Thursday, September 26, 2019

From the Anti-Russia Brouhaha to the Ukraine Brouhaha

By Jacob G. Hornberger - September 26, 2019 at 01:40PM

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Since he became president, Donald Trump has killed thousands of people in Afghanistan and the Middle East in wars that are illegal under our form of government, given that he has never secured the constitutionally required congressional declaration of war to wage such wars.

Operating through his military-intelligence forces, he has also assassinated countless people in different parts of the world, notwithstanding the fact that the Constitution expressly prohibits him and his cohorts from killing anyone without due process of law.

He has also maintained a prison camp, torture center, and “judicial” system in Cuba that has denied people the right of speedy trial, trial by jury, due process of law, effective assistance of counsel, the right to confront adverse witnesses, and protection from cruel and unusual punishment, all in contravention to the guarantees provided in the Bill of Rights.

So let me see if I have this clear: Trump’s enemies oppose impeaching him for those things but instead want him removed from office for a telephone call in which Trump requested the Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to undertake an investigation into possible corruption in Ukraine by Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.

That’s rich!

What’s wrong with impeaching Trump for the right reasons — wreaking death, injury, suffering, and destruction in illegal actions abroad? Wouldn’t his removal from office for those things have more significance than if it’s done because of a telephone conversation?

Bribery charge

Of course, there is the possible bribery element to Trump’s request to Zelensky. A few weeks before the telephone conversation, Trump ordered that a scheduled $250 million aid package to Ukraine be held up. Even though Trump did not mention the aid suspension in his telephone conversation with Zelensky, the allegation would be that Trump was sending Zelensky an implied message: “Grant my request to conduct an investigation into Biden and you’ll get your $250 million in US taxpayer money.”

The problem that Trump’s enemies have, however, is a problem of proof. “Knowing” that that was what Trump was doing is different from proving it, especially since Trump states that he held up the money for the purpose of encouraging European countries to contribute more money to the effort. While Trump’s alternative explanation certainly appears strained, there is still the problem of proving that he is lying. In an impeachment trial, Trump’s enemies are going to have to prove that he is lying, which could prove to be problematic, especially given the virtual certainty that Republicans in the Senate will immediately fall into line and vote for acquittal, knowing full well what will happen to them if they don’t.

There is another problem that Trump’s enemies face: the fact that US foreign aid, which both Republicans and Democrats have long supported, is itself a bribe. Does anyone really think that US foreign aid is for the purpose of helping the “poor, needy, and disadvantaged?” Forcing or “encouraging” foreign regimes to do what US officials want them to do is the whole purpose of foreign aid. If they vote the right way in the UN, for example, the aid will continue. If they don’t, it will stop.

Back in the George H.W. Bush regime, President Bush was trying to get the UN to support his resolution to go to war against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Yemen voted no. US Secretary of State James Baker is reported to have said, “That will be the most expensive vote they ever cast.” U.S foreign aid to Yemen was cut off.

Moreover, consider the fact that when Third World nations are appointed to the UN Security Council, US officials increase the amount of foreign aid they receive. When they get off the Security Council, the amount is reduced. What is that if not a bribe being paid to ensure they vote the right way while they are serving on the Security Council?

It’s probably also worth mentioning the political bribery that both Trump and his Democratic presidential opponents will be engaging in during the impeachment proceedings as part of their campaigns for president. They are already offering all sorts of “free” programs and “free” money to American voters with the aim of garnering their votes. Why is that type of bribery considered okay?

Campaign-finance laws

Some Trump critics are saying that the mere fact that Trump asked Zelensky to conduct the investigation into Biden and his son constitutes an impeachable offense, independently of whether the aid package was meant to be a bribe or not. Their argument turns on federal campaign-finance laws, which make it illegal for presidential candidates to seek a contribution from foreign governments.

What would be the contribution that Trump would have been seeking? Dirt! That’s their argument — that by asking Zelensky to undertake an investigation into possible corruption by Biden and his son, Trump was effectively asking Zelensky to provide him with political dirt that he could use in his campaign against Biden. Of course, nobody knows how much that speculative dirt would be worth, and so it’s not really clear how much that supposed illegal campaign contribution would be.

But let’s face it: If asking a foreign regime to conduct an investigation into possible political corruption is really a crime under US law, then it only goes to show how ludicrous federal campaign-finance laws are.

First of all, let’s look at the words of the First Amendment to the US Constitution: “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.” Now, it seems to me that if anything constitutes speech, it’s a telephone conversation. How in the world does a campaign-finance law enacted by Congress trump the express prohibition on Congress enunciated in the First Amendment? Isn’t the Constitution supposed to be the supreme law of the land?

Second, why does a request for an investigation necessarily translate into a request for dirt? Isn’t it possible that a request for an investigation is just that — a request for an investigation?

Consider for a moment that Biden wasn’t running for president. Would Trump’s request for an investigation into possible corruption still be considered a crime? I don’t see how, given that he wouldn’t be running afoul of federal-finance campaign laws by supposedly seeking dirt against a political opponent.

Given such, how can a request for an investigation be a crime when applied against a candidate for office but not against someone who isn’t a candidate for office? Indeed, let’s assume, for a moment, that Biden and his son really did engage in political corruption in Ukraine. Would that mean that they could silence Trump from requesting an investigation simply by running for office? If that’s the case, maybe it’s time to reevaluate and terminate America’s ridiculous campaign-finance laws.

Impeachment: A nightmare for the Bidens?

One of the most amusing aspects of the upcoming impeachment circus is that it is likely to result in a living nightmare for Joe Biden and his son. The matter that Trump wanted Zelensky to investigate was Hunter Biden’s appointment to the board of a private gas company in Ukraine while his father Joe Biden was vice-president. The position turned out to be an extremely lucrative one, reportedly paying Hunter Biden up to $50,000 a month.

Meanwhile, while Hunter Biden was receiving that handsome stipend, this father Joe was playing an active role in Ukrainian affairs. In fact, part of that active role included Vice-President Biden’s request to Ukrainian officials to fire the nation’s top prosecutor, who had jurisdiction over the private gas company where his son Hunter had been appointed. Joe Biden maintains that he wanted the prosecutor fired not because he was investigating his son’s gas company but because the prosecutor wasn’t doing enough to ferret out corruption in Ukraine.

The impeachment inquiry is likely to give Trump and the Republicans the opportunity to subpoena Joe and Hunter Biden and require them to testify as to all the details of Hunter’s relationship with that gas company, what his services for it were, how much he actually got paid, and the exact nature of Joe Biden’s efforts to get that Ukraine prosecutor fired. That part of the impeachment proceedings cannot be something that the Bidens are looking forward to, and it might still prove to be a reason for Democrats to abandon their impeachment efforts.

Two big points

There are two overriding points to all this new brouhaha.

First, what are President Trump and Vice President Biden doing meddling in Ukraine’s affairs in the first place, and why isn’t anyone complaining about that? We have just gone through more than two years of laments about Russia’s supposed meddling in America’s system. What business do US officials have meddling in Ukraine’s affairs?

Second, the entire Ukraine brouhaha shows the lack of importance that both major political parties place on ethical principles. Even if Trump’s request for an investigation into Biden and his son was entirely legal and even if Biden’s request to fire the Ukrainian prosecutor was entirely legal, both actions violate the fundamental ethical principles against conflicts of interest and avoiding even the appearance of impropriety.

Reprinted with permission from Future of Freedom Foundation.

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