Progressive Views: Trump and Ukraine

by JC Dufresne
for the “Progressive Views” column, Boerne Star, November 8, 2019

An emotional illustration of an angry man shaking his fist
“Angry Man” by Steve Rhode is licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

I’ve never been a baseball fan though when I was a kid I watched a few televised World Series games but I have to tell you I sure wish I’d been at the game played on October 27. All the fun happened after the third inning when Donald Trump was introduced and the crowd booed then started chanting “Lock him up.”

Included in Trump’s World Series entourage was Congressman Matt Gaetz who the week prior led a group of 30 or so Republican House members to violate the security of closed-door hearings involving the impeachment inquiry. Gaetz and his followers ranted about the unfairness of the closed-door hearing claiming that Republicans were left out. As usual Republicans have problems with reality, also known as telling the truth, since 12 of the 30 or so in the group are members of the committees meeting in the secure area and were in fact eligible to attend those hearings along with the other 35 Republicans also on those committees.

Recent news has been full of facts showing Trump’s demands that Ukraine President Zelensky publicly announce an investigation into Joe Biden and his son’s membership on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company named Burisma before the U.S. would release funds, previously approved by Congress, for weapons to defend themselves against Russia’s current aggression. (Biden’s son has since resigned from the board.)

Since then there has been additional testimony, some confirming the nature of the “quid pro quo” and some attempting to obfuscate it. For the moment let’s pretend that there was never a connection between Trump’s demands that Zelensky initiate an investigation and the military assistance funds. Trump’s demand in itself is a violation of both campaign finance law and the Constitution that he and his enablers are sworn to protect and defend. Regarding campaign finance law, it is illegal to solicit or accept a campaign donation from a foreign citizen, foreign company, or foreign nation. Just asking politely for Ukraine to dig up dirt on an electoral opponent is soliciting a donation since opposition research is considered a campaign expense and is therefore a “thing of value” and therefore a campaign donation as defined by campaign finance law.

As to violating the Constitution Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 states: “No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” Emoluments in the case of this clause broadly encompasses any kind of profit, benefit, advantage, or service, not merely gifts of money or valuable objects. Having a foreign nation provide a campaign advantage is obviously in the scope of the prohibitions established in the Constitution.

Gaetz and his cronies haven’t given up on claims that impeachment process hasn’t been fair. Even now that Speaker Nancy Pelosi has officially opened an impeachment inquiry and a plan to release some of the transcripts from the closed-door hearings, they find other reasons to complain. This is typical legal wrangling rather than any focus on substance, in fact there’s an old legal aphorism that goes, “If you have the facts on your side, pound the facts. If you have the law on your side, pound the law. If you have neither on your side, pound the table.” Trump, Gaetz and Republicans in general are going to continue to pound the table as they have neither the facts nor the law on their side.

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