- Pat A. Cipollone, Counsel to the President
There have been Democrats who have been seeking retribution ever since the Republican party politicized the impeachment process by going after Bill Clinton because he lied about receiving oral sex. Donald Trump’s ascension to the presidency, despite losing the popular vote, made him a particularly vulnerable target.
Rep. Brad Sherman jumped the gun by introducing articles of impeachment just six months into the Trump presidency. Yes, the Commander in Chief’s term was off to a chaotic start. It was also already clear that right-wing racists had been given a seat at the table and he had admitted on national TV to obstructing justice by improperly firing the head of the FBI. Still, impeachment is the ultimate punishment and the nation deserved a substantial reason backed by irrefutable evidence before suggesting the death penalty for the Trump presidency.
A smarter president would have seen the trap that had been set for him and followed the Barack Obama template for how to run an administration that steered clear of any legitimate legal scandals. The 44th president knew that his election had not cured racism and that modern-day Klansman were waiting in the wings at the first sign of scandal. The result was a presidency that was cautious to a fault. His administration was the first in modern history to avoid any indictments during the entire time in office.
Conversely, Trump entered the Oval Office like a bull in a china shop. The vetting process for subordinates was thrown out the window resulting in a revolving door of staffers and the highest turnover of cabinet members in recent history. When even Republican Senators began to question the qualifications of his nominees, Trump started skipping the process altogether when possible by appointing “acting” officials. He publicly cozied up to dictators like Rodrigo Duterte and sworn enemies of the country like Vladimir Putin. White supremacists were called “fine” people and the reputation of the FBI was insulted. And then came the “perfect” phone call with the Ukrainian president.
- Donald Trump
Nothing about Trump and his supporters’ descriptions of the “transcript” of the Ukrainian phone call matches reality. The president says that it describes the conversation “word for word, comma for comma”, but the document itself says that it “is not a verbatim transcript of a discussion.” It is true that the words “quid pro quo” are not uttered during the conversation, but criminals do not usually describe their crime as they engage in their wrongdoing. Immediately after President Zelenskyy says that his country is “almost ready to buy more Javelins from the United States for defense purposes”, Trump responds that “I would like you to do us a favor though”. This is a textbook example of quid pro quo: “a favor or advantage granted or expected in return for something.”
Secretary of State Pompeo says that his boss was “trying to create a situation where [Ukraine] wouldn’t be a corrupt government” but the “transcript” does not contain one mention of the word “corruption.” In fact, he ignored White House national security advisers and did not “raise the broad issue of corruption in” an earlier phone call with the Ukrainian president. Instead, the “transcript” shows that he focused on conspiracy theories that involved presidential candidate Joe Biden.
Given that the “transcript” that Trump provided contains all the information that the Democrats need to impeach him on grounds of abuse of power, the White House lawyers and GOP Congressmen try to distract with legal arguments that are ridiculous. In a letter addressed to Democratic leadership in the House, Counsel to the President, Pat A. Cipollone complains that there is a “lack of any basis for [the] inquiry” when the purpose of an investigation is to determine facts. The impeachment inquiry is repeatedly referred to as “unconstitutional” even though the process of impeachment is clearly spelled out in the Constitution. This process is also ignored as complaints are lodged against violations of “basic due process rights” and “confidentiality” even though the House is explicitly responsible for investigating and making a decision on what is basically an indictment. Should they vote to make Trump the third president to be impeached, he will have “the right to cross-examine witnesses, to call witnesses, to receive transcripts of testimony, to have access to evidence, to have counsel present, and many other basic rights guaranteed to all Americans” during the Senate’s trial.
Most perplexing is the claim that impeachment would somehow “overturn the results of the 2016 election and deprive the American people of the President they have freely chosen.” While a minority of “the American people elected [Trump] to do this job”, he did win the Electoral College. However, the same electorate also voted for the Congressmen who form the legislature that is a co-equal branch of government with the responsibility of overseeing the Executive Branch. These representatives will vote on impeachment using a process that is laid out in the same document that established the Electoral College — the Constitution.
In the unlikely event that the Republican-held Senate actually convicts Trump AND decides to remove him from office, the runner up in the Electoral College will not be the one to replace him. We will still not have our first female president. Instead, in a perfect example of out of the frying pan and into the fire, the replacement will be Vice President Mike Pence. With this potential outcome, why exactly are the Republicans in the House willing to sell their party’s soul, and the future of our Democracy, in defense of Trump’s actions?
Carl Petersen is a parent, an advocate for students with special education needs, an elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, he was endorsed by the Network for Public Education (NPE) Action and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a “strong supporter of public schools.” His past blogs can be found at www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.