Whistleblower revelations spell trouble for Trump

In an alternate reality — one in which the principles of truth and justice were considered paramount to cynical partisan posturing and the at-any-cost pursuit of control of the levers of power — this issue would be simple and the manner in which it was handled would be swift in direct.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/09/2019 (1165 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

In an alternate reality — one in which the principles of truth and justice were considered paramount to cynical partisan posturing and the at-any-cost pursuit of control of the levers of power — this issue would be simple and the manner in which it was handled would be swift in direct.

The reason, however, that such a scenario is described as “alternate” is that it isn’t the reality in which we live. In our reality, events tend to unfold more along the lines of what’s happening south of the border as the deeply polarized U.S. government sets in motion a process to determine whether articles of impeachment should be introduced against U.S. President Donald Trump.

What has brought matters to the point of a formal impeachment inquiry — when a dizzying almost-daily array of misdeeds, falsehoods and obvious abuses of power and process have not — is an anonymous whistleblower complaint from within the U.S. intelligence community over concerns that Mr. Trump has used “the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election.”

U.S. House intelligence committee chairman Adam Schiff called the complaint and phone call “the most graphic evidence yet that the president of the United States has betrayed his oath of office.” (J. Scott Applewhite / The Associated Press files)

The specifics refer mostly to a telephone conversation between Mr. Trump and newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, during which the U.S. president repeatedly suggested Ukrainian authorities should investigate former vice-president and current Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, in relation to accusations of impropriety that have long since been debunked.

A written summary of the call shows Mr. Trump naming personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani and U.S. Attorney General William Barr as parties with whom Mr. Zelenskiy should liaise in the proposed investigative exercise. Unmentioned but looming in the background of the dirt-digging entreaty is the fact the Trump administration had recently put on hold hundreds of millions of dollars of scheduled U.S. military aid to Russian-occupied Ukraine.

The first steps on the path toward possible impeachment occurred Thursday when the House intelligence committee, chaired by Democratic Sen. Adam Schiff, questioned acting National Intelligence Director Joseph Maguire about why he had delayed forwarding the whistleblower complaint to Congress when the law states he is required to do so.

Mr. Schiff called the complaint and phone call “the most graphic evidence yet that the president of the United States has betrayed his oath of office.”

What remains now is to see how much more damning the evidence becomes as the inquiry proceeds, and how much longer elected Republicans will steadfastly defend Mr. Trump in the face of rather compelling evidence of indefensible behaviour.

Ranking Republican committee member Sen. Devin Nunes predictably dismissed the ­allegations against the president as “fake news” and mainstream media coverage of them an “information warfare operation” against Mr. Trump.

And so, here we are.

What remains now is to see how much more damning the evidence becomes as the inquiry proceeds, and how much longer elected Republicans will steadfastly defend Mr. Trump in the face of rather compelling evidence of indefensible behaviour.

For many, the mere mention of the word “impeachment” conjures memories of the dying days of the Richard Nixon presidency and the manner in which the previously unwavering support of Republicans crumbled under the accumulated weight of Watergate-related revelations. In the end, Mr. Nixon resigned before he could be impeached because he had lost the support of congressional Republicans, who were forced by facts to accept the inevitable and instructed the president it was time to step down.

That moment has not been reached yet for Mr. Trump and the current crop of Republicans, who control the U.S. Senate and would ultimately decide the outcome of an impeachment trial. But cracks have begun to show in the previously impenetrable wall of Trump-protective support, and the uncomfortable truth is escaping through the fissures at an ever-increasing rate.

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