10 minutes to read the transcript out loud, but the conversation lasted approximately 30 minutes. One could speculate that there is a large amount of content which is been removed from the transcript, but this is just speculation.
However … the transcript clearly shows that Donald Trump asked Velensky to investigate the Bidens.
So the immediate question is why did the White House release this transcript? After all, even the rough transcript clearly implicates Donald Trump. The answer is that the White House released the transcript because Donald Trump did not think he did anything wrong. He has made it clear that he truly does not believe that soliciting help from a foreign power to squelch your political rival is unethical or illegal. It is both!
It is also important to remember why we are giving military aid to Ukraine. In the 1990s when the Soviet Union was breaking up, Ukraine got its independence, and with independence came a huge stockpile of nuclear weapons. The United States, working with our European allies, approached Ukraine to ask them to destroy those weapons. But they still needed protection from Russia, and so, in exchange for their getting rid of their nuclear weapons, we promised military aid so that Ukraine could defense itself against Russia. Now, 25 years later, to use that military aid as a tool to extract political dirt is just wrong.
Crimes Were Committed
People in the White House knew that President Trump committed a crime. In the White House, all calls are transcribed. They are then archived into an electronic filing system in the White House. This call was different. This call was archived in a separate server which was reserved for classified documents. There was nothing classified about this conversation. It was an attempt to cover up the call so nobody could find it. Who ordered the cover-up is unclear, but as this inquiry proceeds, and as more whistleblowers emerge, I’m sure that we will find out in the coming days or weeks.
Democrats Finally Moved to Action
For the last year or so, the Democrats have been plagued with inaction. There are several metaphors to choose from but let’s go with “running in quicksand.” It seems to be appropriate. Donald Trump has committed multiple impeachable offenses since he was elected to office. This is not opinion. This is fact. If Ronald Reagan had committed these offenses, he would’ve been impeached.
Article 1, Section 9 of the United States Constitution says, in part, that “no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without consent of Congress, except any present, emoluments, office or title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince or foreign state.” Donald Trump continues to profit from his hotels as foreign dignitaries simply pour money into his companies. We learned a couple of weeks ago that VP Pence flew an hour out of his way to stay at a Trump Golf Resort in Doonbeg, Ireland when the meetings were across the country in Dublin. Congress doesn’t need a judge to rule that this is unconstitutional, though the Constitution is clear. Furthermore, We the People know that this is wrong. Unethical, improper, just plain wrong! Yet the Democrats have bickered and argued with each other and decided to let it go. They were not going to impeach President Trump over the emoluments clause.
The Mueller report outlined several instances in which President Trump tried to obstruct justice. The fact that he was unable to obstruct justice is not germane to the law. The fact that he tried, multiple times, to obstruct justice is against the law. It is an impeachable offense. Yet, in spite of the evidence that Robert Mueller and his team dug up, the Democrats fretted and wrung their hands. They admitted that Donald Trump had broken the law but, somehow, his lawbreaking did not rise to the level of impeachment, according to the Democratic leadership.
Donald Trump, through an intermediary, Michael Cohen, paid a porn star not to divulge her sexual liaison with Donald Trump. This basically shakes down as an illegal campaign contribution. It was also an illegal payment. I promise you if Barack Obama had paid off a porn star, the Republicans couldn’t impeach him fast enough. Yet, the Democrats needed more evidence … or something.
The impeachment of President Trump over the next several weeks to months is going to be a painful process. I’m not a fan of Donald Trump. I do not think that he represents any of the best qualities that have long defined Americans. Donald Trump is the poster child for the rich, privileged, and self-absorbed. And, honestly, I do not enjoy seeing the downfall of our president. However, I think that impeachment and removal from office is something that needs to be done.
Richard Nixon once sat behind the Resolute desk in the Oval Office and proclaimed “I am not a crook.” He was lying, and he ultimately resigned rather than face impeachment, conviction, and removal from office.
Donald Trump, by contrast, has stood in front of the cameras and, basically, said over and over, “I am a crook. What are you gonna do about it?” He has thumbed his nose at the law. He truly believes that the law is for others and does not apply to him.
Impeachment is the only remedy that we have for a corrupt, dishonest, narcissistic crook. That has to be “what we are gonna do about it.” There is no joy in Mudville, but if we truly believe in the rule of law, impeachment is something that we must do.