Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/22/2019: Say Hello To Impeachment Plan O!

Good Morning!

As readers here know, Ethics Alarms has identified 14 distinct strategies, A through N,  ateempted to varying degrees by Democrats, the news media and “the resistance” to overturn the results of the 2016 election. I facetiously designated the brief, hysterical movement to nominate Opra Winfrey as the Democratic candidate in 2020 as “Plan O,” but now we really have one, #15.

Plan O incorporates several of the previous 14, but it is a new spin, unusually unmoored to fact or law. The theory is that the Mueller investigation was supposed to provide constitutional justification to impeach President Trump, so its report is  justification even though the investigation found no evidence of crimes or misconduct that could sustain an ethical prosecution. To borrow from several on-line wags, it’s the “There has to be a pony in there somewhere” plan.

One could argue that Plan O is just an update of Plan F: The Maxine Waters Plan, which  is to impeach the President for existing (after  his appointments, staff and supporters have been accosted, harassed and assaulted), but it’s more bizarre than that. The theory is that an investigation that explicitly found no convincing evidence that the President had engaged in impeachable offenses has somehow shown that the President engaged in impeachable offenses. I’m not being arch—this is an entirely fair and accurate description.

Poster boy for this mind-bending exercise is the absurd Rep. Adam Schiff, who now argues that the report proves “collusion” and obstruction, despite the fact that it does neither, and says that it does neither.  Telling ABC’s George Stephanopoulis that there is “ample evidence of collusion in plain sight,” Schiff said,

“I use that word very carefully because I also distinguish time and time again between collusion, that is acts of corruption that may or may not be criminal, and proof of a criminal conspiracy. And that is a distinction that Bob Mueller made within the first few pages of his report. In fact, every act that I’ve pointed to as evidence of collusion has now been borne out by the report.“

This approach requires a Procrustean definition  of “collusion” to fit whatever there is evidence of, and then framing that definition as “corruption,” after defining that as including  non criminal conduct. Schiff regards having a meeting with Russians that has no effects on the campaign or the election as “collusion,” even though any American is free to meet with anybody they choose to.  This guy says outrageous things like this on national TV—

“The obstruction of justice in particular in this case is far worse than anything that Richard Nixon did…I would say in every way this is more significant than Watergate.And the fact that a candidate for president and now president of the United States would not only not stand up and resist Russian interference in our election but would welcome it goes well beyond anything Nixon did.“

..which is Big Lie enterprise par excellance. 

Since there was no underlying crime to cover up, unlike Watergate, there was no obstruction of justice. Nixon authorized the payment of hush money. Nixon denied that he knew about the crime, when he was on tape admitting otherwise. Nixon tried to engage the FBI in his cover-up. Nixon used every legal maneuver and declaration of Executive Privilege he could devise to try to block the investigation. Nixon didn’t just want to fire the Independent Counsel (as Trump wanted to) , he did fire him. By what possible calculations can Schiff say the conduct by Trump was worse than Watergate, on par with Watergate, or even slightly approaching Watergate?

ABC reporters hearing this nonsene had an absolute obligation to ask that exact question. Of course, they did not.

The other question that had to be asked if Stephanopoulis was anything more than the Democratic Party’s water-carrying hack was, “What do you mean, Trump had a duty to “stand up and resist.”? What was he supposed to do? It was the job of the sitting President of the United States to “resist,” and Obama not only did nothing,  his Justice Department  employed a fake attack document created with the assistance of Russians to justify surveillance on the Trump campaign.”

It is because the news media refuses to clearly report the Mueller investigation’s findings rather than devote most of its analysis to negative innuendo in the text and anti-Trump spin by Democrats that there was a sudden drop in the President’s poll numbers, entirely caused, I presume, by people who haven’t read the report and couldn’t understand the report if they did  basing their new opinions on slanted headlines and false claims like Schiff’s.  Success! So far, Plan O works!

The Plan O purveyor in the news media who wins the prize has to be Meet The Press’s Chuck Todd, who really and truly said this yesterday:

“Are you, sort of, okaying the idea of foreign adversaries, helping out political campaigns if there isn’t an attempt to put this behavior on the docket of Congress?”

Chuck Todd, NBC’s political director, is seriously arguing that Trump has to be impeached to show foreign governments that we won’t let them interfere with our elections, and to warn future candidates that even allowing those with “ties” to foreign governments make noises about helping out will get them booted out of office…despite the fact that nobody has shown that “Russian interference” had any impact at all.

Todd says that Congress has to take up the impeachment of a duly elected President to punish him for what the Russians did and what President Obama allowed them to do, despite the fact that Mueller indicted several Russians for their “interference,” which I presume was designed to send a message and despite the fact that the two and half year, 25 million dollar investigation involving 19 lawyers assisted by a team of approximately 40 FBI agents, intelligence analysts, forensic accountants, and others , resulting in the issuing of more than 2,800 subpoenas,  500 search warrants, more than 230 orders for communication records, almost 50 orders authorizing use of pen registers, 13 requests to foreign governments for evidence, and the testimony of more than  500 witnesses, sated unequivocally that no American, including the Trump campaign, assisted Russian efforts to influence the election.

Then we have too many desperate “resistance’ members to list making the head-blowing argument that the President allegedly saying “I’m fucked” proves that he was guilty of something impeachable, or he wouldn’t have (allegedly) said it.

Funny—if I found out that there was going to be a huge investigation of my business and activities by a team of tough prosecutors whose intrusions would make it increasingly difficult to do my job and whose every move would be written up in the news mdia to suggest the most negative implications about me imaginable, I might well say, “I’m fucked” too. (Of course, being more civil and refined than Trump, I would probably say, “Egad! This appears to have dastardly motives that portend dire consequences and cataclysmic reverberations redounding to my inevitable detriment!” )

Plan O, then, is designed to have the effect of making the public believe the President could and should be impeached, facts and evidence to the contrary, because of the Mueller Report, even though the Mueller report, when all the obvious hostility to the President is stripped away, makes no case for impeachment at all.

I am nearly persuaded by the analysis of conservative pundit Liz Shield, who writes today,

The report is a political document, not a legal one. If you did not buy into the false Russia collusion narrative, you will read the second part of the report outlining the “obstructive” behavior of Trump as the actions of an angry man who was unjustly accused. You will see Trump’s behavior as that of someone who was getting absolutely pummeled all day and all night in the media and by Democrats who were making it impossible to for him to govern and were undermining his legitimacy as president. Trump wanted to stop the Democrat-media harassment, not cover up a crime. You may remember the #resistence’s plan was to delegitimize Trump and the goal of the Mueller team was to wait until the Democrats took control of the House to turn the report into a political weapon if they couldn’t charge the Trump folks with RUSSIA-related crimes.

 Plan O is “the resistance’s” last stand.


31 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/22/2019: Say Hello To Impeachment Plan O!

  1. I would hazard that the moniker “last stand” may be premature. If the independents of the country don’t buy into Plan O (and I say independents because the Democrats are already bought in, and Republicans never will), and if impeachment fizzles (as I assume it would), then there’s bound to be a Plan P around the corner. After, the House Democrats want to run an investigation into the smallest speck of dirt under Trump’s fingernails, so they will undoubtedly uncover something they think they can spin into a “Remove Trump” narrative. (Aha! There’s an 88% DNA match to Jimmy Hoffa in a sample of Trump’s navel lint! Not sure if that implicates Trump in Hoffa’s disappearance or just establishes ties to someone who had ties to someone who had ties to Hoffa, but it is enough! Impeach! Arrest! Eradicate!)

    • You’re right, Ryan, it’s political Rope-A-Dope. The Dems seem content to just keep harping on this Collusion and Obstruction baloney for the next two years. I think it’s going to backfire on them, frankly.

      • I certainly hope this endless rattling about collusion and obstruction backfires on the Democrats. It seems to be the only thing that would dig them out of their frenzy. However, I’m skeptical that it will backfire, or backfire with sufficient devastation that they actually learn their lesson. I’ve had discussions with people who fully believe the Mueller report is so damning that it gives the green light to impeachment. The disconnect between what I see (well, let’s be honest, what Jack sees, as I’ve not read more than snippets of the report) and what they see is unbelievable. When you are so entrenched in a worldview, there doesn’t seem to be much of a chance of emerging.

        Now, my expertise is in computer science and mathematics, but I feel I have fair credentials in looking at history, science, and all things Catholic. What I have seen in all these areas is that those who have an idea are rarely convinced otherwise, especially if they have a vested interest in a position for whatever reason. There will be a few converts, but in general, the idea only dies when its last supporter dies. If Trump is re-elected, and by a wider margin this time around (suppose, *gasp*, he also wins the popular vote!), most of these visible, outspoken Democrats will probably maintain course with their TDS and collusion theories, and never engage in any introspection that could possibly reorient their worldview. It would have to be a tremendous backfire to stun them in changing their minds.

        • Prediction: if Trump wins the popular vote, get ready for 4 years of unsubstantiated blabber about voter suppression and gerrymandering.

  2. This is most certainly NOT their “last stand”. They are going to continue to attack Trump all the way through his next term, should he (almost certainly, if they do continue) will win. However, the 2024 election will be a RIOT to watch.

  3. Put these on the radar:

    Plan P: Get his tax returns and prove a conflict of interest with Russia and impeach him for collusion.
    Plan P(2): Use those tax returns to prove a tax filing mistake and impeach for financial crimes.
    Plan P(3): Use those tax returns out of context to suggest shady dealings so voters won’t trust him.

    Plan Q: Attack all his individual advisers to make him wary of who to trust so he goes mad and quits.
    Plan R: Audit all Trump executive office expenses to find any misappropriation and impeach him for financial crimes.

      • I found myself thinking about this again this morning, and a thought came into my head that I couldn’t reconcile: “If Congress was provided with his tax returns, tax data, and all associated audits – and there was not just questionable, but compelling criminal activity: would I be pissed at the method enough that I would be dismissive of the evidence (fruit of the poisonous tree) or would I be able to accept our new position in the world and objectively look at the evidence and change course? Does this indicate a reason why I don’t want want Congress to get his IRS file? (That I want to be blissfully ignorant?) Or is it truly fair to classify it as an illegal fishing expedition? (Is it illegal? Is it just inappropriate?)

        Ugh…the struggles of a fair mind trying to stay objective….sometimes you lose your path and you need to reconsider what you know and what you think.

        • So I suppose that if Trump is found to be unequivocally a tax cheat, he’d have to be demoted from POTUS to being merely Secretary of the Treasury, right?

          Because, y’know Tim Geithner and the scandal-free Obama administration.


          • Nah – I wasn’t thinking simply a “tax cheat”, but if the taxes laid out business dealings and conflicts of interest in a way that unequivocally showed corruption, self dealing, etc etc. But, I don’t think that’s really possible or likely, so I should just not give it thought and be confident that Congress is just engaging in an illegal fishing expedition that’s wasting taxpayer’s money.

    • Paraphrasing a blog post that Mark Cuban wrote during the 2016 campaign: Trump’s tax returns are undoubtedly thousands of pages long. He has never read them. Nobody as rich as he is can read and understand his own tax returns. He hires lawyers and accountants and tells them that he wants to pay as little tax as he can pay without going to jail. They tell him that the returns are correct, and he signs them, swearing falsely that he has read them, understands them and knows that they are correct.. Every very rich person does this because the only alternative would be to file no return at all.

      (End of paraphrase, beginning of my own rant.)

      Trump’s accountants have undoubtedly run into many situations where there is a question about what the correct tax treatment would be. In each of these situations that involves a material amount of money, I believe, the accountants are required to write an explanatory memorandum to the IRS identifying the question at issue, describing the tax position that they are taking, explaining the alternative tax positions that might be reasonable to take, and explaining why they chose the one that they did.

      If the Democrats manage to get their hands on Trump’s returns, each of these footnotes will provide a roadmap for them to accuse Trump of tax crimes. They will point to the position that is least favorable that his accountants did not take and announce, “Aha, Trump defrauded the government X times (where X is equal to the number of uncertain positions that he took), underpaying his taxes by Y dollars (where Y is a number that sounds huge to an ordinary voter).”

      In addition, Trump has ownership interests in hundreds of companies, I imagine — at least one or two for every building that he is associated with, plus more for the other business ventures that he has engaged in. Many of these companies have other stakeholders — other people with equity interests, banks and other creditors. I expect that in most cases, he is required by contract to provide financial statements to some or all of these stakeholders. This will give the Democrats hundreds of chances to claim that he committed tax fraud, accounting fraud and that he defrauded not only the government but the other stakeholders.

      Many of his buildings have to be appraised periodically for tax and other purposes. Look at the gigantic “investigative report” that the New York Times printed about his father’s estate tax planning twenty years ago. Trump has many more buildings than his father did. They will write an even longer “exposé” of his “appraisal fraud.”

      In addition, many of his companies will show losses for tax and/or accounting purposes. This will give the Democrats an opportunity to renew their claim from the 2016 campaign that Trump is a failed businessman, because he has been associated with Z businesses that lost money.

      Every week will bring its new accusations of fraud, etc. One voter in 10,000 will know the facts and law well enough to make an independent judgment about these issues. The anti-Trump media will endlessly quote experts or parade them in front of the cameras to tell voters authoritatively that Trump is a crook. If the claim is so preposterous that no expert are willing to endorse it (as was practically the case with the Times’ investigation), the media will use non-experts and claim that they are experts, or their reporters will just make the claim based on their own profound ignorance without bothering to quote experts (as the reporters for the Times did). The media will provide Trump’s spokesmen and the experts who agree with his positions very brief windows to explain his side of the story, which will make them sound rushed, defensive and shady.

      Maybe Trump can survive that, but if his tax returns are released, I will be very worried.

      • On Friday, I found people who couldn’t reconcile 2 Trump tweets about how the Mueller Report provided total exoneration, that it was crazy, and that it also memorialized fabricated & totally untrue statements. People were losing their minds saying that the tweets were contradictory and irreconcilable.

        …and these are the people who want us to believe they are an authority at interpreting a 400 page legal investigation report? That they are also qualified as Accountants to understand taxes?

        …I think not.

  4. Maybe it’s time that that bill introduced at the beginning of the Obama administration by Democrats to abolish the 22nd Amendment is reintroduced, and reintroduced, and reintroduced; but that would be a tit-for-tat intentional defection to distract the Democrats from their impeachment wet dreams.

    Everyone’s got to remember something really important future generations; it seems that the far political left have been the ones to revise history books and education systems across the USA in efforts to push their anti-American anti-Constitution agenda, see the intentional dumbing down of america, now what do you all think these known irrational extremists will write in the history books after Trump is out of office?

    Have they already written it?

    Are they already teaching it?

    Will the extreme left propaganda machine cease to emit its anti-Trump and anti-Conservative rhetoric after Trump is no longer in office; I think not, I think this will be a focal point for the political left for the foreseeable future and I think the extreme left will be condemning “evil” Conservatives for all things Trump until our sun goes Nova. Anyone want to bet that if the extreme left is left alone, like they’ve been so many times in the past, that the perceived “evilness” of our own country’s black-sheep, President Trump, will outweigh or equal the evilness of Hitler in less than two generations. Anti-Trump’ness will be the rallying call for the left to abolish the constitution all to prevent another evil person like Trump from being elected.

  5. Did you see this exchange between Anderson Cooper and James Clapper? It is awesome:

    Clapper’s position is the stuff of The Twilight Zone. He said this (yep, he really did!):

    JAMES CLAPPER: “I think, if there wasn’t active collusion proven, then I think what we have here is a case of passive collusion . . .”

    Now, tell me. The intelligence community heads are supposed to be the best and the brightest, right? Does he really believe his nonsense? I can’t tell, and Cooper’s serious expression (probably thinking about cats, or something) is too wonderful.


    • “Passive collusion?” Yeah, that’s the ticket.

      A presidential candidate without any power to act on behalf of the United States, who is in fact forbidden from any kind of negotiation with a foreign government by the moribund Logan Act, was supposed to do something?

      Isn’t that kind of the job of the actual POTUS at the time, and his administration? Just askin’…

  6. So, let me see if I get this right.

    Mueller’s report said there was no conspiracy on behalf of Trump, or any other Americans, to work with the Russian government in an attempt to influence the 2016 election. Barr interpreted this to mean, “no collusion,” since that was the colloquial (but certainly not legal) term employed by everyone in America without a law degree.

    Mueller further found evidence that apparently could be construed as obstruction of justice, except there was no crime to obstruct justice for. Ultimately, Mueller and his merry band could not come to a conclusion on obstruction, so they punted to Barr. Barr applied the law and determined there was no chargeable obstruction offense based on the evidence Mueller developed.

    But Schiff is saying that Trump committed acts of non-criminal collusion and “corruption” that “may or may not be proof of a criminal conspiracy.”

    Well, as far as the evidence Mueller was able to develop, the question of criminality has been answered authoritatively, and that includes by reference the evidence Schiff et. al. were able to develop also, since they gave that information to Mueller.

    So I think that “may or may not” statement qualifies as Authentic Frontier Gibberish. Worse, it is intended to deny the conclusions of the report and of the Attorney General, and substitute Schiff’s judgment for that of actual law enforcement personnel.

    So Schiff and the #Resistance have decided to ignore Mueller’s findings, and claim without evidence that Trump committed impeachable offenses based almost entirely on the fact that he allegedly used foul language describing his frustration.

    Isn’t this usually the kind of thing they accuse Trump of doing? How droll.

    Plan O is “the resistance’s” last stand.

    Doing my best Randy Quaid: “Are you sure?”

  7. With all the talk of various impeachment plans perhaps ww should consider what might (probably) occur if any of these plans to remove Trump prematurely from office. Does anyone really think his supporters will go quietly into that good night? Nancy should factor that into her calculus.

  8. The most bizarre and maddening thing about the collusion story and the Trump campaign’s “ties to Russia” is that the campaign in fact had embarrassingly few contacts with Russia at all. That’s because almost nobody in America who had serious relationships with Russians in senior positions supported Donald Trump. Michael Flynn was the only person associated with the campaign who actually personally knew anybody important in Russia well enough to get them on the phone. Trump might have met Putin once. A handful of people associated with the campaign, most famously Carter Page, had done business or tried to do business in Russia. Jeff Sessions had exchanged polite words with the Russian ambassador a few times in public settings. Michael Cohen was trying to promote a building project in Russia, but nobody in a position to help would return his phone calls or emails. He finally resorted to sending emails to a public email address in hopes of getting a relay. Paul Manafort knew some Ukrainians who were pro-Russian. In fact, the campaign had so few ties to Russia that the FBI/CIA/MI6/Fusion had to go to the trouble of introducing Mifsud to Papadopolous and that Russian woman lawyer to Trump Jr. in order to give their narrative any life.

    Contrast that to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Clinton had been First Lady and Secretary of State. She and her staff personally knew many, many senior people in Russia and could easily have gotten an introduction to any senior person that they didn’t know. She had a foreign policy advisory committee of hundreds of people with senior-level contacts abroad, and the head of her Russian working group was a former American ambassador to Russia. Taken together, her campaign must have had thousands of senior-level ties to Russia and tens of thousands of junior-level contacts akin to those that Carter Page had. Papadopoulos met a professor from Crete a couple of times who wasn’t Russian himself but knew some Russians. The members of Hillary’s advisory committee surely knew dozens or hundreds of professors who were actually Russians living in Russia. And, of course, she was supported by the President of the United States, the FBI and the CIA, who had enormous webs of contacts in Russia.

    In short, Hillary’s campaign was in an ideal position to collude with Russia, if they wanted to. On the other hand, even according to the most deranged or dishonest theories spun by conspiracy-mongers (Adam Schiff, for example), the Trump campaign never managed to make direct contact with anybody senior in Russia to talk about anything, much less collusion, and there’s no evidence that they even tried.

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