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A Primer on Impeachment

As I write this, near the end of November, 2019, it is almost certain that President Trump is going to be impeached. It’s important to know when I’m writing this, because I would like it to live longer than this week. Its historic value, at least to me, is enhanced by understanding the context in which it was written.

For my readers who don’t follow the news closely, here is where we currently are.

On July 25, 2019, President Trump called the President of Ukraine. During that call, we know President Trump asked Ukrainian President Zelenskyy to investigate Trump’s Presidential Rival, Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter, to determine if they had committed corrupt acts. The entire call is in this link.

The relevant parts of the conversation, quoted from the document Trump declassified on September 24, 2019, are these:

President Trump: I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike … I guess you have one of your wealthy people… The server, they say Ukraine has it. There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation … I think you’re surrounding yourself with some of the same people. I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it. As you saw yesterday, that whole nonsense ended with a very poor performance by a man named Robert Mueller, an incompetent performance, but they say a lot of it started with Ukraine. Whatever you can do, it’s very important that you do it if that’s possible…

Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man. He was the mayor bf New York City, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you. I will ask him to call you along with the Attorney General. Rudy very much knows what’s happening and he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him that would be great. The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news so I just want to let you know that. The other thing, There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you ·can look into it … It sounds horrible to me.

This is clearly a request for the Ukrainian President to investigate Trump’s political opponent. The woman to whom Trump refers is Marie Yovanovitch. She later testified in front of Congress. She was a United States Ambassador under 3 different presidents, both Republican and Democrat, before she was smeared by several people and removed by the President. She is an expert on Ukraine.

At the same time that the President was asking Zelenskyy for help, Trump was holding up sending nearly $400 million of military funding to Ukraine.

The accusation, which began when an unidentified Whistle-blower reported the call, is that President Trump misused his Presidential power to gain a purely political benefit for himself, while disregarding what is best for the country. He was, in effect, bribing Ukraine to get dirt on his political opponent. This brought the Latin term “quid pro quo” to the forefront of the American lexicon for a couple of weeks. The term means, simply, “This for that.” Was the President holding up desperately needed money that Congress approved for Ukraine to fight its war with Russia until Ukraine announced it was investigating Biden and the possibility that it was Ukraine, and not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 election? The President has said repeatedly there was “no quid pro quo.” His Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, said publicly that there was, but it was a common technique used in foreign policy, and that everyone should “get over it.” Mulvaney walked that statement back a few hours later.

As of this writing, Congress has produced a dozen witnesses, including Ambassador Yovanovitch, testifying on national television about what happened. They corroborate the Whistle-blower’s account sufficiently that the Democrats are not calling him (or her) to testify. Republicans want to know who the Whistle-blower is. They want him or her to testify.

Preliminarily, Republicans attacked the process of the impeachment. They said it was unfair that it took place behind closed doors, and without Republican representation in the room. There were, however, more than 40 Republicans present in the closed door hearings, and the hearings subsequently were broadcast to the American people.

Mr Trump denies using US military aid as a bargaining chip with Mr Zelenskyy and has repeatedly insisted his call with Ukraine’s leader was “perfect.”

He has called the impeachment inquiry a “witch hunt” by Democrats and elements of the media.

The current Republican defense comes in three parts:

– Ukraine’s president said he felt no pressure

– The Ukrainians were unaware the aid was held back

– Us Military Aid was eventually released

The entire article from which the above was quoted appears here:

It’s important, also, to understand that impeachment doesn’t necessarily mean the President will be removed from office. First, the House of Representatives must write Articles of Impeachment, in which they lay out the reasons they believe the President should be removed from office. Next, there must be a trial in the Senate, presided over by the Chief Justice of The Supreme Court, and 2/3 of the Senate (67 people) must vote to remove him from office. As this would require more than 20 Republican votes, it is unlikely, at this moment, that the President will be removed from office.

My Opinion

Whether a President should be impeached or not has nothing to do with how good the President is. The point of impeachment is to prevent any president from abusing the office. The same standards must apply to all Presidents. If JFK or FDR or any of my heroes, whose policies I liked, abused the power of their offices, I would still support impeaching them. If my current hero, Andrew Yang, were elected, and he fulfilled every one of his promises, and then he asked a foreign government to help him get reelected, I would want him impeached. It’s not whether we like the President. It’s whether his behavior warrants impeachment. There is debate on that issue. There are many different opinions. We’ll get to those next.

Opinions are not all equally valuable.

I would hope we can all agree on that. This doesn’t mean everyone is not entitled to one, but they’re not entitled to have me take it seriously. Let me explain.

If I woke up this morning, and went out to my car, and it failed to start, I could ask either my doctor or my mechanic for an opinion about this problem. My doctor is a very intelligent man. He knows much more than I do about many, many things. But, he isn’t really the person I want to ask. I would rather have the opinion of my mechanic. He knows more about cars than my doctor.

If, at the same time, I woke up feeling sick, I would value my doctor’s opinion much more than I would my mechanic’s on the issue of my health. I would think this would be obvious.

But, I’m expected to grant the same weight to the opinions of those who know nothing about climate science as I am to those who have studied it for a lifetime? I can’t do that. I won’t do that. I recognize there are a nearly infinite number of things I don’t know, but others do. I will listen to those in the best position to have an opinion. That will be those who know the most about it.

My roommate showed me an article on Facebook last week about a family that had the difficult problem of a child who was born male but desperately needed to be female. The family did what I would do in such a case. They sought the informed opinions of experts on the issue. Is this just a phase? Is this something out of which the child will grow? Is it a serious issue? How do I know? They sought the answers to these, and a host of other equally important questions, from those who know more than they do. No one knows their child better than they do, but they may certainly know more about the child’s condition. The information is available. It’s a matter of finding it, and from a reliable source.

And now we come to the point:

H.G. Wells

Civilization is in a race between education and catastrophe.” –H.G. Wells

Our bizarre idea that all opinions are to be treated equally is putting us way behind in the race.

The Impeachment Inquires, and the reactions of people to them, have brought this fact into stark relief. Fiona Hill, an Ambassador with decades of experience, who has studied Russia most of her life, and who has written a book about Putin told us, “Based on questions and statements I have heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country — and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did. This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.”

And yet, we are to reject her analysis of the situation as “just her opinion,” and take equally seriously the idea that Ukraine interfered with our elections because the President and Republicans have said they did. There is no credible evidence backing this claim. The Soviet Union has perpetrated this fraud on the American public, and Americans are helping it along.

We have all of our Intelligence Agencies telling us that Russia is responsible. We have experts telling us as much. And, because of ideology, many reject the opinions of experts. And this is dangerous.

We can’t know everything. We can, however, as a collective, listen to those who know more than we do. The opinions of Fiona Hill and the United States Intelligence Community are more reliable than unverified claims made by those who have a significant reason to lie to us. This isn’t a question of liberal bias. It’s a question of recognizing our own limitations, and then seeking to fill the gaps in our knowledge in the most reasonable ways.

I am beginning to believe we are no longer going to be America.

I believe we may already have been defeated by Putin, and he did it without ever firing a shot. He got a stooge in office, and he has used him to continue to divide the country, making us weaker all the time. A house divided cannot stand. I have made an extraordinary claim. I must, therefore, provide extraordinary evidence.

First, the Ukraine Scandal benefits Russia.

As Dr. Hill told us:

“The goal of the Russians was really to put whoever became the president, by trying to tip their hands on one side of the scale, under a cloud. So if secretary, former first lady, former senator Clinton had been elected as president, as indeed many expected in the run-up to the election in 2016, she too would have had major questions about her legitimacy. And I think that what we’re seeing here as a result of all these narratives, this is exactly what the Russian government was hoping for.”

Next, we have at least 2 dozen examples of Trump being irrationally friendly to Russia. Here are just 7 of them.

  • We know the Russians interfered in our elections in order to get the President elected. Whether President Trump invited their help is open to question. He undoubtedly benefited from it.
  • He stood next to Putin and told the world that, even though the United States Intelligence Community said Russia interfered, he couldn’t see why it would be Russia.
  • Trump hired Paul Manafort, who has worked on behalf of pro-Russia politicians, to be his campaign manager.
  • President Trump blocked language in the GOP Campaign Platform that included sending lethal aid to Ukraine in their battle against Russia. He did, however, wind up giving the aid to Ukraine.
  • Trump has defended Putin for being a killer, asking if the reporter questioning him believed America was so innocent of killings. (This is called Whataboutism.)
  • Trump repeats Russian misinformation, or lies, about what happened in 2016.
  • Pulling out of Syria gave Putin an advantage. Turkey could move freely, and Putin took control of our military bases without any effort. He didn’t ever offer to pay rent.

The rest can be found here:

What is there, still, that Putin could want in order to be in control of our country? He has a President who does what Putin asks.

Does anyone need to reminded that Russia is the enemy? Do we need to remember that Putin kills journalists and others who are in his way? Is there a reason we need to cozy up to them? Don’t they represent everything America opposes? I thought we all agreed Communism was a bad idea. I know that Russia is technically a Republic, but a Republic is not led by a dictator. Putin is a dictator. It was less than 70 years ago that the Republicans led the charge against anyone even suspected of being connected to Russia. What happened?? (Yes… they were way over the top during McCarthy, but that’s not really the point.)

My Opinion

I don’t expect anyone to pay attention to my opinions. I have no particular expertise. All I can do is read, listen, and pay attention. I can fact check. I’m not concerned with you agreeing with my opinion. I’m concerned with you considering your own.

I base my ideas on the opinions of those in the best position to be well informed. I want to find those whose motivation to lie is minimal, and who have spent more time learning from experience than from reading Breitbart. There’s nothing evil about actually learning something. A degree doesn’t make you an elitist. It makes you someone who has opened a book.

In these times, the myth that all opinions are equal is actually dangerous. We are on the brink of being effectively taken over by a dictator. Our own politicians are spreading lies perpetrated by Russia in order to keep power. If we choose to believe that it’s as likely as not that Ukraine interfered instead of Russia, we’re likely to make dangerous decisions.

I don’t know the Earth is round from my personal experience. I’ve never left the planet to be able to see it for myself. I do, however, know the Earth is round because people who have studied it have shown that to be true repeatedly for the last couple of millennia. My opinion about the shape of the Earth is based upon the best information available.

My opinion that we are being, or have been, conquered by Russia is also based on the best information available. I’m hearing from experts that Russia, not Ukraine, interfered in our elections. I know this because 17 US Intelligence Agencies have told me so. I know because Fiona Hill told me so.

The Danger of Propaganda

A propaganda poster from the Soviet Union in the 1920s

When people continue the myth that it was Ukraine, they are doing the Russians’ work for them. Foreign powers interfering in our elections is bad enough; getting assistance from our leaders is intolerable. When we pretend that all opinions are of equal value, we forfeit our ability to decide anything intelligently. Jim Jordan and Devin Nunes repeat the Ukrainian Interference Myth as though it were a mantra. A Republican Senator, John Kennedy (no, not the President… he’s actually dead… I also know this, thank you), said that nobody knows whether it was Russia or Ukraine who interfered.

“I don’t know, nor do you, nor do any of us,” Kennedy said. “Ms. Hill is entitled to her opinion.”

No! We have facts. Facts lead us to conclusions. We sacrifice our judgment at the price of our freedom. This will not do.

America is facing an existential crisis unlike any we have ever considered. We are being overthrown by our own voters who are being deceived by leaders who repeat what they know to be Russian lies.

We can stop that from happening, or not. If we choose not to do so, we will have lost the race between education and catastrophe. We will lose the Freedom that is at the heart of being American. If we agree on nothing else, can we at least agree that Freedom is worth defending with our votes, if not our very lives?