Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/28/2020: Transcripts! Audacious Defense Lawyers! Canadian Defamation! “Bombshells”! [UPDATED]

Good morning…

1. Here’s a typical unbiased New York Times front page headline regarding the impeachment trial (from last week):

“One One Side, Piles of Evidence, On the Other, Heaps of Scorn”

Here’s some more scorn: there is no evidence at all of impeachable offenses on  that pile, and scorn for the President is being treated as evidence.

2. This is astounding. (From johnburger, and thanks) Check out this.

Continue reading

Written Statement of Prof. Jonathan Turley: “The Impeachment Inquiry Into President Donald J. Trump: The Constitutional Basis For Presidential Impeachment” [PART V]

Note the date…

In his final section before concluding, Professor Turley covers other theories being floated as justification for impeachment, and finds them startlingly weak and contrived.

The Hill has Turley’s lament regarding the  the Alliance of Unethical Conduct’s attacks on his thorough and objective dismantling of their coup efforts. (The AUC—that’s the Ethics Alarm shorthand for the Democratic Party-“resistance”-mainstream media alliance to remove Trump from office by any means possible, not Turley’s.)  He writes,

Despite 52 pages of my detailed testimony, more than twice the length of all the other witnesses combined, on the cases and history of impeachment, [Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank] described it as being “primarily emotional and political.” Milbank claimed that I contradicted my testimony in a 2013 hearing when I presented “exactly the opposite case against President Obama” by saying “it would be ‘very dangerous’ to the balance of powers not to hold Obama accountable for assuming powers ‘very similar’ to the ‘right of the king’ to essentially stand above the law.”

But I was not speaking of an impeachment then. It was a discussion of the separation of powers and the need for Congress to fight against unilateral executive actions, the very issue that Democrats raise against Trump. I did not call for Obama to be impeached….

In my testimony Wednesday, I stated repeatedly [as I stated in my testimony during the Clinton impeachment] that a president can be impeached for noncriminal acts…. My objection is not that you cannot impeach Trump for abuse of power but that this record is comparably thin compared to past impeachments…. … Democrats have argued that they do not actually have to prove the elements of crimes…. In the Clinton impeachment, the crime was clearly established and widely recognized…. [W]e are lowering impeachment standards to fit a paucity of evidence and an abundance of anger…. 

Writes Ann Althouse in a post yesterday, “it seems to me that the real impeachable offense has always been that Donald Trump got himself elected.”

I wish Prof. Turley had dealt with that, the real justification, in their minds, for the House’s impeachment push.

Back to the professor:

C.  Extortion.

 As noted earlier, extortion and bribery cases share a common law lineage. Under laws like the Hobbs Act, prosecutors can allege different forms of extortion. The classic form of extortion is coercive extortion to secure property “by violence, force, or fear.”85 Even if one were to claim the loss of military aid could instill fear in a country, that is obviously not a case of coercive extortion as that crime has previously been defined.

Instead, it would presumably be alleged as extortion “under color of official right.” Clearly, both forms of extortion have a coercive element, but the suggestion is that Trump was “trying to extort” the Ukrainians by withholding aid until they agreed to open investigations. The problem is that this allegation is no closer to the actual crime of extortion than it is to its close cousin bribery. The Hobbs Act defines extortion as “the obtaining of property from another, with his consent, induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear or under color of official right.”87

As shown in cases like United States v. Silver, extortion is subject to the same limiting definition as bribery and resulted in a similar overturning of convictions. Another obvious threshold problem is defining an investigation into alleged corruption as “property.” Blackstone described a broad definition of extortion in early English law as “an abuse of public, justice which consists in an officer’s unlawfully taking, by colour of his office, from any man, any money or thing of value, that is not due him, or more than is due, or before it is due.”89 The use of anything “of value” today would be instantly rejected. Extortion cases involve tangible property, not possible political advantage.90 In this case, Trump asked for cooperation with the Justice Department in its investigation into the origins of the FBI investigation on the 2016 election. As noted before, that would make a poor basis for any criminal or impeachment theory. The Biden investigation may have tangible political benefits, but it is not a form of property. Indeed, Trump did not know when such an investigation would be completed or what it might find. Thus, the request was for an investigation that might not even benefit Trump.

The theory advanced for impeachment bears a close similarity to one of the extortion theories in United States v. Blagojevich where the Seventh Circuit overturned an extortion conviction based on the Governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, pressuring then Sen. Barack Obama to make him a cabinet member or help arrange for a high- paying job in exchange for Blagojevich appointing a friend of Obama’s to a vacant Senate seat. The prosecutors argued such a favor was property for the purposes of extortion. The court dismissed the notion, stating “The President-elect did not have aproperty interest in any Cabinet job, so an attempt to get him to appoint a particular person to the Cabinet is not an attempt to secure ‘property’ from the President (or the citizenry at large).” In the recent hearings, witnesses spoke of the desire for “deliverables” sought with the aid. Whatever those “deliverables” may have been, they were not property as defined for the purposes of extortion any more than the “logrolling” rejected in Blagojevich.

There is one other aspect of the Blagojevich opinion worth noting. As I discussed earlier, the fact that the military aid was required to be obligated by the end of September weakens the allegation of bribery. Witnesses called before the House Intelligence Committee testified that delays were common, but that aid had to be released by September 30th. It was released on September 11th. The ability to deny the aid, or to even withhold it past September 30th is questionable and could have been challenged in court. The status of the funds also undermines the expansive claims on what constitutes an “official right” or “property”:

“The indictment charged Blagojevich with the ‘color of official right’ version of extortion, but none of the evidence suggests that Blagojevich claimed to have an ‘official right’ to a job in the Cabinet. He did have an ‘official right’ to appoint a new Senator, but unless a position in the Cabinet is ‘property’ from the President’s perspective, then seeking it does not amount to extortion. Yet a political office belongs to the people, not to the incumbent (or to someone hankering after the position). Cleveland v. United States, 531 U.S. 12 (2000), holds that state and municipal licenses, and similar documents, are not ‘property’ in the hands of a  public  agency. That’s equally true of public positions. The President-elect did not have a property interest in any Cabinet job, so an attempt to get him to appoint a particular person to the Cabinet is not an attempt to secure ‘property’ from the President (or the citizenry at large).”

A request for an investigation in another country or the release of money already authorized for Ukraine are even more far afield from the property concepts addressed by the Seventh Circuit.

The obvious flaws in the extortion theory were also made plain by the Supreme Court in Sekhar v. United States, where the defendant sent emails threatening to reveal embarrassing personal information to the New York State Comptroller’s general counsel in order to secure the investment of pension funds with the defendant. In an argument analogous to the current claims, the prosecutors suggested political or administrative support was a form of intangible property. As in McDonnell, the Court was unanimous in rejecting the “absurd” definition of property. The Court was highly dismissive of such convenient linguistic arguments and noted that “shifting and imprecise characterization of

the alleged property at issue betrays the weakness of its case.”94 It concluded that “[a]dopting the Government’s theory here would not only make nonsense of words; it would collapse the longstanding distinction between extortion and coercion and ignore Congress’s choice to penalize one but not the other. That we cannot do.”95 Nor should Congress. Much like such expansive interpretations would be “absurd” for citizens in criminal cases, it would be equally absurd in impeachment cases.

To define a request of this kind as extortion would again convert much of politics into a criminal enterprise. Indeed, much of politics is the leveraging of aid or subsidies or grants for votes and support. In Blagojevich, the court dismissed such “logrolling” as the basis for extortion since it is “a common exercise.” If anything of political value is now the subject of the Hobbs Act, the challenge in Washington would not be defining what extortion is, but what it is not.

D.  Campaign Finance Violation

Some individuals have claimed that the request for investigations also constitutes a felony violation of the election finance laws. Given the clear language of that law and the controlling case law, there are no good-faith grounds for such an argument. To put it simply, this dog won’t hunt as either a criminal or impeachment matter. U.S.C. section 30121 of Title 52 states: “It shall be unlawful for a foreign national, directly or indirectly, to make a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value, or to make an express or implied promise to make a contribution or donation, in connection with a federal, state, or local election.”

On first blush, federal election laws would seem to offer more flexibility to the House since the Federal Election Commission has adopted a broad interpretation of what can constitute a “thing of value” as a contribution. The Commission states “’Anything of value’ includes all ‘in-kind contributions,’ defined as ‘the provision of any goods or services without charge or at a charge that is less than the usual and normal charge for such goods or services.’” However, the Justice Department already reviewed the call and correctly concluded it was not a federal election violation. This determination was made by the prosecutors who make the decisions on whether to bring such cases. The Justice Department concluded that the call did not involve a request for a “thing of value” under the federal law. Congress would be alleging a crime that has been declared not to be a crime by career prosecutors. Such a decision would highlight the danger of claiming criminal acts, while insisting that impeachment does not require actual crimes. The “close enough for impeachment” argument will only undermine the legitimacy of the impeachment process, particularly if dependent on an election fraud allegation that itself is based on a demonstrably slipshod theory. Continue reading

Written Statement of Prof. Jonathan Turley: “The Impeachment Inquiry Into President Donald J. Trump: The Constitutional Basis For Presidential Impeachment” [PART IV]

The press wanted Andrew Johnson impeached, too…

This section of Turley’s masterpiece covers the various “obstruction of justice” claims. The conclusion:

“Basing impeachment on this obstruction theory would itself be an abuse of power. . . by Congress. It would be an extremely dangerous precedent to set for future presidents and Congresses in making an appeal to the Judiciary into “high crime and misdemeanor.”

Boy, Turley did a terrific job…

B.  Obstruction of Justice

 Another crime that was sporadically mentioned during the House Intelligence hearings was obstruction of justice or obstruction of Congress. Once again, with only a few days to prepare this testimony and with no public report on the specific allegations, my analysis remains mired in uncertainty as to any plan to bring such a claim to the foundational evidence for the charge. Most of the references to obstruction have been part of a Ukraine-based impeachment plan that does not include any past alleged crimes from the Russian investigation. I will therefore address the possibility of a Ukraine-related obstruction article of impeachment. However, as I have previously written, I believe an obstruction claim based on the Mueller Report would equally at odds with the record and the controlling case law. The use of an obstruction theory from the Mueller Report would be unsupportable in the House and unsustainable in the Senate. Once again, the lack of information (just weeks before an expected impeachment vote) on the grounds for impeachment is both concerning and challenging. It is akin to being asked to diagnose a patient’s survivability without knowing his specific illness.

Obstruction of justice is a more broadly defined crime than bribery and often overlaps with other crimes like witness tampering, subornation, or specific acts designed to obstruct a given proceeding. There are many federal provisions raising forms of obstruction that reference parallel crimes. Thus, influencing a witness is a standalone crime and also a form of obstruction under 18 U.S.C. 1504. In conventional criminal cases, prosecutions can be relatively straightforward, such as cases of witness intimidation under 18 U.S. 1503. Of course, this is no conventional case. The obstruction claims leveled against President Trump in the Ukrainian context have centered on two main allegations. First, there was considerable discussion of the moving of the transcript of the call with President Zelensky to a classified server as a possible premeditated effort to hide evidence. Second, there have been repeated references to the “obstruction” of President Trump by invoking executive privileges or immunities to withhold witnesses and documents from congressional committees. In my view, neither of these general allegations establishes a plausible case of criminal obstruction or a viable impeachable offense.

In the Mueller report, Assistant Attorney General found no cognizable case was presented for an allegation of obstruction of justice. Many members of this Committee heralded the selection of Rosenstein as a consummate and apolitical professional who was responsible for the appointment of the Special Counsel. He reached this conclusion on the record sent by Mueller and, most importantly, the controlling case law. As with the campaign finance allegation discussed in this testimony, an article based on obstruction in the Russian investigation would seek the removal of a President on the basis of an act previously rejected as a crime by the Justice Department. Many of us have criticized the President for his many comments and tweets on the Russian investigation. However, this is a process that must focus on impeachable conduct, not imprudent or even obnoxious conduct. Continue reading

Written Statement of Prof. Jonathan Turley: “The Impeachment Inquiry Into President Donald J. Trump: The Constitutional Basis For Presidential Impeachment” [PART III]

(Part I is here; Part II, here.)

In this section of his testimony, Turley deals with the Ukraine phone call that is supposedly impeachable. Here is the key paragraph:

“Again, the issue is not whether these comments are correct, but whether they are corrupt. In my view, there is no case law that would support a claim of corrupt intent in such comments to support a bribery charge. There is no question that an investigation of the Bidens would help President Trump politically. However, if President Trump honestly believed that there was a corrupt arrangement with Hunter Biden that was not fully investigated by the Obama Administration, the request for an investigation is not corrupt, notwithstanding its inappropriateness. The Hunter Biden contract has been widely criticized as raw influence peddling. I have joined in that criticism. For many years, I have written about the common practice of companies and lobbyists attempting to curry favor with executive branch officials and members of Congress by giving windfall contracts or jobs to their children. This is a classic example of that corrupt practice.”

IV.   THE CURRENT THEORIES OF IMPEACHABLE CONDUCT AGAINST PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP

 While all three acts in the impeachment standard refer to criminal acts in modern parlance, it is clear that “high crimes and misdemeanors” can encompass non-criminal conduct. It is also true that Congress has always looked to the criminal code in the fashioning of articles of impeachment. The reason is obvious. Criminal allegations not only represent the most serious forms of conduct under our laws, but they also offer an objective source for measuring and proving such conduct. We have never had a presidential impeachment proceed solely or primarily on an abuse of power allegation, though such allegations have been raised in the context of violations of federal or criminal law. Perhaps for that reason, there has been a recent shift away from a pure abuse of power allegation toward direct allegations of criminal conduct. That shift, however, has taken the impeachment process far outside of the relevant definitions and case law on these crimes. It is to those allegations that I would now like to turn.

At the outset, however, two threshold issues are worth noting. First, this hearing is being held before any specific articles have been proposed. During the Clinton impeachment hearing, we were given a clear idea of the expected articles of impeachment and far greater time to prepare analysis of those allegations. The House leadership has repeatedly indicated that they are proceeding on the Ukrainian controversy and not the various alleged violations or crimes alleged during the Russian investigation. Recently, however, Chairman Schiff indicated that there might be additional allegations raised while continuing to reference the end of December as the working date for an impeachment vote. Thus, we are being asked to offer a sincere analysis on the grounds for impeachment while being left in the dark. My testimony is based on the public statements regarding the Ukrainian matter, which contain references to four alleged crimes and, most recently, a possible compromise proposal for censure.

Second, the crimes discussed below were recently raised as part of the House Intelligence Committee hearings as alternatives to the initial framework as an abuse of power. There may be a desire to refashion these facts into crimes with higher resonance with voters, such as bribery. In any case, Chairman Schiff and committee members began to specifically ask witnesses about elements that were pulled from criminal cases. When some of us noted that courts have rejected these broader interpretations or that there are missing elements for these crimes, advocates immediately shifted to a position that it really does not matter because “this is an impeachment.” This allows members to claim criminal acts while dismissing the need to actually support such allegations. If that were the case, members could simply claim any crime from treason to genocide. While impeachment does encompass non-crimes, including abuse of power, past impeachments have largely been structured around criminal definitions. The reason is simple and obvious. The impeachment standard was designed to be a high bar and felonies often were treated as inherently grave and serious. Legal definitions and case law also offer an objective and reliable point of reference for judging the conduct of judicial and executive officers. It is unfair to claim there is a clear case of a crime like bribery and simultaneously dismiss any need to substantiate such a claim under the controlling definitions and meaning of that crime. After all, the common mantra that “no one is above the law” is a reference to the law applied to all citizens, even presidents. If the House does not have the evidence to support a claim of a criminal act, it should either develop such evidence or abandon the claim. As noted below, abandoning such claims would still leave abuse of power as a viable ground for impeachment. It just must be proven.

A.  Bribery

Continue reading

Written Statement of Prof. Jonathan Turley: “The Impeachment Inquiry Into President Donald J. Trump: The Constitutional Basis For Presidential Impeachment” [PART I]

Today, at the impeachment hearings, Prof. Jonathan Turley performed a great public and national service by eviscerating the Democratic theory of impeachment legally, logically and historically. I cannot wait to see if his decisive testimony is given half the prominence by the New York Times as the various headlines shouting about how an official would have done things differently if he or she were President. Unlike almost all of the testimony so far, Turley’s was based on facts and law, and addressed the issue at hand: is there any justification for impeachment proceedings?

It’s a wonderful and clear piece of scholarship that addresses several approaches to the matter that I had wanted to address, notably how the three previous impeachment efforts compare with this one.

Every citizen should read it all; of course, almost none will. The testimony is long, because it is thorough; I have edited it for ease of reading, eliminating footnotes. If you want to read the original document, it is here. Ethics Alarms is going to present this in several parts. Send that link to your smug impeachment-cheering friends, relatives and social media contacts. Tell them that unless they read it, you really don’t want to hear any more on the subject from them, because they want to remain ignorant.

I am proud—relieved?—to find that this serious and admirable scholar embraces many of the positions I have discussed here, though in far more detail and with considerably more authority.

INTRODUCTION

Chairman Nadler, ranking member Collins, members of the Judiciary Committee, my name is Jonathan Turley, and I am a law professor at George Washington University where I hold the J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Chair of Public Interest Law. It is an honor to appear before you today to discuss one of the most solemn and important constitutional functions bestowed on this House by the Framers of our Constitution: the impeachment of the President of the United States.

Twenty-one years ago, I sat here before you, Chairman Nadler, and other members of the Judiciary Committee to testify on the history and meaning of the constitutional impeachment standard as part of the impeachment of President William Jefferson Clinton. I never thought that I would have to appear a second time to address the same question with regard to another sitting president. Yet, here we are. Some elements are strikingly similar. The intense rancor and rage of the public debate is the same. It was an atmosphere that the Framers anticipated. Alexander Hamilton warned that charges of impeachable conduct “will seldom fail to agitate the passions of the whole community, and to divide it into parties more or less friendly or inimical to the accused.”2 As with the Clinton impeachment, the Trump impeachment has again proven Hamilton’s words to be prophetic. The stifling intolerance for opposing views is the same. As was the case two decades ago, it is a perilous environment for a legal scholar.

I appear today in my academic capacity to present views founded in prior academic work on impeachment and the separation of powers. My testimony does not reflect the views or approval of CBS News, the BBC, or the newspapers for which I write as a columnist. My testimony was written exclusively by myself with editing assistance from Nicholas Contarino, Andrew Hile, Thomas Huff, and Seth Tate explores the technical and arcane issues normally involved in an academic examination of a legal standard ratified 234 years ago. In truth, the Clinton impeachment hearing proved to be an exception to the tenor of the overall public debate. The testimony from witnesses, ranging from Arthur Schlesinger Jr. to Laurence Tribe to Cass Sunstein, contained divergent views and disciplines. Yet the hearing remained respectful and substantive as we all grappled with this difficult matter. I appear today in the hope that we can achieve that same objective of civil and meaningful discourse despite our good- faith differences on the impeachment standard and its application to the conduct of President Donald J. Trump.

I have spent decades writing about impeachment and presidential powers as an academic and as a legal commentator. My academic work reflects the bias of a Madisonian scholar. I tend to favor Congress in disputes with the Executive Branch and I have been critical of the sweeping claims of presidential power and privileges made by modern Administrations. My prior testimony mirrors my criticism of the expansion of executive powers and privileges. In truth, I have not held much fondness for any president in my lifetime. Indeed, the last president whose executive philosophy I consistently admired was James Madison.

In addition to my academic work, I am a practicing criminal defense lawyer. Among my past cases, I represented the United States House of Representatives as lead counsel challenging payments made under the Affordable Care Act without congressional authorization. I also served as the last lead defense counsel in an impeachment trial in the Senate. With my co-lead counsel Daniel Schwartz, I argued the case on behalf of federal judge Thomas Porteous. (My opposing lead counsel for the House managers was Adam Schiff). In addition to my testimony with other constitutional scholars at the Clinton impeachment hearings, I also represented former Attorneys General during the Clinton impeachment litigation over privilege disputes triggered by the investigation of Independent Counsel Ken Starr. I also served as lead counsel in a bill of attainder case, the sister of impeachment that will be discussed below.

I would like to start, perhaps incongruously, with a statement of three irrelevant facts. First, I am not a supporter of President Trump. I voted against him in 2016 and I have previously voted for Presidents Clinton and Obama. Second, I have been highly critical of President Trump, his policies, and his rhetoric, in dozens of columns. Third, I have repeatedly criticized his raising of the investigation of the Hunter Biden matter with the Ukrainian president. These points are not meant to curry favor or approval. Rather they are meant to drive home a simple point: one can oppose President Trump’s policies or actions but still conclude that the current legal case for impeachment is not just woefully inadequate, but in some respects, dangerous, as the basis for the impeachment of an American president. To put it simply, I hold no brief for President Trump. My personal and political views of President Trump, however, are irrelevant to my impeachment testimony, as they should be to your impeachment vote. Today, my only concern is the integrity and coherence of the constitutional standard and process of impeachment. President Trump will not be our last president and what we leave in the wake of this scandal will shape our democracy for generations to come. I am concerned about lowering impeachment standards to fit a paucity of evidence and an abundance of anger. If the House proceeds solely on the Ukrainian allegations, this impeachment would stand out among modern impeachments as the shortest proceeding, with the thinnest evidentiary record, and the narrowest grounds ever used to impeach a president. That does not bode well for future presidents who are working in a country often sharply and, at times, bitterly divided.

Although I am citing a wide body of my relevant academic work on these questions, I will not repeat that work in this testimony. Instead, I will focus on the history and cases that bear most directly on the questions facing this Committee. My testimony will first address relevant elements of the history and meaning of the impeachment standard. Second, I will discuss the past presidential impeachments and inquiries in the context of this controversy. Finally, I will address some of the specific alleged impeachable offenses raised in this process. In the end, I believe that this process has raised serious and legitimate issues for investigation. Indeed, I have previously stated that a quid pro quo to force the investigation of a political rival in exchange for military aid can be impeachable, if proven. Yet moving forward primarily or exclusively with the Ukraine controversy on this record would be as precarious as it would premature. It comes down to a type of constitutional architecture. Such a slender foundation is a red flag for architects who operate on the accepted 1:10 ratio between the width and height of a structure. The physics are simple. The higher the building, the wider the foundation. There is no higher constitutional structure than the impeachment of a sitting president and, for that reason, an impeachment must have a wide foundation in order to be successful. The Ukraine controversy has not offered such a foundation and would easily collapse in a Senate trial.

Before I address these questions, I would like to make one last cautionary observation regarding the current political atmosphere. In his poem “The Happy Warrior,” William Wordsworth paid homage to Lord Horatio Nelson, a famous admiral and hero of the Napoleonic Wars. Wordsworth began by asking “Who is the happy Warrior? Who is he what every man in arms should wish to be?” The poem captured the deep public sentiment felt by Nelson’s passing and one reader sent Wordsworth a gushing letter proclaiming his love for the poem. Surprisingly, Wordsworth sent back an admonishing response. He told the reader “you are mistaken; your judgment is affected by your moral approval of the lines.” Wordsworth’s point was that it was not his poem that the reader loved, but its subject. My point is only this: it is easy to fall in love with lines that appeal to one’s moral approval. In impeachments, one’s feeling about the subject can distort one’s judgment on the true meaning or quality of an argument. We have too many happy warriors in this impeachment on both sides. What we need are more objective noncombatants, members willing to set aside political passion in favor of constitutional circumspection. Despite our differences of opinion, I believe that this esteemed panel can offer a foundation for such reasoned and civil discourse. If we are to impeach a president for only the third time in our history, we will need to rise above this age of rage and genuinely engage in a civil and substantive discussion. It is to that end that my testimony is offered today. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up In Vegas, Afternoon Warm-Up In Alexandria, 11/22/2019

Walter Cronkite, Nov. 22, 1963, relaying the shocking news that changed…everything.

Good whatever it is where you are!

1. President Kennedy was assassinated on this date in 1963. He had been President exactly as long as Donald Trump has, and by most measures, President Trump has accomplished more,despite the fact that JFK really did have “the best people.” You might have to go back to George Washington to find a more qualified Cabinet.  By this point in his term, JFK, we now know, had already committed impeachable “high crimes and misdemeanors” notably through his reckless sexual escapades with an Israeli spy and a mob moll, allowing J. Edgar Hoover (speaking of Deep State villains) to blackmail his administration, and perhaps others. Yet the vast majority of the public regards Kennedy as a great President, which shows what a pretty face, an inspiring speaking style, a complicit news media, and getting shot will do for a President’s reputation.

I’d ponder what this nation would be like if Lee Harvey Oswald had missed that beautiful day in Dallas, but that way madness lies, as King Lear like to say.

2.  How many botches can Joe Biden’s campaign take?  The Biden campaign sent out an email about Joe’s performance in the Democratic debate several hours before ithe debate had started. “Did I make you proud?” it began. (I can’t imagine another typical stumble-fest from Biden would make anyone proud, but never mind)

“I’m leaving the fifth Democratic debate now,” It continued. “I hope I made you proud out there and I hope I made it clear to the world why our campaign is so important.”

I wrote about something like this during the 2012 debates, when USA Today published an analysis by a conservative and a liberal pundit over the previous night’s Obama-Romney debate that was obviously written before the debate took place. These things are lies. What should the public take away from learning about them? They should learn that the people involved will deceive them even when they don’t have to.

“You might have just gotten an email from Joe about just getting off of the debate stage,” the rapidly deployed statement from the embarrassed campaign said.  “That’s our bad, team. We know Joe is going to make us proud tonight. We were just so excited for it that we accidentally hit send too soon,” they added.

Huh? If the message was written before the debate but pretended that it was written after the debate, it is a lie regardless of when it is sent. Continue reading

The Trump Impeachment Ethics Train Wreck: The Impeachment Resolution [Corrected]

With this post, the Democratic strategy of finding a way to impeach President Trump officially gets its own Ethics Train Wreck status. Up to this point, stories relating to impeachment have been filed using the record-setting 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck tag, since it, like so much else, flows from the Democratic Party/”resistance”/ mainstream media (the Axis of Unethical Conduct, or AUC) tantrum over Hillary Clinton blowing the election. An argument could be made that  I should have partitioned the impeachment push earlier, but I wanted to wait until the Democrats were really committed to their dangerous and divisive course. Now they are.

All aboard!

Not a single Republican voted for the resolution yesterday, not even those from less than bright-red districts. This was appropriate, since the impeachment push is not, as one should always be, a good faith Congressional reaction to conduct by the President which meets or might plausibly meet the Constitutional standard of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Instead, this is the culmination of the Democratic Party’s determination from the beginning of the Trump Presidency to treat him as an illegitimate President and a usurper whom they intended to find a way to remove without an election.

The process, like the Mueller investigation, but even more so, has been so tainted and corrupted from the outset that nothing it uncovers short of smoking-gun evidence of an unquestionable crime by any interpretation can cure it.  House GOP Conference Chair Liz Cheney said as much yesterday ( “Democrats cannot fix this process.This is a process that has been fundamentally tainted.'”). Indeed, as Democrats were saying that the vote erased Republican complaints about  a lack of transparency in the process, Adam Schiff’s House Intelligence Chairman was holding another closed hearing. Continue reading

Wait, WHAT? Somebody’s Incompetent Here, And I Don’t Think It’s Me.

According to Breitbart, A USA TODAY/Suffolk poll found that only 36 % of those polled support the House voting to impeach the President, with 22%  telling pollsters that  Congress should continue with its impeachment inquiry but should not vote to remove him. Thirty-seven per cent say lawmakers should end their impeachment probe, while four percent remain undecided on the matter.

Regarding a Senate impeachment trial, however, 46 % are in favor of convicting President Trump and 47% are against. The pollsters  used telephone to contact 1,000 registered voters and was taken between October 23rd and 26th.

How is this possible? Saying that you don’t want the House to impeach but want the Senate to convict is like saying you don’t want someone arrested and charged with a crime, but you want him to be convicted and jailed. It makes no sense. Continue reading

Senator Lindsey Graham And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Have Introduced A Resolution Condemning The House Democrats’ Impeachment Inquiry

Good.

Senate Judiciary Chair Lindsey Graham and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced a resolution today to condemn the House Democrats “illegitimate impeachment inquiry.”

This is a case of better late than never. The despicable plot of House Democrats, and others, to cripple the elected President by claiming 1) that his Presidency is illegitimate and 2) by contriving one false justification for impeachment or removal after another for three long years, should have been opposed directly by Republicans and the Senate majority long ago. It is clear that most of the Republican Senators don’t like President Trump, but he is President, and they are supposed to like the Constitution, which modern Democrats evidently do not. This resolution will draw a line in the sand, and that line should have been drawn before this point.

From Politico:

“This is a kangaroo court and it will not stand,” Graham said this week. “I’ve got a resolution saying if you’re going to impeach the president give him the same rights that Richard Nixon had and that Bill Clinton had…what’s going on now is disgusting.”

And it has been disgusting for a very long time. Checking Ethics Alarms can verify that. Just click on the 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck tag, and take a week off. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/23/2019: On “Lynching” And Other Things

The day looks good, feels bad…

1. No, “lynching” is not the right word for the Democratic Party/”resistance”/news media impeachment assault. The word worked for Clarence Thomas during the Anita Hill ambush, but someone ought to remind the President that Thomas was and is black.

The correct word is coup. This has always been what the effort to delegitimatize and remove Trump has been, and this is what it remains. “Witch hunt,” which some idiot issued as an anti-impeachment talking point again a couple of weeks ago, is also an inappropriate term. It may accurately evoke the McCarthy-like methods being used, but it is historically and politically confusing, focusing on methodology rather than objective.

The inability of this President and his staff to communicate competently is a dangerous weakness. It has always been so, but now more than ever. The public literally doesn’t understand what is going on, and a clear, credible, trustworthy advocate for the President who is able to explain what is so wrong, so insidious, and so damaging to democracy about what the “Troika of Totalitarianism” (I’m trying to imagine what Spiro Agnew would have called them) have been doing since the 2016 election is an essential bulwark against impeachment and conviction. Even someone like—I can’t believe I’m writing this—Lanny Davis would be an upgrade.  Kellyanne Conway destroyed her credibility with her “alternate facts” gaffe. Rudy Giuliani got himself enmeshed in the Ukraine controversy. Mick Mulvaney proved, with his naive and ham-handed explanation about why there is nothing criminal or inappropriate about any President using the leverage of his office to persuade a foreign government to do something that needs doing, that he isn’t up to the job. And the President is foolish to believe that his tweet-storms are an effective remedy against  a news media determined to tell only one side, the “resistance” side,  of the issues.

Why, for example, isn’t there an advocate for the White House who can point out, clearly, that the misleading characterization in this morning’s Times front page “news” story—the New York Times no longer does “news” involving Trump, only adversary spin—that the President used strong-arm tactics to force the Ukraine to “investigate Mr. Trump’s political rivals”? Joe Biden isn’t “political rivals,” he’s a former Vice President of the United Sates who may have been using his high position to enrich his son and warp foreign policy.

At this point, Joe Biden isn’t an official election opponent of the President either. It is completely legal and responsible for our government to find out exactly what was going on in the Biden-Biden-Ukraine tango, and the idea that a President cannot legally pursue investigation of serious misconduct in the previous administration because the members of it can now be called his “rivals” is, or should be,  a transparent Catch-22 concocted to advance the coup. Is that really so hard to explain? Why isn’t anyone explaining it?

A prominent  reason is that one of the more effective and damaging tactics in the coup attempt has been to intimidate and threaten any competent D.C. professionals who could advise and assist a President under siege. Until the Trump administration, the accepted norm when a patriotic member of the Washington establishment, regardless of party,  was invited to help a President was for the individual so invited to say, “Of course.” This was how President Clinton persuaded Reagan advisor David Gergen to rescue his administration from self-immolation.

Today, any political establishment figure, no matter how well-respected before, can count on being savaged in the news media if he or she agrees to join the administration, as well as harassed if they go out for dinner. The phenomenon effectively gives this White House a lobotomy by making it a huge and risky sacrifice to try to assist the White House.  It also isolates the President, and increases the chances of him making his situation worse out of anger, frustration, and his unfortunate lack of impulse control.

This too has been part of the coup strategy from the beginning: withhold from this President all of the honors, respect, fairness, deference and cooperation every other President has earned as a right of office by virtue of being elected, and eventually he will do something that will justify impeachment.

It’s a coup. “Lynching” just muddies the waters, and in this dirty business, muddy waters is exactly what the “resistance” wants and needs. Continue reading