Graves: The bad precedent president

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By Alden Graves

"If what we're talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable." — Michael J. Gerhardt, constitutional scholar

There is a great line from the delightful 1974 (especially when contrasted with the awful 2017) film adaptation of Agatha Christie's "Murder On the Orient Express" that certainly applies to the high drama about low conduct unfolding in Washington right now. Detective Hercule Poirot says at one point, "Only by interrogating the other passengers could I hope to see the light, but when I began to question them, the light, as Macbeth would have said, thickened."

Remember when Donald Trump, in his best con man mode, told us that he was going to "drain the swamp" in Washington? Three years later, the swamp he pledged to drain seems like a mountain spring compared to what we have endured. The recently released report by the House Intelligence Committee draws a few more shady characters a bit deeper into the Trumpian muck.

No one should be surprised that America's Mayor is involved up to his beady little eyes. Career diplomats, with our country's best interests at heart, watched helplessly as Rudy Giuliani, now strutting around as the president's personal lawyer, undermined their work to bring stabilization to an emerging democracy with his underhanded machinations. Two of Giuliani's lowlife pals, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, are currently under indictment for illegally trying to influence the outcome of an election in the United States. (Hey, it worked in 2016!)

Rep. Devin Nunes, Mr. Trump's chubby-cheeked pit bull on the Intelligence Committee, is emerging more as a participant than a defender. Nunes, according to the committee's report, was actively involved in efforts to fire Marie Yovanovitch, the American ambassador to the Ukraine by promoting a smear campaign against her. Ms. Yovanovitch was causing a great deal of problems for the Trump administration with her insistence that corruption in that beleaguered nation should be actively investigated and that the investigations should spread a wider net than the one that might ensnare one of the president's political rivals. Clearly, she had to go. And she went.

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Attempting to explain his suspicious activity to a Fox News audience willing to believe most any fantasy, Nunes, who has already faced one ethics investigation, said, "I really want to answer all these questions, but I think you can understand that I can't compete by trying to debate this out with the public media when 90 percent of the media are totally corrupt." It's surprising how much mileage compromised, corrupt, and cornered politicians can get out of blaming the people who have the gall to tell he truth about them.

One of the refrains that we keep hearing from Republicans attempting to defend the indefensible is that impeachment will "tear the country apart." That is a strange defense to offer on behalf of a man who has systematically sown divisiveness in America from the moment he glided down that Trump Tower escalator and announced his candidacy by spouting ugly bigotry about Mexican rapists.

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It is ludicrous to listen to even the abbreviated transcript of the now infamous phone call with Volodymyr Zelensky without recognizing the quid pro quo inherent in the "little favor" part of it. GOP excusers would ask you to honestly believe that, because Trump didn't explicitly say the words "quid pro quo," there was none. It's as ridiculous as not holding a bank robber responsible because he didn't say the words, "This is a hold-up" while he pointed a gun at the teller. It is patently obvious what Mr. Trump was attempting to do and the fact that he didn't get away with it is equally lame as an excuse.

Rep. Jerry Nadler, head of the House Judiciary Committee released a report on Dec. 7 that stated that Mr. Trump's actions were the "worst nightmares" of the Constitution's framers.

The right only seems to have any concern about assaults on the Constitution when guns are involved. The damning evidence uncovered by the House investigations is unlikely to move any of Mr. Trump's enablers in the Senate, who are terrified that moral courage will prove to be a career-ending move.

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It is worth remembering that GOP voters, proud members of the party that once billed itself as the purveyor of Family Values slathered with virtue as if it was frosting on a fat guy's birthday cake, recently elected two men who were both under criminal indictments to seats in the House of Representatives. Both of them have subsequently pleaded guilty to the charges. Chris Collins of New York, accused of insider trading and lying to the FBI, resigned in October. Duncan Hunter, a congressman from California, used campaign contributions to pay for airline seats for his pet rabbit and to subsidize his various mistresses, He faces a jail sentence..

Newt Gingrich, once Speaker of the House, who was cordially invited to leave Washington in 1999, dredged up the biggest laugh from this national train wreck. Speaking to Rachel Maddow, Gingrich, the High Lama of Polarizing Politics, had the almighty crust to decry Democrat's partisan persecution of our poor, picked upon president. There is probably no man in the history of this nation who has had such a debilitating effect on the ability and the willingness of members of Congress to debate and compromise as Gingrich and his legacy lingers like flatulence in an elevator.

He also bemoaned the fact that the Democrats chose to time the impeachment hearings with the holiday season. A quick check reveals that Gingrich released the draft articles of impeachment for Bill Clinton's tacky little sins as the president was lighting the national Christmas tree.

Mr. Gingrich, your hypocrisy is almost on a scale with Mr. Trump's corruption. That is no small accomplishment.

Alden Graves writes a regular column for the Journal.


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