Pondering Trump's Impeachment: There Will Be No Winners Here, No Matter How Things Turn Out
President Donald Trump is accused of trying to pressure a foreign government to dig up dirt on his political opponent. According to the allegations, he went so far as to withhold military aid, which was mandated by Congress, as leverage to strong-arm Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky in his effort to knock former Vice President Joe Biden out of the 2020 election.
It would indeed be a gross abuse of power if a president used taxpayer dollars to extort a foreign government to fabricate a smear campaign against his political opponent. If that is proven to be the case, I would agree that Trump should be impeached and removed from office.
There is one thing that bugs me, though: even if this is the case, how can it ever be proven since it all hinges on not Trump's actions, but his intentions?
Puzzled By Complex Thoughts on Trump
Joe and Hunter Biden
The controversy revolves around Trump's request for Zelensky to investigate, among other things, the former Vice President and his son, Hunter Biden. When V.P. Biden was in office under former President Barack Obama in 2014, his son Hunter took on a lucrative position on the board of Burisma, a Ukranian natural gas company. He was paid $50,000 per month until his term ended in April of 2019.
Burisma was hit with a money-laundering investigation when Hunter Biden was on the board, though Mr. Biden was not accused of anything or involved in the investigation. V.P. Biden was former President Obama's Ukraine point man during the time, however, and has openly admitted to using his political power to have the prosecutor of the case fired. The prosecutor was accused of corruption, and V.P. Biden says he threatened to withhold aid from Ukraine until the prosecutor was fired.
Concerns about the Bidens, as well as other potential sources of corruption in Ukraine, and have been swelling for years. Conservatives have mainly been among the voices calling for investigations. If Biden and his son committed a crime or violated any ethic codes, this would naturally benefit the Republican Party in the 2020 election.
Others—mainly liberals—argue that there is no evidence the Bidens were involved in corruption and that there is no cause to investigate. If Biden did any wrongdoing it would certainly hurt his party in the upcoming election. Even if Biden did nothing wrong, the controversy alone might even hurt the Democratic Party.
Each side is accusing the other of being politically motivated in their position.
It Comes Down to Intentions
All parties agree to two main facts, which are evident in a transcript of the phone call between the two presidents that brought about the charges against Trump. In the transcript:
- Trump and Zelensky discussed how the U.S. helps Ukraine a great deal.
- Trump requested that Zelensky investigate several issues of what is seen by some as potential corruption, including Joe and Hunter Biden.
Another fact on which all parties agree is that the president did freeze the aid package to Ukraine in June, and released it two days after the whistleblower's accusations were announced.
The fight is not about Trump's actions, but his reason for taking those actions. The only evidence presented thus far is hearsay and an attempt to guess Trump's actual thought process when he requested that Ukraine look into some alleged corruption.
Legal Analysis on What Is Hearsay and Why It's Not Strong Evidence of Anything
Pro-Trump and Anti-Trump Division
Opinions about whether Trump committed an impeachable offense seems to depend entirely on how they already feel about President Trump.
Those who view Trump favorably look at the details and don't see any evidence of corruption. They believe Trump intended to get to the bottom of questions about alleged corruption, which is something anyone would expect their leaders to do. He used aid as a bargaining chip, which is common in negotiations with foreign nations. It's the same bargaining chip Biden himself used to pressure the former president of Ukraine to fire the corrupt prosecutor.
Those who view Trump with suspicion or disdain look at the same details and believe it reeks of corruption. They believe Trump intended to stir up controversy around Biden in an attempt to hurt the former V.P.'s campaign, as well as the Democratic Party's chances in the 2020 election.
Either way, it all comes down to what people think Trump's true intentions were. One side sees his intentions as noble; the other sees his intentions are nefarious. Unfortunately, there are no gifted mind readers who can confirm which side is right.
You Know What Happens When You Assume
The current impeachment is not like the two that occurred in the past. With Richard Nixon, there was actual evidence for the crimes, most notably the crime of ordering agents to break into the Democratic National Committee to find political intelligence. With Bill Clinton, he demonstrably lied to a grand jury.
With Trump, there seems to be no agreement on any "smoking gun." It comes down to whether one thinks his intentions were good or bad, and only Trump knows that. The whole impeachment process is based on what people assume Trump was thinking. That's just not good enough, in my opinion.
Guessing Intentions Can Work Both Ways
Let's face it; it doesn't take a mind reader to know that Trump is an opportunist. If buzz about corruption in Ukraine could help him pull down his political opponents, would anyone be surprised if the president jumped on that opportunity?
Even if he were truly concerned about uncovering corruption in Ukraine, Trump would know that it wouldn't hurt him any, either, if that investigation happened to dig up any dirt on his opponent. It's a win-win situation.
But in general, politicians are opportunists who will readily jump on ways to take down their political opponents. It's no secret that the Democratic Party decided they were going to impeach Trump five minutes after he won the election in 2016. They have been seeking straws to grasp that would help them toward that goal for three years now. Is it that far a stretch to think that their hatred for Trump so blinds them that they can't set aside their personal bias?
It's another win-win situation. Even if all Democrats were truly concerned about justice, they know that just the impeachment hearing could potentially hurt Trump's chance for re-election.
The probability that either side here has been acting altruistically is very low. The probability that these proceedings, no matter how they turn out, will only cause further division in the country is very high. For the U.S., it's a lose-lose situation.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 M S Beltran