Theater of the Absurd: the Public Hearings on Impeachment

Donald Trump would have us believe Ukraine meddled in our 2016 election to prevent him from becoming president; that Ukraine tried to “take him down”.  So let’s get this straight.  Mired in a “hot” war in the eastern part of its country against Russia and dependent on American military assistance in its frontline defense against Russian aggression, Trump and his Republican congressional allies would have us believe this desperate country engulfed in a war for its survival, launched a major cyberattack against the US designed to tamper with our presidential election. 

It is important to note that Putin has been spreading the same disinformation about election meddling, we didn’t do it, it was the Ukrainians, since 2017.  And three years later, after the intelligence community and a Senate report concluded Russia interfered in our electoral process, Trump continues to refer to the “Russian hoax” and parrots Putin’s debunked accusation against Ukraine. 

As Fiona Hill noted in her trenchant remarks before the congressional impeachment committee, a Ukrainian ambassador and other politicians wrote and/or said harsh words about then candidate Trump in 2016.  Hill believed such comments were regrettable or unfortunate.  However, she also provided a political context for their remarks.  Candidate Trump made a controversial statement about how Ukrainian citizens in Crimea preferred to be reunited with Russia.  His comments endorsed Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 that was roundly condemned by Western nations. The specter of an American presidential candidate, the potential new leader of the free world, echoing the Kremlin party line, represented an existential threat to Ukraine’s national security and even its sovereignty.  Moreover, Trump’s remarks cast doubt on America’s reliability as a political and military ally.  Of course, Ukrainian officials were highly motivated to bet on the “other horse” in our presidential campaign.  What else would we expect?  Pushing back on Trump’s ill-advised comments represented a patriotic Ukrainian duty. 

In fact, we know Trump was not concerned about the viability of Ukraine’s democracy.  After months of hearing about a “quid pro quo”, the Democrats have finally taken the gloves off and referred to Trump’s behavior for what it is:  Trump engaged in a sustained effort to bribe the Ukrainian president, using congressionally approved military aid as a lever, to pressure him to announce investigations into the “big stuff” he cared about, into the widely debunked conspiracy theory about Ukrainian election meddling and about an obscure Ukrainian gas company named Burisma.  

Everyone knew “Burisma” was a code word for investigating the baseless charge against Hunter Biden and his father, as the younger Biden sat on the company’s board of directors.  Moreover, we know that Giuliani and his cohort, advancing Trump’s personal agenda rather than the security interests of the US in thwarting Russian aggression, coordinated their efforts with corrupt Ukrainian officials, including a disgraced prosecutor general, and smeared the stellar reputation of an American ambassador who worked tirelessly to reduce endemic corruption.  

Trump withheld military aid the Ukrainians desperately needed in their war against Russia to pressure their government to advance his personal interest; to launch an investigation into a political rival.  The president’s clear and pernicious abuse of his authority is the heart of the impeachment investigation.  To hear Republicans howl that money was released and no investigation was ever undertaken, boggles the mind.  They omit the fact that aid was issued within forty-eight hours of getting caught, after the whole squalid affair became public knowledge on Sept. 9th, when Congress announced it would investigate the whistleblower’s complaint.  Moreover, the argument advanced by Jim Jordan that Trump was not successful so he should not be charged, remains absolutely ludicrous and underscores Republican desperation.  No one defends Trump’s corrupt behavior.  The argument is:  no harm, no foul.  Try telling that to people currently jailed for unsuccessful attempts to commit a crime.  Bribery is bribery, whether the effort to bribe is successful or not.  To hear Republicans argue otherwise remains as sordid as Trump’s impeachable and criminal behavior.  They are simply placing narrow-minded partisan politics ahead of considering the real “big stuff”, like upholding the Constitution and ensuring the health of our democracy.  

Neal Aponte, Ph.D.

Editor of Delano