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This must not stand! (continued)

The rules for impeachment must be changed to save the Republic

By Dr. Larry Fedewadrlarryonline.com

In my last column of this topic, I urged the President to sue the House of Representatives for malfeasance on the basis of two unconstitutional actions with regard to the recent articles of impeachment passed by the House:

1) denial of due process as protected by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments in a procedure which, if upheld by the US Senate, would inflict irreparable harm on the plaintiff by depriving him of his livelihood, reputation and public office, and

2) by re-defining the Constitutional designation of “high crimes and misdemeanors” as the sole rationale for impeachment to include

  1. a) allegations based on hearsay evidence which are too broad to be provable (“abuse of power”) and
  2. b) designation of the time-honored practice of Executive Privilege as “obstruction of justice”.

I have since been advised that, while these arguments may have merit, the Roberts Supreme Court has shown itself too timid to adjudicate balance of power issues if there is any other option available. In this case, such an option exists in the ambiguity of the constitutional language concerning impeachment. It is therefore unlikely to accept this case.

While I am still an advocate of testing the strategy above, it seems wise to state the case in a broader context. What follows is a case for changing the rules of impeachment – by whatever means. This case stands even if the current impeachment reaches and is resolved by the Senate. The rules must be changed for all future adventures of this kind.

The facts: 

  • The impeachment actions of both 1999 (versus William Jefferson Clinton) and 2019 (versus Donald John Trump) have proven that both Republican and Democrat members of both Houses of Congress cast their votes primarily along party lines rather than on the merits of the case as envisioned by the Constitution.

The threats:

  • This fact can only be interpreted as leading to a change in the governmental structure of the United States of America from a republic to a parliamentary system, where the president serves at the pleasure of the Congress. The “will of the people” as currently implemented by the Electoral College – which follows the votes of respective states – will therefore become moot in the case where one party controls the presidency and the other the Congress. If the Congress does not agree with the President, they can impeach and convict him on any basis that is handy.
  • If the president in such a case were so inclined, he might resist being removed from office by exercising his authority as Commander-in-Chief, declaring martial law and calling up the military to enforce it. Presto! The USA is now a banana republic whose government is beholden to the military and one inch away from dictatorship.

The solution: 

  • The current rules for the impeachment process must change. Congress has again proven that it is not capable of providing a just and morally defensible procedure for impeaching a president.
  • Justification: When the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were passed in the eighteenth century, none of the institutions which are now integral to our government even existed. The United States itself barely existed. There were no political parties, no Supreme Court, no Senate, no House of Representatives, and the President was the hero of the Revolutionary War, a soldier and farmer, not a politician. They had no earthly idea what an impeachment should look like.
  • So, we need a new set of rules for the impeachment process. How do we get these new rules? The easiest way would be to have the Supreme Court rule AGAINST certain features of current practice – e.g. there must be proof of a crime, guilt must be established by the standard rules of evidence, disagreements about the exercise of Executive Privilege must be adjudicated by the Supreme Court (on an expedited basis), penalties for perjury must be enforced – in other words, the Clinton impeachment protocol could be established as standard.
  • The other means are more complicated (e.g. a constitutional convention), less reliable (e.g. a new law passed by Congress and signed by the president), or more protracted (e.g. a Constitutional Amendment).

My concern is not to protect the current president. Rather, I am looking for a means to protect the nation from partisan usurpation of ultimate power, which this case portends if allowed to stand.

Partisanship has proven to be an effective means for limiting the power of one group or view of specific issues from dominating our government. It is not, however, a useful basis for taking over the government, and the last two impeachment cases have shown that partisan loyalty, not pursuit of justice, has governed the votes of the members of both Houses of Congress.

Our democratic elections are thus based on this very fragile foundation. A new set of rules has to be developed and adopted in order to preserve our democracy — whether by the Supreme Court, a Constitutional Convention, legislation, or a constitutional amendment. Otherwise, we could be witnessing the beginning of the end of checks and balances.

We cannot let this happen. But, if the current House impeachment process is allowed to stand as the prevailing precedent, our democratic elections are doomed to fall.


FOR RIGHT REASONS AND WRONG, REPUBLICAN SENATORS SHOULD STICK WITH TRUMP | OPINION

By Peter RoffNewsweek

Last Thursday, after considerable delay, the United States Senate began to organize itself for the trial of the President of the United States. Things might have moved faster—28 days elapsed between the Democrats in Congress voting to impeach the president and the two articles being sent to the upper chamber—but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi apparently had to wait for gold-tipped pens embossed with her name to arrive so she could give them away as souvenirs to committee chairs and impeachment managers.

Kidding aside, it’s hard to tell just who is serious about the impeachment of President Donald J. Trump, or if this is all about politics by other means. Some have argued, with some justification, that the effort to see him removed from office began even before he was sworn in, and that we’ve experienced two and more years of charges in search of an underlying crime.

The upcoming trial seems Kafkaesque. The president stands accused of no crime. As the White House put it Saturday, “The Articles of Impeachment submitted by House Democrats are a dangerous attack on the right of the American people to freely choose their President.” Going further, the president called the entire affair “a “brazen and unlawful attempt to overturn the results of the 2016 election and interfere with the 2020 election—now just months away. The highly partisan and reckless obsession with impeaching the President began the day he was inaugurated and continues to this day.”

Be that as it may, the constitutional responsibilities and oaths taken last week by members of the Senate require the formalities of a trial to be observed. One hopes they will all—Democrats and Republicans alike—adhere to the oaths they have sworn to be fair and impartial in their consideration of the evidence compiled by the House and that their primary concern will be to see justice prevail. Some will say that means the president will be convicted as charged. Others say it means he will be acquitted. Some, including sources close to the President’s legal team, have suggested the very question is moot, arguing the articles as approved by the House are, on their face, constitutionally invalid, since they fail to allege any crime or violation of law whatsoever—let alone the “High Crimes or Misdemeanors” identified as impeachable offenses in the U.S. Constitution.

That argument may be persuasive to those senators genuinely undecided – especially if they observe the oaths they’ve taken. This seems certainly true where the allegation Trump engaged in obstruction of Congress by refusing to allow senior aides under subpoena to appear and testify. Disputes of this nature, when they arise, are typically resolved by negotiation between the executive and legislative branch or, in the extreme, by the federal courts. This time congressional Democrats, citing a need for urgency— belied by their 28-day wait before sending the articles to the Senate—preferred to act on their own. When one target of a subpoena tried to go to court, the Democrats withdrew them, choosing instead to criminalize what most constitutional scholars would see as an all-too-typical disagreement between two constitutionally co-equal branches of government. Based on the record on such issues, it’s easy to see how but hard to believe possible the Senate could vote 100 to 0 for acquittal on the obstruction charge.

Unfortunately, this is not a time in the political life of the nation when “the better angels of our nature”, govern the actions of our elected leaders. Instead, the Senate’s 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and 2 independents who caucus with them are highly polarized along ideological lines. The pressure, in particular, is on seven Republicans who are either in cycle or retiring to join with the Democrats in calling for witnesses and to consider issues and affidavits that are not part of the record compiled at the direction of committee chairmen Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler and Speaker Pelosi.

Just four need to break ranks to effectively put Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in charge. What they will do depends on whether they are guided by politics or principle.

“This impeachment trial is not going to convince anyone about how they are going to vote in the next election,” Ron Bonjean—a well-respected former GOP congressional leadership senior staffer—told me. “It’s not going to change anyone’s mind.”

He’s probably right, oaths of impartiality on both sides of the aisle be damned. “Sticking by the president is an affirmation that this is largely a political exercise by the House Democratic leadership, who know the president will be acquitted,” Bonjean, who is now a partner at ROKK Strategies, said. “Republicans should stick with the president because he’s likely going to win re-election. Those in cycle may have problems with their base if they get on the other side of this.”

Bonjean’s right on this too. Numerous polls show Trump’s approval rating above 90 percent among Republicans. The appearance of perception that any Republican senator seeking re-election is being disloyal to the president during his trial almost certainly guarantees a primary challenge. Sticking with Trump is the right thing to do politically, which is how these decisions are generally made by those actually in the arena.

A second—and, regrettably, secondary consideration—is that the president and his attorneys appear to be right on the legal issues involved. But raising this flag would, of course, imply Trump, even if he showed bad judgment in how the whole business involving aid to Ukraine was handled, has been right more than he has been wrong. And we know how loath chattering classes on both sides of the aisle are to do that.


The Never-Ending Impeachment

Column: Efforts to remove Trump didn't start with Ukraine. And won't end there.

By Matthew ContinettiThe Washington Free Beacon

Maybe Nancy Pelosi held on to the impeachment articles because she was waiting for her pens to arrive. The fancy commemorative ballpoints, featuring the speaker’s name engraved in gold, that Pelosi gave to colleagues at Wednesday’s engrossment ceremony quickly became the subject of mockery. Republicans saw them as emblematic of Democratic partisanship and triviality. “Nothing says seriousness and sobriety like handing out souvenirs,” saidMitch McConnell. “As though this were a happy bill-signing instead of the gravest process in our Constitution.”

In Pelosi’s eyes, impeachment is something to celebrate. It’s more than an accomplishment. It’s the most significant product of the 116th Congress. What McConnell calls “the gravest process” has been the preferred means of Democrats to inflict maximum damage on President Trump and possibly remove him from office before the end of his term. The trial that begins on Tuesday has been years in the making. And the drive to impeach Trump won’t end when the verdict is rendered. He may well end up the first president to be impeached multiple times.

Maxine Waters has been chanting “impeach 45” since the spring of 2017. Rep. Al Green introduced the first impeachment resolution that summer. Tom Steyer founded “Need to Impeach” that October. In November 2017 a group of House Democrats introduced additional articles of impeachment. The same thing happened in December 2017, January 2018, March 2019, May 2019, and July 2019. House Democrats accuse Trump of violating the emoluments clause, obstructing justice, associating with white nationalism, separating families of illegal immigrants, and more.

Pelosi resisted. Why? Not because she thought impeachment was wrong. Because none of the articles advanced by the left could win a majority of her caucus.

Then the whistleblower arrived. The story he told about shenanigans in Ukraine was enough to bring aboard moderates from swing districts. The rushed inquiry and polarized vote on two vague and weak articles betrayed the political motivations behind the enterprise. Impeachment shields Pelosi from leftwing recriminations in the event that Trump is reelected and Democrats retain the House. And the investigations, hearings, and trial guarantee a steady stream of bad press for Trump and hostile questions that make some Republicans squirm.

Pelosi is more than happy for additional evidence to be disclosed and for the Senate to call witnesses, even after the House has impeached and when the resolution of the trial is foreordained. It’s not justice she’s after. It’s victory in November. Expect leaks of damaging information before key procedural votes just as happened during the Kavanaugh confirmation fight. When Trump is acquitted or the charges against him dismissed, Democrats will pronounce the verdict illegitimate and accuse Republican senators of involvement in a cover-up. No charge is too outlandish. Pelosi and impeachment manager Hakeem Jeffries have advanced the ridiculous conspiracy that McConnell has “Russian connections” of his own. “It’s a win-win,” Chuck Schumer toldthe New York Times.

There’s a cautionary lesson for Democrats in the Kavanaugh episode. As the allegations against Kavanaugh grew more absurd, and the D.C. climate more inhospitable, Republicans found themselves more unified. The senators that Democrats hope will side with them on procedural motions might demur. Susan Collins, for example, isn’t anybody’s pawn. “I don’t think Chuck Schumer is very interested in my opinion,” she said in a blistering comment to the Times. “I don’t think he’s really very interested in doing anything but trying to defeat me by telling lies to the people of Maine. And you can quote me on that.”

After the House Intelligence Committee dropped a trove of documents from Lev Parnas, the former Giuliani associate under indictment for campaign finance violations, the day before senators were sworn in as jurors, Collins said, “I wonder why the House did not put that into the record and it’s only now being revealed.” Good question!

House Republicans voted in unison against impeachment not because they fear President Trump but because the Democratic case was weak. A similar dynamic might take shape once senators who haven’t been paying attention to the scandal listen—in silence—to the House managers and the president’s attorneys. How the House managers such as Adam Schiff behave on the Senate floor might also sway jurors.

The test of Republican unity will be a motion to call witnesses. Republican senators will have to ask why they would want to make Schumer’s job—winning the Senate for Democrats in 2020—any easier by crossing party lines. Prolonging the trial would legitimize a flawed and politicized investigation. Republicans understand by now that Pelosi and Schumer aren’t engaged in an honest fact-finding mission. They are the leaders of an impeachment that will never end.


From Fiasco to Debacle? Pelosi Sending Impeachment Articles Now Could Derail Presidential Campaigns

By Brad SlagerRedState

Already a proven mess of a process, The Speaker may have made things worse for her party with her poor timing.

After a ridiculous amount of time in stasis House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today has announced to her party that she intends to finally send the articles of impeachment to the Senate by next week. The gambit by her to sit on the voted-upon articles for weeks has yielded none of the expected returns she was hoping for, and now Democrats campaigning in Iowa may be paying a significant public relations price as a result.

Once received by the Senate it will be up to Leader Mitch McConnell when to proceed with the impeachment trial, then once he does it will mandate thee attendance of all Senators. This will include those currently on the campaign trail for the Presidency. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and Amy Klobuchar. The vitally important Iowa Caucus is 25 days away, and now Nancy Pelosi may have hamstrung four campaigns in the important weeks leading up to that key vote.

As she announced her intention to withhold the articles Pelosi stated it was with two intentions; she attempted to insist on how Mitch McConnell was going to conduct things in the Senate, and she had an eye on developing further evidence against the President. Both of those efforts have been fruitless. McConnell has barely paid any heed at all to what Pelosi implored of him, and the second reason has been a doubly troubling return. Not only has nothing new been gleaned during her delay, but the fact that more evidence was desired only underscored how weak the conclusions reached in the House have been.

Now Nancy is bringing the articles to the Judiciary Committee for an approval vote so they can then be sent over to the Senate. This requisite move is just another that displays the farce that took place in the impeachment proceedings; the House Judiciary is a required participant in the process, yet Adam Schiff had barred involvement by Judiciary members in his closed-door meetings ahead of the impeachment. But this has been the norm of the entire impeachment storyline — the bulk of the narrative has been about the process, and not the findings.

Once that Judiciary vote is held — Tuesday the 14th is the expected date — then McConnell will be set to schedule the Senate trial. This becomes a windfall for the flagging Presidential campaigns of Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg, both freed of the Senatorial requirement. Yet the timing by Pelosi is bad for the overall campaign season, not just those Senators who may have efforts in Iowa suspended.

The ramping up of the impeachment will be an event that dominates the news cycles. While that is purportedly considered a negative for President Trump it becomes another feature distracting away from the prattling candidates. Compound that coverage with the hyperactive bleating of the Middle East and the blatantly hoped-for attitude in the mainstream press for war, and it becomes yet another reason to take the focus away from the campaign trail. Impeachment will just become another distraction.

Well done Speaker Pelosi — you have taken more needed oxygen away from the voices clamoring for Presidential attention.


McConnell just ate Pelosi and Schumer’s lunch

By Scott JenningsCNN

(CNN)House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer have been bested by Mitch McConnell yet again. The two Democrats attempted to create impeachment leverage where none existed by withholding the Articles of Impeachment passed last month against President Donald Trump.But like your Aunt Frieda threatening not to bring her awful fruitcake to Christmas Dinner, their plan didn’t work. Nobody wanted it in the first place.

McConnell won this round against his Keystone Cops opposition because he has something Schumer and Pelosi don’t: a reasonable argument.The Senate majority leader has insisted from the beginning that if the House were to impeach Trump, the Senate should treat him the same way it treated Bill Clinton in 1998. So, McConnell has steadfastly argued for the same rules package that passed the Senate 100-0 in the Clinton iteration. “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander” makes a pretty sensible argument. The Democrats have raged against his position. This is different, they say. They are right — this is different. The articles of impeachment against Clinton were bipartisan, and the ones against Trump aren’t.Given the hyper partisan nature of this impeachment against Trump, McConnell’s offer for the Clinton rules should have been greeted by Democrats with open arms. But instead they have demanded to treat a Republican president different from the way a Democratic president was treated not so long ago under the guise of producing a fair trial.

It’s the height of hypocrisy for Schumer to lead this charge. He used his impeachment vote in his 1998 Senate campaign as a political weapon, promising donors and voters that supporting him would lead to Clinton’s acquittal. In fact, some might even call what Schumer did a quid pro quo — you support me, and I’ll vote to acquit your president. Today, he tears into McConnell on a near daily basis for not being an impartial juror. What a joke. Schumer voted for the Clinton rules package back then and opposes it now because, well … I guess opposing Donald Trump is a helluva drug.Democrats have repeatedly made their feelings on Trump known. Just Tuesday, Elizabeth Warren said: “I am willing to listen to the Trump administration put on a defense … (but) I don’t see how it’s possible not to vote for an impeachment.”She’s not alone, of course, but her words are just the latest gut punch to Schumer’s claims that the Senate should turn into some episode of Perry Mason. Even Schumer himself said back in 1998 that the Senate is “not like a jury.”The days of Pelosi being hailed as some next-level genius impeachment strategist I guess will have to come to an end for the liberal pundit industry. Her plan to withhold the articles of impeachment to create that “leverage” over McConnell failed spectacularly. No Republicans were harmed, pressured, or otherwise inconvenienced in the making of this sad, sad film.

Under the rules pushed by McConnell, same as for Clinton, the US Senate will begin the impeachment trial by listening to presentations from the House managers and the President’s lawyers. Then there will be a question and answer period for senators to get information from the presenters.And then the Senate can decide what it wants to do about witnesses. Maybe they will want to hear from some. Maybe they won’t. Even if they do, don’t bet on a quick resolution. No matter what former National Security Adviser John Bolton says about being willing to testify under subpoena from the Senate, it is likely the White House would invoke executive privilege to try to prevent his testimony.What’s more, if he’s so interested in telling his story now, why does he need to wait for a subpoena? Bolton could simply write down everything he knows and send it to Congress right now if he wanted. But he hasn’t done that, I suspect because he wants the appearance of looking like he wants to talk without the actual responsibility of doing it.

Bolton’s announcement won’t change McConnell’s thinking on how to process this impeachment, and underscores what a blunder it was for Pelosi and Adam Schiff to have failed to subpoena Bolton in the first place.And now McConnell has exposed them for what they are — desperate partisans who aren’t interested in using impeachment the way the founders intended, but rather as just another tactic to be deployed in the hopes of trapping some Republican senator in a vote that can be used in an attack ad.They failed to convince a single Republican in the House that impeachment was necessary. They failed to pressure Mitch McConnell’s conference to do their homework for them.

And they will fail to remove President Trump from office when all is said and done, instead delivering him to a perch of exoneration from which he will bludgeon them for weeks.This could not have gone more poorly if the Democrats had tried. Any Republican senator on the ballot this year knows it would be suicide to join Pelosi or Schumer’s hapless crusade now. Better to let the people decide Trump’s fate in November than allow the Washington partisans to try in January.


Nancy Pelosi Continues Withholding Articles Of Impeachment From Senate

By Tristan JusticeThe Federalist

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told Democrats behind closed doors Tuesday that the she would continue to hold the passed articles of impeachment back from the upper chamber until Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell offered details on how a trial will be conducted.

Pelosi’s comments as reported by the Washington Post showcase the Democrats’ latest power grab to bend the impeachment proceedings in the Senate to their will demanding the testimony of new witnesses.

After the House passed two articles of impeachment, one for abuse of power and one for obstruction of Congress by an almost uniform partisan vote, Pelosi announced she would be withholding the articles from moving forward to the Senate.

Pelosi’s decision to bring a halt to the impeachment process comes as Democrats aim to amp up pressure on Republicans to conduct the trial in the Senate on the Democrats’ terms even after operating an unfair process rushed in the House.

The impeachment proceedings lodged against President Donald Trump were kicked off by an anonymous whistleblower complaint alleging Trump conspired with the Ukrainian president to interfere in the next U.S. presidential election. The complaint, marked credible and urgent by the intelligence community inspector general but not by the Department of National Intelligence sparked rampant speculation by impeachment-hungry Democrats and the mainstream media as a smoking gun to end the Trump presidency.

Soon after knowledge of the complaint surfaced in the media however, the White House declassified and released an unredacted transcript of the July 25 phone call in question under the complaint between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Democrats have tried incessantly to paint the call as damning evidence illustrating that Trump invited Ukraine to get involved in the next election by investigating the Biden family in exchange for nearly $400 million in military aid. The withheld aid was ultimately released without a Ukrainian investigation.

In reality, a true and honest reading of the transcript exposes an American president urging the Ukrainian leader to root out corruption in the eastern European nation and requesting that Zelensky investigate the origins of Ukraine’s peddling of the Russian collusion hoax in the United States.

In more than two months of rushed proceedings, Democrats failed to unearth evidence worth of a “high crime and misdemeanor,” that warrants the extreme measure of impeachment despite the entire process run in the lower chamber being slanted to disadvantage Republicans. To the contrary, the Democrats’ own witnesses exonerated Trump of any wrongdoing regarding Ukraine.

Democrats impeached the president anyway, and now Democrats are demanding the Senate call additional witnesses to prolong the process and find the incriminating evidence to oust Trump from the Oval Office. Incriminating evidence will be hard to find however, as the House hearings exposed to the public, there isn’t any.

Pelosi’s present play to prohibit the process from moving onward has further undercut the entire premise of a rushed procedure in the House, which sought to remove the president from office as quick as possible citing Trump’s hold on power as an urgent threat to the survival of the republic.

McConnell has made clear his desire for a fair and quick trial in the Senate and has pushed back on Democratic demands to call more witnesses to prolong a process that has been a sham from the start launched in a desperate effort to reverse the results of the 2016 election.

Republican Senator from South Carolina Lindsey Graham proposedchanging the Senate rules regarding impeachment altogether to remove Pelosi from the process and begin the trial proceedings without the House speaker’s approval.

Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, joined by a dozen Republican senators has proposed dismissing the impeachment trial altogether.


NANCY PELOSI IS PLAYING POLITICAL GAMES WITH THE U.S. CONSTITUTION OVER DONALD TRUMP’S IMPEACHMENT

By Peter RoffNewsweek

No one can be sure what her intent is. I’m not sure she even knows but her decision to wait before transmitting the articles of impeachment to the Senate is setting a bad precedent that puts politics ahead of the U.S. Constitution.

For all the work that’s gone into addressing the charges against President Donald Trump, it’s hard to argue they rise to the level of impeachable offenses. The charge of obstruction of Congress could just as easily be presented as a justifiable defense of executive power for which ample precedent exists. The allegation he abused the power of his office is likewise flawed. While U.S. policy toward Ukraine is legitimately a subject for congressional oversight it is hardly the stuff of which previous presidents were threatened with removal from office.

Remember, early on, how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opined on the gravity of impeachment and the need for bipartisanship? She got the latter at least, but not as she hoped. It was the Democrats who split their votes. Not a single Republican voted for impeachment. Three Democrats did along with Hawaii’s Tulsi Gabbard, who wants to be president and who voted “Present.”

Oklahoma Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, a cool-headed senior member of the House of Representatives, may have put it best when he recently tweeted: “After running a totally partisan and closed impeachment process in the House, [Pelosi] now wants an open and bipartisan process in the Senate? That is the height of political hypocrisy!”

He’s right. The process leading to the president’s impeachment was manifestly unfair, with the minority party in Congress’s right to mount a defense of the president routinely impeded by the process the Democrats devised.

Now Pelosi is sitting on her hands, waiting for Senate to approve rules for a trial to which she can agree because they will be, as she put it, “fair.” She’s entitled to her opinion, one supposes, but she’s failing to carry out her duties as leader of the House by doing so. She’s also creating a problem she’s not aware of for, if Harvard’s Noah Feldman is right and the president is not deemed to have been impeached until the articles are forwarded to the Senate, why should anyone be planning for a trial? Wouldn’t that be premature?

Democrats hoped the Mueller Report would show collusion with the Russians but that went nowhere. They had to settle for an innovative interpretation of a phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. The Democrats allege Trump proposed a quid pro quo—military aid for Ukraine in exchange for a public announcement of an investigation into alleged corruption by Hunter Biden and, by extension, his father, former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden who, the polls suggest, is most likely to be the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee.

It’s a stretch, but the case was made anyway even though both Trump and Zelenskiy deny any such arrangement was ever on the table. And without the Democrats willing even to acknowledge the younger Biden’s paid membership on the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma while his father was the point man for the U.S. government on Ukraine policy looks suspicious. Even the elder Biden has a hard time grappling with the question when it’s been put to him. But who among us won’t say, at least in their heart of hearts, that payments of a million dollars a year to the well-connected son of an important U.S politician by an energy company operating in a country with all the political integrity of Chicago, Illinois isn’t worth looking into?

What Pelosi wants is at least one more bite at the apple, maybe more. Her minions have been trying to impeach the president for most of his administration. The votes taken just prior to Christmas on articles of impeachment were not the first and, if you can believe what’s being said over the holiday recess, may not be the last. As Politico is reporting, “The House is open to the prospect of impeaching President Donald Trump a second time, lawyers for the Judiciary Committee said Monday.”

Will it ever end? Probably not. Just as Bill Clinton gave us what came to be called “the permanent campaign,” Nancy Pelosi and her allies are giving America “the permanent impeachment.” For all her high-minded talk about the gravity of the situation and the steps being taken by the House, she’s messing around with the Constitution while trying to overturn the results of the last election and influence the outcome of the next. She might succeed, at least as far as the latter effort is concerned, but not in the way she intends.


This cannot stand!

The highest law of the land is the Constitution, not the House of Representatives.

By Dr. Larry FedewaDrLarryOnline

The prevailing rationale for the entire impeachment procedure has been that the House of Representatives is the ultimate authority governing the impeachment process. Forgotten in all the blather about the actions of the House is the fact that the highest law of the land is not the will of the House but the Constitution of the United States of America. The Fifth and the Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution explicitly grant to every citizen of this Republic the inalienable right to due process, including the right to face his or her accuser and the right to defense in a court of law.

The “due process amendments” apply to the President of the United States as well as all others. The House denied those rights in this case. The President should file forthwith a lawsuit against the House asking the court to set aside the entire procedure. Likewise, the Senate should refuse to consider the House action until the Supreme Court renders its verdict

Why is this important? Because the precedent set by this House action portends the doom of our democracy. The House has proven that no elected official is safe from unlawful dismissal from office by the majority vote of the opposition party. In this case, the Democrat majority has unlawfully indicted an American President duly elected by the people without any semblance of due process as established by law and custom.

In addition, the action resulted in re-defining “high crimes and misdemeanors” to include actions which are not crimes by any accepted practice. In this case, “abuse of power” is not a criminal offense because it is simply too vague to be provable. Likewise, the exercise of Executive Privilege is customary and has been accepted practice for the entire history of the Republic.

Consider the consequences of this current action. All that stands between this President and his removal from office is the incidental fact that his party controls the Senate. Suppose he wins reelection but that the opposition party wins control of both Houses of Congress. The current House of Representatives has proven that partisan politics is the primary factor in the decision as to whether or not to vote for his removal from office. Otherwise, there would have been bipartisan support for the House action. This partisan loyalty was also proven in the Clinton case, when both Houses of Congress voted along party lines. It is therefore reasonable to assume that all actions of impeachment and removal will continue to be governed by partisan loyalties.

Back to our example then. Having failed to remove the President from office the first time, it is entirely predictable that the Democrats would try a second time. This time the Senate would convict. Then suppose the President refused to leave office voluntarily and instead, as Commander-in-Chief, he called up the Army to declare martial law and arrest the Democrat members of Congress. Presto: we are now a “Banana Republic” where the military controls the government and dictatorship is a whisker away. Democracy rapidly becomes a thing of the past. No office is safe from partisan impeachment including Supreme Court Justices.

We cannot let this happen. But, if the current House impeachment is allowed to stand, our democratic elections are doomed to fall.


Pelosi threat upends Constitution, fuels partisan furor

By Alex Swoyer and Gabriella MuñozThe Washington Times

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s threat to withhold impeachment articles from the Senate upended the procedures spelled out in the Constitution and threw Capitol Hill into deeper partisan turmoil Thursday.

Republicans balked that the speaker was “afraid” of a Senate trial that is all but assured to acquit President Trump and potentially discredit the House’s party-line impeachment vote.

“The prosecutors are getting cold feet in front of the entire country and second-guessing whether they even want to go to trial,” quipped Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican.

The day after Mrs. Pelosi’s Democrats impeached Mr. Trump on two counts — the first impeachment in U.S. history to have no bipartisan support — she cut off reporters’ impeachment questions at her weekly press conference.

“No one is above the law and the Constitution is the supreme law of the land. No one is above the law and this president has been held accountable,” the California Democrat said.

She then explained that she did not know when the House would take the next steps in the process of sending the two impeachment articles to the Senate, where the Constitution dictates the impeached president will stand trial and face removal from office.

The Constitution requires that the Senate “shall have the sole power to try all impeachments.”

And yet Mrs. Pelosi said the House would not name the impeachment managers who argue the case in the Senate or send the articles over until she was satisfied that the Republican-run upper chamber would conduct what she called “a fair trial.”

Asked about Republican complaints that she was “playing games” with impeachment, Mrs. Pelosibecome adamant.

“I was not prepared to put the managers in that bill yet because we don’t know the arena that we are in. Frankly, I don’t care what the Republicans say,” she told the gathering of reporters before refusing any further impeachment questions.

Other House Democrats, including members of the leadership team, said they were prepared to delay indefinitely the articles of impeachment until Mr. McConnell provided the assurances they want on the trial.

“We would be crazy to walk in there knowing he set up a kangaroo court,” House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn, South Carolina Democrat, told CNN. 

Claire Finkelstein, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, suggested the House could continue to gather evidence while withholding the articles.

House Democrats could use the time to keep pursuing court action to force testimony from White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, former National Security Advisor John Bolton and former White House Counsel Don McGahn, she said.

However, the Justice Department immediately filed a court brief arguing that Democrats’ legal battle to compel testimony from Mr. McGahn should be tossed out now that Mr. Trump has been impeached.

“The committee’s primary asserted need for subpoenaing McGahn — his potential testimony related to an obstruction-of-justice impeachment charge — appears to be moot,” Justice Department lawyers wrote.

In his Senate floor speech, Mr. McConnell appeared to call the speaker’s bluff.

“They said impeachment was so urgent that it could not even wait for due process but now they’re content to sit on their hands. It is comical,” he said on the chamber floor.

Mr. Trump weighed in by saying Mrs. Pelosi’s gamesmanship was bad for the country.

Pelosi feels her phony impeachment HOAX is so pathetic she is afraid to present it to the Senate, which can set a date and put this whole SCAM into default if they refuse to show up! The Do Nothings are so bad for our Country!” the president tweeted.

The House impeached Mr. Trump on two counts, abuse of power and obstructing Congress.

The impeachment stemmed from Mr. Trump asking Ukraine for “a favor” in investigating former Vice President Joseph R. Biden and his son Hunter, who is linked to Ukraine energy company in that graft-riddled country.

Mr. Trump is accused of withholding $391 million in military aid from Ukraine and a prized White House visit for the Ukrainian president as leverage to get the investigation announced.

It was unclear how, or even whether, a delay would pressure the Senate to adopt Democrat-friendly procedures for a trial. The move also appeared to run afoul of the Constitution, effectively nullifying the House impeachment vote.

Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, welcomed Mrs. Pelosi’s delay tactic.

“Her threat to the Senate is: Do exactly what I want or I’m not going to impeach the president, I’m not going to send over the impeachment articles,” he told Fox News. “My attitude is, ‘OK, throw us in that brier patch. Don’t send them. That’s all right. We actually have work to do.’”

Mr. McConnell said the Democrat-run House produced a “shoddy” impeachment work product, rushed through a 12-week impeachment inquiry and refused to go to court to enforce subpoenas for White House documents and testimony by administration officials.

He noted that the impeachment investigations into President Richard Nixon and President Bill Clinton both lasted more than a year.

“Democrats’ own actions concede that their allegations are unproven,” he said.

Mrs. Pelosi insisted that she is not intimidated and blamed the delay on the Senate’s inability to agree to terms of a trial.

Mr. McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, met Thursday to begin negotiating the rules and procedures for the hearing. They were not expected to nail down the details beyond setting a possible start date, but the two men did not get that far and remain at an impasse.

Mr. Schumer has demanded live testimony from witnesses during the trial, saying more evidence should be presented. Republicans refused, saying the standard set in the impeachment trial against Mr. Clinton should be applied to Mr. Trump.

In 1998, the two sides agreed to hear from the House impeachment managers and then from the president’s legal team before deciding whether to call witnesses. Mr. McConnell said the process worked for the Democrats back then, and it should work for Mr. Trump, too.

Josh Blackman, a professor at South Texas College of Law, said there is no requirement as to when the House must transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate.

“There is no obligation to actually transmit the articles. She would do this to indefinitely wound Trump, and avoid a trial the [Democrats] will lose,” Mr. Blackman said.


That Sense That Democrats Don’t See Trump as a Unique Problem

By JIM GERAGHTYNational Review

Over at The Bulwark, Tim Miller more or less pleads for Democrats to start acting like they mean it when they claim President Trump is a unique danger to American values.

He writes: “I have the sneaking suspicion that a lot of Democrats don’t actually view Trump as a unique crisis. Or rather: They don’t view him as being more than a difference in degree from the “emergency-crisis” Republicans always represent. For these Democrats, all of Republican/conservatism has been inevitably leading to Trump and the only difference between Trump and, say, George H.W. Bush, is that Trump says the quiet part out loud.”

If we want a better politics and more effective government, political leaders and activists will need to rediscover the ability to differentiate among their opponents on the other side of the aisle. From the perspective of conservatives, American politics was better when the Democratic Leadership Council was pushing for ideas like welfare reform, charter schools, public school choice, and middle-class tax cuts in that party. From the perspective of liberals, American politics was better when the Republican Main Street Partnership was a more significant force in the GOP, pushing for the most pragmatic options and trying to find policy solutions that wouldn’t freak out soccer moms. While you may want to defeat as many of the opposing party’s candidates as possible in November, you’re probably going to have to work with some of them after the elections. If the Trump presidency offers any lesson for the country, it’s that once everybody’s considered to be as bad as the devil, then nobody is treated like they’re as bad as the devil.

HBO host Bill Maher realized the mistake on the eve of the 2016 election: “I know liberals made a big mistake because we attacked your boy [George W.] Bush like he was the end of the world. And he wasn’t. And Mitt Romney we attacked that way. I gave Obama a million dollars because I was so afraid of Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney wouldn’t have changed my life that much or yours. Or John McCain. They were honorable men who we disagreed with and we should have kept it that way. So we cried wolf and that was wrong. But this is real. This is going to be way different.”

This Democratic presidential primary has been fascinating to watch from the perspective of the Right, because every once in a while, one of the trailing candidates makes a point that leaves conservatives nodding their heads. Tulsi Gabbard acknowledges some moral complexity on the issue of abortion and vents frustration with American overseas military operations that never seem to end satisfactorily, Marianne Williamson warns of an intangible but real crisis in the country’s spiritual health, and Andrew Yang seems like a bright guy who’s thought long and hard about the ramifications of growing automation in our economy. Conservatives are extremely unlikely to vote for those candidates, but you can see room for a productive dialogue. A Republican president who had to work with a Democratic House of Representatives full of Gabbards, Williamsons, and Yangs could probably reach a lot of compromises and productive agreements.

Meanwhile, much more prominent and influential Democratic figures keep acting like once a Democrat is in the White House again, they’ll never need to compromise with Republicans. They keep offering magic wand solutions that ignore every likely obstacle — wrangling a diverse House caucus, getting a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, injunctions from federal courts, a Supreme Court decision that the idea violates the Constitution.


CNN, MSNBC Refuse To Air DOJ Inspector General Hearing Live

By Chrissy ClarkThe Federalist

Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hear from the Department of Justice’s Inspector General, Michael Horowitz, on the findings of his FISA report. After providing months of wall to wall impeachment coverage, CNN and MSNBC decided not to air the full hearings with Horowitz.

CNN and MSNBC stopped following the IG hearing after about 30 minutes, and both refused to cover the opening statements by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. The decision does not align with the recent live hearing coverage standard both networks have held for the last few months, giving endless air time to the impeachment hearings lead by Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif, and Rep. Jerry Nadler.

Media personalities are noticing this unfair balance.

Ari Fleischer@AriFleischer

CNN is not taking the Senate Horowitz hearing live. Unbelievable. A perfect example of how bias works. It’s not just what they cover. It’s what they don’t cover.33K10:28 AM – Dec 11, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy13.9K people are talking about this

Bill O’Reilly@BillOReilly

CNN and MSNBC refusing to run Senator Lindsey Graham’s opening statement in the Horowitz hearing. The most blatant form of media bias that I have ever seen. RIP, American journalism.37.4K10:39 AM – Dec 11, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy15.8K people are talking about this

Steve Guest@SteveGuest

After giving their air time COMPLETELY over to Jerry Nadler and Adam Schiff for the past few weeks, CNN IS NOT AIRING the start of the Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on Horowitz’s IG report. #StopTheMadness

View image on Twitter

3,33110:09 AM – Dec 11, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy2,382 people are talking about this

Caleb Hull @CalebJHull

It’s impossible for CNN to claim they’re *not* a propaganda network after refusing to air the IG report when they aired every second of Nadler, Schiff, and Pelosi pushing for impeachment.

They don’t want their audience to be informed on what’s actually happening.3,77410:43 AM – Dec 11, 2019 · Arlington, VATwitter Ads info and privacy1,801 people are talking about this

Ronna McDaniel, the GOP Chairwoman was also upset over CNN’s omission.

“CNN aired everything Schiff and Nadler had to say. Why aren’t they showing Lindsey Graham? Is it because the facts of how the FBI mistreated Donald Trump contradict their coverage over the last 3 years?” McDaniel tweeted.

Ronna McDaniel@GOPChairwoman

CNN aired everything Schiff & Nadler had to say. Why aren’t they showing @LindseyGrahamSC? Is it because the facts of how the FBI mistreated @realDonaldTrump contradict their coverage over the last 3 years? https://twitter.com/SteveGuest/status/1204780316101152768?s=20 …Steve Guest@SteveGuestAfter giving their air time COMPLETELY over to Jerry Nadler and Adam Schiff for the past few weeks, CNN IS NOT AIRING the start of the Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on Horowitz’s IG report. #StopTheMadness11.2K10:38 AM – Dec 11, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy7,792 people are talking about this

If the IG report proved that the FBI acted perfectly within its boundaries, as the mainstream media claim, then what’s the harm in airing this footage? The truth is, the IG report revealed abuse of power at the highest levels of the FBI and the U.S. intelligence community. 

The truth does not fit the CNN and MSNBC agenda, and that is why they refuse to give a platform to it.


Bias among the elite

By Dr. Larry Fedewadrlarryonline.com

The first House Judiciary hearing featured three professors in favor of Trump impeachment, one against. The three anti-Trump witnesses elaborated their definitions of “high crimes and misdemeanors” and all came to the conclusion that Mr. Trump was guilty as charged of the three principal charges advocated by the House Intelligence Committee report on its “investigation”, namely, bribery, obstruction of justice, and abuse of power.

Jonathan Turley, the lone expert opposed to impeachment, advocated caution and against proceeding with the current case because it has no solid evidentiary basis and no bipartisan consensus of wrongdoing – hallmarks of the previous two modern cases of impeachment. As expected, the questioning was conducted along partisan lines.

My own analysis of the testimony is as follows: while the definitions of impeachable offenses and the historical context offered by the pro-impeachment scholars were impressive, their facile acceptance of the hearsay testimony provided by the witnesses in the Intel Committee was alarmingly biased. There was no appreciation of the due process violations or the lack of any first-hand testimony to the President’s alleged behavior.

The argument that the President’s refusal to allow administration officials who had such knowledge to testify in the one-sided Committee setting constitutes obstruction of justice and, by implication, an admission of guilt is a meaningless and circular argument.

As Turley pointed out, conflicts between the two branches of government – in this case the extent of Executive Privilege – are traditionally settled by the third branch of government, the Courts. The Democrats’ reason for not pursuing this course is that it would take too long – so what’s the hurry? The coming election, of course. Another circular argument. Turley’s underlying argument, that this entire episode is the product of rage rather than reason, could not be more accurate.

If there is no direct evidence of the President’s intentions available, that leaves the transcript of the conversation with the Ukrainian President as the chief exhibit. That conversation does indeed contain the American President’s request of the Ukrainian President that he look into the Biden affair of 2014. The issue therefore is how to understand the context of that request.

Given the fact that the military funding for Ukraine had been held up by the administration pending the outcome of their elections, the Dems are claiming that Trump’s “request” was in fact a threat to continue that delay unless the Ukrainian agreed to initiate the Biden investigation. It has been established that the President Zelensky was not aware of this delay at the time of the call. Nor did such an investigation ever take place. And the grant was authorized and took place less than two months later.

The fact that several lower level diplomats didn’t agree with this tactic and were not informed about its goals –and further made up their own unflattering rationale to explain it — does not constitute evidence.

The alternative context for President Trump’s request is that he was aware of the substantial opposition of the previous Ukrainian government toward his election and the involvement of Ukrainian technology in the whole Hillary Clinton episode of the missing 30,000 emails. He apparently felt that this new reform government could possibly uncover some useful information about that issue. The Biden affair was widely reported at the time (2014) and apparently connected to the corruption of the previous Ukrainian government in Trump’s mind.

This interpretation seems more consistent with known facts than the State Department’s “presumption”. However, a fair and balanced investigation might prove otherwise, as Professor Turley asserted. Unfortunately, the Dems don’t have time for that.

Stay tuned while this sad story continues to unfold.


Exhausted by their hearings, the House now takes a 10-day vacation

By Dr. Larry Fedewadrlarryonline.com

Amid apparently lagging interest in the whole impeachment drama on Capitol Hill, the Democrats leave Washington for the Thanksgiving recess with a serious question to ponder. They have to decide whether to pursue their impeachment strategy toward what looks like a bitter end, or to construct an alternate strategy. It looks increasingly like the practical politicians versus the true believers. 

As this column has pointed out, the stakes are very high: almost certainly the control of the House in 2020 and probably the presidency as well. The House is currently split with 233 Democrat seats versus 197 Republican seats (+4 vacancies). 

The Republicans need to gain a net 18 seats to resume control. Their prospects seem to depend on re-gaining the 31 so-called “Trump districts”, i.e. seats that Democrats won in 2018 that had voted for Trump in 2016. Historical trends are against the Republicans, since control of the House has flipped during a presidential election only twice (1948 and 1952) since 1900.

The Republicans’ best hope of regaining the House thus focuses on the Trump districts. The trends reported by the current polls seem to indicate that the more the public learns about the Dems’ impeachment efforts, the less popular it is becoming. 

This is, of course, contrary to the assumptions made by the leadership that the country, especially the independent voters on whom electoral success depends, would welcome this action and believe the ruinous assaults on the President’s reputation. The desired result was to so discredit him as to render him unelectable in 2020. Success of this strategy would defeat his election with the by-product of guaranteeing the election of the Trump district Democrats.

Instead, it appears that this strategy is turning those critical independents against the Dems. And that leaves the House leadership with a fateful decision to make. But what are their alternatives? 

They can’t simply drop the whole idea; they have come too far for that. The only way they can back off with some credibility would seem to be an announcement that their “inquiry” was truly honest and concluded that the offense revealed did not prove any “high crimes or misdemeanors” and then come up with a censure motion instead. (Talk about “a silk purse from a sow’s ear”!) Such a solution sounds like an admission that they were victims of bad judgement from the beginning – even worse than the original approach. 

So, there does not seems to be any way to gracefully retreat from the current strategy. Therefore, an impeachment vote seems inevitable. But how will the 31 vote? Remember, they were elected on the promise to work with the President and the Republicans to do great things including international trade deals with Mexico, Canada, China, Britain and Europe, as well as FY2021 budget, infrastructure, prescription drugs, increase manufacturing jobs, etc. 

Instead, they will face their constituents with their failure to get Republican support for their agenda because they were spending their time trying to overthrow the President and adding immeasurably to the political division which they promised to try to reduce.In the shadow of that story to the voters, it is possible that the Dems might lose the vote to impeach – or at least more seriously cloud their integrity even further. Not a good choice either. 
So stay tuned.


The Impeachment Hearings Have Been Useless

As it stands now, the entire effort is drenched in partisanship.

By DAVID HARSANYINational Review


Democrats on the Intelligence Committee have spent the vast majority of their impeachment hearings trying to persuade voters that bureaucrats believe Donald Trump is impulsive, self-serving, and misguided — all of which is unsurprising, and completely irrelevant to the matter at hand.

Quite often, in fact, the most breathless coverage of these tedious hearings has absolutely nothing to do with the allegedly impeachable offenses of quid pro quo or “bribery” — or whatever focus group-tested terminology Democrats are deploying today. Take the newest blockbuster witness, Fiona Hill, a Russia expert whose testimony nearly every outlet promised would be “explosive.” She “lashes Rs for siding w Russian theory instead of us on 2016,” Politico’s Jake Sherman informs us.

Having a witness repeat “Russia” a whole bunch of times in front of the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment panel isn’t nearly as fascinating or significant as reporters might imagine. Certainly, it has little to do with the supposed investigation undertaken to ferret out impeachable behavior.

For one thing, Hill’s broader contention is dubious. While Trump hasn’t called out Russia for interference, various other GOP leaders have done so on numerous occasions, including in a Senate intel report. And a person can simultaneously believe that both the Russians and Ukrainians meddled in 2016 to various degrees (and the Iranians.)

Even if one doesn’t, though, failing to adopt the Democrats’ histrionic tone over the threat of Twitter bots is neither criminal nor unconstitutional. (Reacting to 2016 as if it were Pearl Harbor, in fact, is likely quite pleasing to Putin.) If selling conspiracy theories to the American public for partisan reasons were a crime, Representative Adam Schiff would be serving consecutive life sentences in Supermax.

Hill ended up making a compelling case that she, and others, disapproved of the White House’s haphazard handling of foreign policy. But she offered no evidence of “bribery.” Yesterday, Ambassador Gordon Sondland also offered compelling testimony that he disapproved of how the White House was conducted foreign policy over Ukraine. Yet, Sondland, like all other bombshell witness, offered no real evidence of any arrangement proving Trump traded on U.S. military aid for a Biden investigation. Indeed, Sondland basically conceded that he didn’t believe Trump cared one way or another whether Zelensky launched an investigation — Trump simply wanted the Ukrainian president to announce one.

None of this means it didn’t happen, it only means that the dramatic tone of the coverage is unwarranted and the hearings have been a waste of time. Everything we know now that matters we already knew when first reading the report of Trump’s call with Volodymyr Zelensky. Either you believe Trump should be impeached for asking a foreign leader to investigate his opponent’s son for corruption or you do not. It’s unlikely we will ever have any hard proof of whether or not there was a quid pro quo.

To me, there’s little question such a call from the president — whether he was explicitly favor trading or not — is at the very least unethical and at most an abuse of power. Is it impeachable? That’s a political decision. Because, no matter how hard liberals try and convince you otherwise, the Trump presidency doesn’t operate in a vacuum. Republicans believe they’ve been living life under two sets of rules. Considering what previous administrations have gotten away with — and what many of the people now clamoring for impeachment helped them get away with — it’s difficult to blame them. Perhaps if Democrats and operatives within government hadn’t spent three years cooking up a fantastical Manchurian Candidate conspiracy to delegitimize Trump this impeachment inquiry might be playing out differently. As it stands now, the entire effort is drenched in partisanship. Which makes it extremely unlikely that many voters will be pried from their previously held positions. Nothing that’s been said during these hearings changes that fact.


Analysis: Media’s Biden Standard of ‘No Evidence’ Is a Double Standard

By Eric FeltenRealClear Investigations

For three years many of journalism’s most prestigious news outlets won acclaim for making and repeating claims President Trump and his team had colluded with Russia to steal the 2016 election. No accusation, from secret meetings in Prague to tales of prostitutes peeing on beds, was deemed unfit to print. When they wanted to signal to readers that they were conveying claims instead of facts, their hedge words of choice – “unverified” or “not yet proved” were favorites – strongly suggested that confirmation was on the way.

Call it the Trump Standard.

Now those same news outfits are observing a new standard of proof, at least when it involves former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who enjoyed a lucrative relationship with a Ukrainian gas company. This new norm demands that, absent definitive proof, assertions must be labeled as “without evidence” or said to be supported by “no evidence.”

Call it the Biden Standard.

Journalists have been appropriately skittish about appearing to spread Trump talking points – especially his accusation that while serving as vice president Joe Biden demanded a Ukrainian prosecutor be fired because he was investigating the gas company, Burisma, that was paying his son Hunter tens of thousands of dollars  a month.

Trump’s allegation has not been proved. But Joe Biden was the Obama administration’s point man on the Ukraine. His son has said Burisma probably hired him because of who his is father and Joe Biden did demand the prosecutor’s firing – because, he says, the prosecutor wasn’t doing enough to root out corruption. Still, the Burisma probe was dropped.

Normally media would greet such an arrangement skeptically, to say the least. A politician’s son making hay in a business over which his father has some sway? That’s the sort of stuff traditionally met with journalistic lectures not only on the evils of conflicts of interest but on the perils of the mere appearance of such conflicts. Instead, in this instance, reporters and editors have read from the same script to diminish and discredit such concerns.

“There is no evidence to support that claim,” stated CBS News. The Hill newspaper hit the same notes: “There’s no evidence that Joe Biden was acting with his son’s interests in mind.” Esquire declared there is “no evidence Joe Biden made any effort to protect his son’s interests as Vice President.”

Reporting on corruption at Burisma, the Wall Street Journal was quick to assure readers “there is no evidence to suggest they [the Bidens] broke any laws.” As for the allegations that Hunter personally profited from his father’s position, Politico seemed to contradict Hunter himself, casting them as “claims for which there is no evidence.”

But none have outdone the New York Times. As far back as May, the Times pronounced “No evidence has surfaced that the former vice president intentionally tried to help his son by pressing for the prosecutor general’s dismissal.” Last month, the Times declared at least half a dozen times that there was “no evidence” of Biden wrongdoing.

There is ample evidence for key parts of the story. Hunter Biden, for example, has publicly admitted he exhibited “poor judgment” in taking money from Burisma.  The Obama administration was concerned enough about Hunter Biden’s employment that Marie Yovanovitch was coached on how to answer questions about it in her Senate confirmation hearing to be ambassador to Ukraine. 

For those who might find the repeated assertions that there is “no evidence” of Biden wrongdoing overly generous to Hunter Biden, there are good reasons for even them to embrace it in other contexts. Under the Biden Standard, editors would be encouraged to take out their blue pencils and mark unsubstantiated accusations with the simple and obvious acronym.

Jon Marshall is an assistant professor at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He advocates an even-handed standard of proof that is strict by today’s usual practice. “I think for journalists to count something as ‘evidence,’ there needs to be a reliable, verifiable source of information,” he says. “Examples of what I would count as evidence include court documents, government studies or data, scientific reports, business records, and a reporter’s own investigations to name a few.”

To date, Donald Trump has not enjoyed the benefits of the Biden Standard. When the Christopher Steele “dossier” was made public, the media reaction was to believe it – or at least to entertain it – unless and until it was disproven. Instead of demanding evidence to prove the claims, reporters said the allegations were just as yet “unverified.”

Back in January 2017, when the dossier was new on the scene, NPR called it an “explosive — but unverified – document that alleges collusion between Russia and President-elect Donald Trump.” Under the Biden Standard it would have read that the dossier “alleges without evidence collusion. …”

When the Mueller report finally came out, the New York Times allowed “some of the most sensational claims in the dossier appeared to be false.” And yet the Times was still not prepared to let go of the story of “Mr. Trump’s alleged dalliance with prostitutes” in Moscow, which the Times declared “neither proved nor disproved.” But of course, the “alleged dalliance” could have been proved, and easily: just produce the supposed tape. In the absence of the tape, the Biden Standard should apply. It’s simple: If there isn’t evidence, there isn’t evidence.

Marshall of the Medill School would set the bar even higher: When it comes to the Steele dossier, “I would not have published it, as some news outlets did,” he says, “unless a reliable source substantiated it.”

If it’s important to distinguish true from false allegations about Hunter Biden – and it is – then it is just as important to do so for Donald Trump. That means thinking seriously about what counts as evidence and how to test for counterfeit claims. Most important, it means applying those standards equally.

A case can be made for adopting the Trump Standard or the Biden Standard, but it’s hard to justify switching between the two in what can only be called a double standard.


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