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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 1/31/20

Impeachment: The Problem with Biden Whataboutism

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Andrew Johnson impeachment trial.
Andrew Johnson impeachment trial.
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The main Democratic impeachment charge against US president Donald Trump is simple: Trump attempted to pressure and/or bribe the president of Ukraine to investigate a political opponent (Joe Biden), House impeachment managers say, both for corrupt motives (to win re-election) and in violation of the law (by withholding congressionally appropriated aid).

On fact and law, the Democrats' case is air tight. Trump publicly confessed to the actions in question, and the Government Accountability Office's report on those actions concludes that Trump violated the Impoundment Control Act of 1974.

That leaves Team Trump with three defenses:

First, that the Constitution imbues the president with near-complete power over foreign policy and that this is therefore a mere matter of policy disagreement in which his opinion carries total weight. Unfortunately, the Constitution says otherwise.

Second, that Trump's motives were pure: His actions were driven by moral outrage at the possibility of corruption. Why, he just wanted to get to the bottom of things! Unfortunately, no really one believes that, least of all those proclaiming it.

And third, that Joe Biden is himself corrupt, that he pressured Ukraine's government to fire a prosecutor who investigated his son's lucrative relationship with Burisma, an energy company based in Ukraine.

Let's have a look at that allegation. Here's a quick timeline:

Joe Biden was tasked with "overseeing" the US relationship with Ukraine in Marc 2014.

In April 2014, his son, Hunter, was hired by Burisma, and Biden traveled to Ukraine to offer $50 million in US aid. That spring, Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin opened a probe of Burisma.

In March 2016, Shokin was fired as a prosecutor.

In January 2017, Ukraine ended its investigation of Burisma after a settlement (or, some suggest, a bribe).

In January 2018, Joe Biden publicly bragged about how he'd engineered Shokin's firing by threatening to block $1 billion in US aid.

Looks like a pretty strong case against Biden. He probably abused his position as vice-president, at the very least to cover for his son, and perhaps for himself (was Burisma "buying influence?").

Throughout this time, US mainstream media covered the appearances of impropriety.

Throughout this time, Republicans controlled both houses of Congress.

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Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.


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2 people are discussing this page, with 5 comments

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Fred W

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Reply to Thomas Knapp:   New Content

Not meaning to contradict the article or comment but you may wish to consider this:

Investigating Biden's possible corrupt activities is a legitimate topic for the President to request from a foreign government with which the US has a treaty to do same, regardless of what past governments have done. Also, it was only one part of the "favor" Trump asked of Zelensky; he also had questions about DNC-Crowdstrike activities in Ukraine that worked against his 2016 candidacy, which, if true, may have been illegal.

It's not "whataboutism" to bring up those issues. It makes the point that Trump had legitimate reasons to ask the Ukraine for help investigating possible illegal activity. Personal and partisan, of course; a reason for impeachment, not.

Submitted on Saturday, Feb 1, 2020 at 12:41:38 AM

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Thomas Knapp

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Reply to Fred W:   New Content

"Investigating Biden's possible corrupt activities is a legitimate topic for the President to request from a foreign government with which the US has a treaty to do same"


Actually, his request violated three separate clauses of that treaty.


The treaty says that the requests are to be made by the US Attorney General, not by the president.


The treaty says that the requests are to be made of Ukraine's state prosecutor, not of Ukraine's president.


And the treaty says that the requests are to be made in writing, not by telephone.


Three high crimes, publicly confessed to.

Submitted on Saturday, Feb 1, 2020 at 1:22:34 AM

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Fred W

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Reply to Thomas Knapp:   New Content

"High crimes"??? I guess I just have a different take on that.

Submitted on Saturday, Feb 1, 2020 at 5:37:42 AM

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Reply to Fred W:   New Content

Treaties are, according to the US Constitution, co-extant with the Constitution as "the supreme law of the land."


Trump violated the "supreme law of the land" three times with his phone call. How are those violations not "high crimes?"

Submitted on Saturday, Feb 1, 2020 at 6:13:31 AM

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Reply to Thomas Knapp:   New Content

I am sure you'll correct me if I'm wrong, but I would understand "supreme law of the land" to mean that it ranks at the highest level of laws that should be obeyed. In other words, if it conflicts with another law that is not so rated, one should follow the "supreme" law rather than the other law. I don't think that means not following it would be an impeachable offense for a President, ipso facto. Asking for something over the telephone when a "supreme" law says it should be in written form seems to me a good example of such a case. A further example might be to consider what if any penalties are specified in a law, if it mentions fines or imprisonment, for example, for violations. Some "supreme" laws may specify a fine for their violation, and in such a case, just as an example, one would hardly consider impeachment as the appropriate remedy for a violation.

Submitted on Saturday, Feb 1, 2020 at 7:12:57 PM

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