Impeachment

Was Trump's Sin Acting "Like a Politician"?

A response to Josh Blackman's New York Times op-ed on the case against Trump (with updates)

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Does the impeachment and potential removal of President Trump threaten to punish routine political conduct due to partisan disagreement? My co-blogger Josh Blackman makes the case for this view in today's New York Times (and expanded upon in this post below).

Josh makes some very important points that highlight how some advocates for the President's impeachment and removal have oversold their claims and made careless arguments. His piece also makes a more careful and nuanced argument against impeachment than has been made by the President's defenders. I think Josh's piece underscores some of the practical consequences of the failure of House Democrats and their allies to more forthrightly attempt to engage those outside of their base in their effort as well. All that said, I strongly disagree with Josh's bottom line. While the risk of using impeachment to advance partisan political goals is a real threat, the case that President Trump's conduct justifies impeachment and removal remains standing.

The historical episodes Josh highlights make the point that Presidents routinely consider the political consequences of their decisions, including whether certain actions will benefit them politically, even when more weighty considerations are at hand. It is a mistake to resist these claims (or to pretend, as some Democratic partisans do, that weighty decisions made by recent Presidents were not influenced by political calculations). But in an effort to draw a parallel between such conduct by past Presidents and the conduct of President Trump, Josh and I part ways.

In his op-ed, Josh writes:

What separates an unconstitutional "abuse of power" from the valorized actions of Lincoln and Johnson? Not the president's motives. In each case, a president acted with an eye toward "personal political benefit." Rather, Congress's judgment about what is a "legitimate policy purpose" separates the acclaimed from the criticized. Preserving a unified nation during the Civil War? Check. Creating a vacancy so the first African-American can be appointed to the Supreme Court? Check. But asking a foreign leader to investigate potential corruption? Impeach.

This framing, in my view, engages in a bit of bait-and-switch, and thus obscures what is actually at issue. The charge against President Trump is not that he wanted an actual investigation of corruption in Ukraine (however misguided such a request may have been), but that he did not care about whether there was an investigation at all. As virtually all of the evidence in the record shows, what he asked for was the announcement of an investigation, and that he had no interest in combating actual corruption of any kind. This difference may seem small, but it is key – and Josh's argument only works if this distinction is obscured.

Central to the argument for impeachment and removal is that the President engaged in the sort of conduct that the founders identified as justifying including impeachment in the Constitution: Using the nation's foreign policy as a tool for personal benefit, and thereby betraying the public trust.

The announcement of an investigation into Burisma and the Bidens could benefit President Trump's personal political ambitions, yet there is no plausible argument – at least no plausible argument that I have seen or heard – that the mere announcement of an investigation could or would do anything to advance any legitimate anti-corruption agenda. Further, there is now ample evidence that those helping Trump push for the announcement of an investigation, such as Rudy Giuliani, were explicitly acting on behalf of Trump himself in his personal capacity, and not the office of the President, let alone the nation. If one disbelieves such evidence, and genuinely believes the President sought an actual investigation into actual corruption, that could be a reason to conclude that no impeachable offense occurred, but the evidence for this view is decidedly lacking.

If there is evidence that Trump was actually seeking a genuine investigation, and not merely an announcement, we have not seen it. Those who might be able to substantiate such a claim, such as Ambassador John Bolton or OMB Director Mick Mulvaney, have not been allowed to testify, and the Administration has resisted releasing documents or other materials that might support this characterization of events. The evidence we have, on the other hand, supports the claim that the President wanted a politically useful announcement, and did not care at all about corruption in Ukraine, actual or imagined. In other words, while one could argue that a request for an actual investigation would have been within the bounds of expected (if regrettable) behavior by an elected official, the evidence for such an interpretation is not in the record. And as the President has acknowledged, any as-yet-undisclosed evidence on this question is within the White House's control, but they have refused to let it come to light. That, in itself, is telling.

As I have made clear, I do not believe the request for an announcement of an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma in exchange for aid and other assistance is the only impeachable offense the President has committed. Among other things, the President's request that White House Counsel create false records so as to mislead investigators is no less impeachable than President Clinton's dishonest conduct of decades ago, yet the House did not highlight these other misdeeds. Insofar as one can argue that impeachment and removal should be based upon a pattern of conduct, and not a single event, this was an unforced error.

I also question many of the choices House Democrats have made throughout this process, from failing to openly acknowledge that early investigations were related to impeachment and submitting excessive and overbroad document requests, to overstating or exaggerating evidence of "Russian collusion" and other offenses and failing to build or present a cross-ideological argument for what constitutes impeachable conduct. (My co-blogger Keith Whittington would have made an excellent witness at that hearing.) These missteps may well matter politically and may unduly complicate what should be a rather straightforward argument. On that question, we'll have to let history be the judge.

All that said, it is a mistake to suggest that the President's conduct is business-as-usual or that impeachment represents an effort to criminalize political differences, and a mistake to suggest that all that's at issue is a misguided and potentially politically motivated request for an investigation. If all that were true, I might well agree with Josh's bottom line, but it's not and so I don't.

UPDATE: A reader posits the possibility that the reason President Trump focused on an announcement of an investigation is that such an announcement could make it more likely that Ukainian officials would follow through with a meaningful investigation. In effect, the announcement would function as a commitment measure and thus would be more valuable than a private assurance that an investigation would ensue. If there were any evidence in the record to support such an account, I might find it plausible, but there isn't. Nothing the White House has said or released supports such an account. Not only that, but those individuals who might be able to substantiate such a theory have been barred from providing testimony. So while I accept the point that there is a hypothetical legitimate rationale for the demand for a public announcement, such a rationale remains purely hypothetical.

NEXT: Op-Ed in New York Times on Trump's Impeachment Trial Brief

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  1. “Was Trump’s Sin Acting “Like a Politician”?”

    That and having the temerity to beat a certain HRC in an election.

    1. “temerity to beat a certain HRC in an election”

      Exactly.

      1. Nope. That’s not why, that’s the main reason they hate him, but that’s not why he’s being impeached.

        The reason he is being impeached is because he has a clear path to reelection, it’s as simple as that. And Schiff, Nadler, Pelosi, Green, AOC, etc have all said in one way or another ‘if we don’t impeach him he might get reelected.

        And I really doubt even the worst TDSers here will honestly say with barely 9 months to election day they think it’s would be of the least importance to impeach Trump if his favorability was in the 20’s and he was behind by 30 points in the battleground states. If fact they’d fight tooth and nail a 25th amendment removal in fear that Pence or another candidate would stop the bleeding and save the Senate and prevent a sweep of the House.

        There is nothing an opposition loves more than running against a clear loser, or hates more than an ungracious winner that’s about to beat them again.

        And that’s the reason for impeachment in a nutshell.

        1. I don’t think the main reason they hate him is that he beat Hillary Clinton. The main reason they hate him is due to his obvious character flaws.

          1. Did you or do you hate Bill Clinton? If hatred is based solely on character flaws then he should be reviled but it seems that he remains quite popular with Democrats. Most that I talk to seem to have the view that while he had personal weaknesses (rape, sexual harassment, perjury, adultery, compulsive lying to name a few) he was sincerely working for the good of the country.

            1. Well, they’re wrong. I was a child when he was President so I couldn’t really form an informed opinion on him. The more I learned about him over the years, however, is that he was not a great dude. I wouldn’t say I hate him per se, but he’s also not in the public eye as much anymore so its hard for him to spark a visceral reaction. I also don’t necessarily hate Donald Trump. The emotion he generally generates is complete astonishment that he has such high levels of support from people given his such obvious character flaws and intellectual deficits. Clinton may not be a good guy but he’s certainly better at seeming like one than Trump, which is one reason his support was generally high.

          2. Yeah, maybe. But were those same character flaws the ones that Bushitler had, and caused McCains temper problems that would start WWIII, or why Romney was going to usher in the Handmaid’s Tale before Trump did, or why Kavenaugh raped so many women before he could shave.

            I could do some self reflection and wonder why we conservatives constantly pick such unstable candidates, or I could take the easy way out and just decide that Democrats think they are inherently entitled to win, and Republicans obviously have fatal character flaws because they think they should win one now and again too.

            I’m going with the easy way out obviously. If you don’t like Trump’s character flaws then you can say so on your ballot in November, but until then you’ll have to just live with things the way they are.

            1. You should take the hard one. Introspection is good for you. It’s actually sort of hilarious that you’re waving it away. You’re like a liberal caricature of a Republican lacking self-awareness. I mean aren’t you sort of interested in why a party that at one point thought family values were important elevated serial cheaters like Trump and Gingrich? Or Giuliani? Or how Dennis Hastert rose to the top? Or why the early Trump supporters Collins and Hunter are headed to prison? Or why Steve King is still in the party at all? Or why someone like James Inhofe was “outraged at the outrage” at the prisoner abuse in Abu Gharib? There’s a lot of moral rot in your party. A lot. You should really engage in introspection if you consider yourself intelligent and moral.

              Also when it comes to thinking they are inherently entitled to win, Republicans are really really good at the politics of delegitimzing opponents. See for example, the Wisconsin legislature’s response to Governor Evers, the North Carolina Legislature’s response to Governor Cooper, the Michigan Legislature’s response to Governor Whitmer, etc. See also, the entire Party’s response to attempts at restricting gerrymandering, Florida Republican’s response to Amendment Four. You could also look at the insistence that when Republicans lose it is because of illegal voting, i.e. Trump’s 3 million illegal voters or Fox News and conservative insistence that Synema stole the AZ senate election because the counting of the mail-in ballots eventually put her in the lead. You might also note the rhetoric around originalism and textualism being the only legitimate method of judicial interpretations. Then of course there is the consistent accusations of Democratic patriotism whenever they happen to question military force or the surveillance state, or the police, or any other force using institution.

              Introspection. You should try it.

              1. LawTalkingGuy, I really wish there were a like button. If there were, I would hit it a dozen times for this post.

              2. You have your laundry list and Republicans have theirs. Lost in all this talk of character flaws is that there are issues that divide us. Right now I consider the strong leftward tilt of the Democratic party to be dangerous for the country. Trump in my opinion is not dangerous, whatever I might think about some of his behavior. This is not the Democratic party of even Bill Clinton. AOC would probably call Clinton center-right, maybe even just right wing. Sanders is a Soviet style socialist with people on his payroll who say gulags were fine educational experiences. Gun confiscation, restrictions on free speech and open borders are now mainstream Democratic positions. So, yeah I wish Trump would act more presidential but I’ll accept him for what he is because of the ugly alternative.

                1. I’m a Democrat who thinks Clinton should have been removed from office. Perjury is a real crime and he committed it. As a practical matter, removing him would have given the Democrats the moral high ground when Trump came along. Also, an incumbent President Gore probably would have defeated Bush in 2000 which would have meant no Iraq War and no 2008 recession. I may be in the minority but I think not removing Clinton was one of the most boneheaded things my party ever did.

                2. Donojack, you may wish to reconsider how dangerous Trump is. Putin hates America with the fury of a thousand suns, and *he* thinks Trump is a perfectly fine president for us to have. Whether or not there was collusion, the fact that one of our worst enemies wants Trump to be our president strongly suggests he’s dangerous in ways we don’t fully appreciate. The day may come when you wish you’d gotten national health care instead.

              3. For every Dennis Hastert there is an Anthony Weiner, for every Duncan Hunter there is a William Jefferson, for every Republican carping about a stolen election there is a Hillary Clinton or Stacy Abrams.

                I don’t concern myself too much with that, other than throwing them out when you find them, because they are politicians, a distinctly criminal class.

                What I do think is dispicable is baseless character assassination like against Kavenaugh and Romney, and the NY times hit piece claiming McCain was having an affair with a lobbyist despite no evidence and denials from everyone.

    2. You know, Trump could crap on his desk in front of TV cameras, or invite Putin to invade Alaska, or send the Army to arrest Democrats, and his base would say that he’s making America great again and the Democrats are just pissed because he beat Hillary Clinton.

      If Obama had called up the head of a foreign country and said no aid would be forthcoming unless that country announced it was investigating Republicans, I very much doubt that you would write it off to acting like a politician.

      1. “I very much doubt that you would write it off to acting like a politician”

        Yet you would have.

        1. Bob, please point to something I said that indicates I would have.

        2. When Bob wants to pull out the long knives, the worst slur he can think of is “You’re as horrible a person as me!”

          1. We see from both the Clinton and Trump impeachments that party support is the best indicator of whether one supports impeachment.

            There are videos of just about every politician active in both 1997 and now changing positions. Graham, Feinstein, Nadler, Schumer, Pelosi and others. Not only on impeachment itself but witness testimony and procedures.

            I acknowledge my tribal loyalty, but others think they can pretend to be different. Not buying it.

            1. Bob, my comment above that begins “I’m a Democrat who thinks Clinton should have been removed” was intended to be in response to your comment here. Sorry it ended up in the wrong place.

        3. BfO:

          I very much doubt that you would write it off to acting like a politician” … Yet you would have.

          Just to be sure, I went back and checked Krychek’s comments and found nothing imply he would act as you believe.

          Given that, it seems you must believe it obvious that anyone in disagreement with a Trump position must be a biased, partisan hack.

          So it follows that the actual merit being irrelevant, you need only to wait to find out who agrees with it to discover your own position.

          Here’s an interesting concept. For any position, first decide what your own view is, and only then try to find out which political side supports it.

          To put it another way, honestly question what your own position would be if the political affiliation (or Trump support status) of the involved parties were reversed. (Kind of like John Rawls Veil of Ignorance, which has its problems but seems like a decent guide for a simple situation like this)

          From his and your comments, it seems Krychek may follow this method, and you likely do not.

      2. Well Obama did have a Vice President who told the head of a foreign country he’d cut off aid unless they stopped investigating Democrats.

        1. Never happened. Kaz, think of why you end up convincing yourself of such a ridiculous scenario.
          Confirmation bias is a slippery slope all it’s own.

          1. Well I heard Biden brag about getting the prosecutor fired in tape. And now we find out there was a White House meeting in 2016 with the Ukrainian prosecutors about Burisma.

            Ken Vogal is a NYT reporter, Laura Ingraham reports the email came from a FOIA request:
            “In the email, Vogel wrote, “We are going to report that [State Department official] Elizabeth Zentos attended a meeting at the White House on 1/19/2016 with Ukrainian prosecutors and embassy officials as well as … [redacted] from the NSC … the subjects discussed included efforts within the United State government to support prosecutions, in Ukraine and the United Kingdom, of Burisma Holdings, … and concerns that Hunter Biden’s position with the company could complicate such efforts.”

      3. LMAO.
        While it wasn’t Obama, that is exactly what VP Biden did in Ukraine for personal reasons! Not to mention the Obama admin lying to FISC to obtain warrants to spy on opposition campaign.

  2. Did Obama act like a politician in deciding by executive order not to apply the law to young undocumented aliens? His party would benefit from Latino votes. That is OK, because the writer agrees with the act, although the apparent goal – political gain – is pretty much the same.

    1. Or he thought it was not in the national interest to deport people brought here as children.

      1. Or, possibly, there was corruption in the last administrations of the US and Ukraine. Again, if you agree with the action taken, the political aspect becomes moot. If you do not agree, then politics become the primary motive.

        1. Yeah. But he could have used his State Department and Justice Department to investigate that. We have an MLAT with Ukraine. Instead he used his personal attorney who stated he was acting in his personal capacity. Also how can we take this “investigating corruption in Ukraine” defense seriously when Trump has stated in 2012 in an interview and then reportedly in 2017 that the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act is a horrible law that he wants to get rid of. The accuracy of the 2017 comment reporting was bolstered when Larry Kudlow said the administration was looking at FCPA “reform” because companies were not happy. He does not care about international corruption generally or in Ukraine specifically.

      2. Should the children of gangsters be required to surrender the fruit of their parents’ corrupt endeavors? They are innocent, but live a more lavish lifestyle than the average child, financed through criminality, extending through to murder.

        Kids brought here as children are here because of the criminality of their parents, and what they are benefiting from this crime. Indeed, their presence here may be what motivated the crime.

        They should be returned, and denied citizenship.

        1. Generally the law does not hold children accountable for the decisions of their parents.

          1. What about the wealth they have inherited form their parents’ ill gotten gains?

            1. Publius, if you go there, you open the door for reparations for slavery, because that is precisely the argument for reparations. No, today’s white taxpayers did not personally enslave anyone, but they benefit from the results of an economic system that first enslaved blacks, then exploited them, and finally mostly shut them out of the economy. If the children of undocumented immigrants shouldn’t benefit from the sins of their parents, then maybe you shouldn’t either.

              1. Poor analogy. Slavery was legal at the time.

                1. But vastly more immoral than bringing children across the border.

                2. So what? Of all the distinctions without a meaningful difference I’ve ever heard, that one takes the prize.

                  The point is not whether it was legal, the point is whether its victims and their heirs suffered and continue to suffer harm.

              2. Poor economic analysis too.

                There is no doubt some rich white landowners benefitted from slavery, but any decent economic analysis would conclude that slavery held back the economy as a whole, and thus hurt most whites, albeit not nearly as badly as Blacks.

                It’s a ridiculous economic fallacy that slavery improved the average whites lives even in slaves states. it was an ignorant self defeating practice just on economic grounds without even considering the moral issues.

                1. I disagree with your economic analysis, but even if true, so what? The question is whether blacks suffered, not whether whites benefitted. If I steal your wallet, and promptly misplace it so that I don’t actually benefit from the money that was in it, are you not entitled to compensation because I derived no benefit from my theft? You’re seriously arguing that?

                  1. Most whites didn’t own slaves and most whites in the south were also harmed by slavery. It is ignorant to think there was economic benefits to whites as a whole.

                    You are making a racist argument that because maybe 10% of whites benefitted from a system that hurt everyone else it worked a corruption of the blood.

                    As for the economic analysis, just look around at the rich progressive countries that benefitted from slavery. Russia was the last holdout in Europe with 90% population were serfs, and of course it took centuries for the rest of Europe to catch up. Normandy ended serfdom in 1100 centuries before most other countries, and what did they ever accomplish?

                    Spain of course had an extensive empire built on slavery, and it made them the “sick man of Europe” supine and helpless when they held half the world under them with millions of slaves.

                    1. No, that’s not my argument. My argument is that if not for slavery and Jim Crow, blacks would be much further ahead than they are now, and they are entitled to compensation for that. (And in reality I’m not actually sold on the idea of reparations; I’m merely pointing out that the argument Publius was making to deport dreamers is essentially the same argument as for reparations.)

                      There are many historical reasons why Russia and Spain did not do well despite slavery. Since no two countries or historical periods are alike, it would be a mistake to say that since slavery didn’t do much for Russia, it didn’t do much for the American South either.

            2. That can be taken from the parents or the parent’s estate, or from the children if the transfer itself was fraudulent. More importantly, there is certainly a moral difference between the two scenarios. Taking someone from the only home they may have ever known and placing them in a country they may have no connections to is highly immoral.

              1. So you’re basically saying that it’s completely okay to take a child from the only home they’ve ever known as long as it was an expensive home. I’m sorry but no. That logic does not work. There is not the moral difference you claim between the two scenarios.

                In my opinion, the moral dilemma must be solved by looking at proximate cause. If the parent did the wrong, the parent is the only one who should be punished. Once the ill-gotten gains have been innocently and in good faith passed to another, the victim is out of luck.

                Consider a less extreme example. You rob a bank. You use the proceeds of your burglary to pay your taxes. You subsequently die. Under what circumstances do you think the IRS would give that money back to the bank?

                The laws against receiving stolen goods are to stop fences who know (or should know) that the transaction is not in good faith. They do not give me just cause to go after every grocery store or gas station where you ever spent money after your crime spree.

                1. Are you responding to me? I clearly think it’s highly immoral to take children from the only home they’ve ever know.

                  1. Yet you just said above that it’s okay to take all the money away from a thieving parent. Even though doing so could (and likely will) leave the family homeless and shattered. It throws the children out of the only home they’ve known just as surely as the immigration enforcement. Now, you could say the parents deserve it – and I’d agree. But the kids didn’t do anything wrong either way.

                    My point is that your moral standard does not discriminate between the two scenarios the way you think it does.

            3. The actual money, yes. The ancillary benefits of that money, no. If a bank robber sends his kids to Stanford with the money, we don’t revoke the diploma on the grounds that it was obtained via the proceeds of illegal activity.

              1. That’s because it’s Stanford, so why bother. If it was Berkeley, that would be another matter.

      3. Is that why, in addition to illegally creating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, he ALSO illegally created the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans – the same unconstitutional program for adults?

        1. I guess that is based on the moral belief that families should stick together?

  3. Prof. Adler, if you will suspend disbelief that “the impeachment and potential removal of President Trump is to punish routine political conduct due to partisan disagreement,” then all of your cognitive dissonance with the Democrats’ “unforced errors,” and “choices House Democrats have made throughout this process, from failing to openly acknowledge that early investigations were related to impeachment and submitting excessive and overbroad [sic] document requests, to overstating or exaggerating evidence of “Russian collusion” and other offenses and failing to build or present a cross-ideological argument for what constitutes impeachable conduct” will dissolve.

  4. Was Trump’s Sin Acting “Like a Politician”?

    I wouldn’t make that case.

    But if you want to make it? Then sure, let’s go for it. I’m okay with raising the bar for what we expect of a president.

  5. Prof. Adler’s position that Trump has committed acts that warrant impeachment are the thinnest gruel. There’s a lot of conjecture about what Trump was thinking, what he wanted, what his motivations were, and so on – all of which requires some kind of mind reading, or documentary evidence of his state of mind, neither of which exist.

    “Using the nation’s foreign policy as a tool for personal benefit, and thereby betraying the public trust.” It does not necessarily follow that deriving personal benefit in the execution of one’s office is a betrayal of the public trust. In fact, the noblest acts as President accrue to one’s benefit and political advantage. It is not a crime.

    “As virtually all of the evidence in the record shows, what he asked for was the announcement of an investigation, and that he had no interest in combating actual corruption of any kind. ” What record? Funny you don’t define it. Could you be talking about the House’s articles? The evidence they collected? No rebuttal, no witnesses for the defendant, no cross examination? That record? And what piece of evidence, exactly, supports the assertion that “he had no interest in combating actual corruption of any kind. ” What if, when he said he wanted an announcement that what he meant was that the announcement of an investigation meant that one was under way. Evidence of an active investigation. This is actually a common turn of phrase.

    It’s clear you just hate Trump and want him out, and you have sold your reputation to support this. How anyone could ever take you as a serious, objective person after this is beyond me.

    1. The evidentiary record that supports Trump’s corrupt motive:

      1) He required only an announcement of an investigation, not an investigation, to release the aid and meet with Zelensky at the White House.

      2) He used his personal attorney rather than the Justice or State Department to pressure Zelensky.

      3) Related to #2, he never asked the Justice or State Department to look into whether they should open up an investigation.

      4) He kept his actions private. If his motives were legitimate, it makes sense for him to go public.

      5) He gave up as soon as he was caught. Why would you give up if you had a legitimate reason to pursue the investigations?

      6) He continues to insist there was no quid pro quo. If your motive was legitimate, why wouldn’t you boast about there being a quid pro quo?

      7) As Mitt Romney said (substitute “Ukraine” for “China”), “When the only American citizen President Trump singles out for China’s investigation is his political opponent in the midst of the Democratic nomination process, it strains credulity to suggest that it is anything other than politically motivated.”

      1. The evidentiary record that supports Trump’s corrupt motive:
        > no, it doesn’t
        1) He required only an announcement of an investigation, not an investigation, to release the aid and meet with Zelensky at the White House.
        > you’re taking a phrase used in a phone conversation and creating content that doesn’t exist. When I say “I want to hear an announcement that you have graduated from high school,” my child knows he really has to graduate, not just create an announcement.

        2) He used his personal attorney rather than the Justice or State Department to pressure Zelensky.
        > nothing unusual or illegal about that

        3) Related to #2, he never asked the Justice or State Department to look into whether they should open up an investigation.
        > nothing unusual or illegal about that

        4) He kept his actions private. If his motives were legitimate, it makes sense for him to go public.
        >nonsense.

        5) He gave up as soon as he was caught. Why would you give up if you had a legitimate reason to pursue the investigations?
        >gave up what?

        6) He continues to insist there was no quid pro quo. If your motive was legitimate, why wouldn’t you boast about there being a quid pro quo?
        >no.

        7) As Mitt Romney said (substitute “Ukraine” for “China”), “When the only American citizen President Trump singles out for China’s investigation is his political opponent in the midst of the Democratic nomination process, it strains credulity to suggest that it is anything other than politically motivated.”
        >logical nonsense. In the case of the Ukraine, THERE REALLY WAS CORRUPTION ON THE PART OF BIDEN!!!

        1. 1) There is more than the phone call to support the claim.

          2) and 3) Are you kidding? Or as they say during oral arguments at SCOTUS, “amazing!”

          4) and 6) You made conclusory statements.

          5) He gave up on Ukraine launching an investigation (assuming for the sake of argument he required an actual investigation).

          7) Assuming you are right of the sake of argument, it remains that he is only interested in Biden and no one else which undercuts his motive.

          1. All of that is beside the point.

            You side extolled criminal prosecution as an acceptable political tactic.

            I quote from this forum post regarding the indictment of Rick Perry.

            Here is a post from Maraxus.

            http://bbs.stardestroyer.net/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=161693

            Still doesn’t matter. None of the people you mentioned are elected officials. We have legal ways of removing people from office. This was, in my view, not one of them. Perry’s window dressing justification isn’t really all that important.

            And as for The Hammer, that’s true. He did get his conviction overturned by the Texas Supreme Court, an elected body that consists almost entirely of conservative Republicans. They didn’t think DeLay actually did all that stuff, and Texas doesn’t really have much in the way of campaign finance laws anyway. It makes no matter, though. He was still a cancerous growth on Congress’ asscheek, begging for a public fall from grace. And when he got convicted the first time around, we as a nation are better off for it. Ronnie Earle did humanity a favor when he realized that DeLay broke campaign finance laws, and he did us an even greater one when he got DeLay convicted. Whether or not “justice” was actually served against him isn’t so important. The fact that he no longer holds office though? That’s very important.

            (emphasis mine)

            another howler from Maraxus

            Frankly, I don’t put much stock into the idea that people who serve as prosecuting public officials have to be moral exemplars. It is much less important, in my mind at least, that we have moral exemplars in office so long as the prosecutor’s office is efficient and effective and just. And so far, I’ve heard nothing to suggest that the PIU’s work, before or after the scandal, has been anything other than excellent.

            Of course! And the people on the Travis Commissioner’s Court would have tossed Lehmberg out on her ass a long time ago. They’re not doing it because there are, frankly, more important things at stake. In a state like Texas where the GOP has historically run roughshod over the Dems, they cannot afford to lose powerful positions like this. Considering the number of cases coming out of the PIU, including, incidentally, a Perry-allied ex-official who channeled millions of dollars to some of his big contributors, the Travis DA’s office has more influence than just about any Democrat in the state. If Perry didn’t have the right to appoint her replacement, and he almost assuredly would have appointed a fairly right-wing replacement, I’m sure the Travis County Dems would like to tell Lehmberg to take a short walk off a long pier. Unhappily, there are more important considerations at hand.

            Maraxus is on your side.

            Maraxus is on Adam Schiff’s side.

            Your side set the precedent.

            Now you do not want to live under the precedent you set because it hurts someone on your side.

            Too bad.

            1. Who tf is “Maraxus?”

                1. Yeah, I clicked on it. The question remains, who tf is Maraxus? More the point, why am I supposed to care about what some sci-fi board blogger I’ve never heard of said about Rick Perry?

                  As long as we’re revisiting old opinions of anonymous people on the Internet, do you remember what the regular liberal commenters here at VC said in virtual unanimity about the Perry prosecution? I do. Is that why you had to dig up “Maraxus?”

                  1. What political (let alone legal) price was paid for prosecuting Rick Perry?

      2. “6) He continues to insist there was no quid pro quo. If your motive was legitimate, why wouldn’t you boast about there being a quid pro quo?“

        If Trump wasn’t guilty of stealing my motorcycle he would have knitted me a sweater. But here I am with no sweater. Case closed.

        1. Leaving aside that your rejoinder is a non sequitur to my argument, I think you likely meant to say “If Trump was guilty …,” thus no sweater means Trump is not guilty. That is the Side Show Bob defense.

          1. I have no sweater and no motorcycle. Yet the cops refuse to arrest Trump.

            It’s almost like someone not doing a thing or not saying specific words isn’t an indication of anything.

    2. His reputation is definitely going to survive this. Maybe not with you, but with the people who matter to him, which is more important. Indeed, the vast majority of people, no matter what their take on Trump is will survive the Trump-era with their reputations intact. Those who don’t may even end up rehabilitated later. This is America. Of course this may only last for their lifetime. Historians of the future will probably be very confused as to why so many people could support someone with such obvious character flaws and intellectual deficits for so long.

  6. I think the key here is “pattern of misbehavior.” One request for announcement of a corruption investigation may be impeachable, but there is lots of impeachable conduct that just about every president is engaged in, but haven’t been impeached for. But if you could show a *pattern* of reasonably egregious misbehavior of the sort that Congress couldn’t control by other means, that makes a strong case for impeachment. That’s what the Democrats should have done if they wanted to make a strong case, but it would have taken much more time than they allocated.

    1. …and they wouldn’t have been able to demonstrate a pattern of egregious misbehavior, because there isn’t one! That’s why they have done what they did.

    2. “it would have taken much more time than they allocated”

      I think when the history of this period is written, the fact that the Democrats rushed rather than let the process played out is going to look really bad.

      And of course, there is a great irony in the fact that the reason they rushed is the same mental state that they charge to be impeachable when President Trump held it- they wanted to win the 2020 election and wanted an impeachment well in advance of it and a trial that concluded before it.

      1. Happy to agree with Dilan!

      2. I think when the history of this period is written, the fact that the Democrats rushed rather than let the process played out is going to look really bad.

        Come on, this is bullshit. First, the people who oppose impeachment simply lack integrity; there is nothing about the process that could have been done differently that could have gotten them to change their minds.

        If more time was spent, they’d have been whining that Democrats were dragging the process out.

        Second, I don’t know what “let the process play out” even refers to. What didn’t play out? Do you mean that they should have litigated the subpoenas? But they had the equivalent of probable cause to impeach already, and that litigation was just going to drag things out indefinitely, for uncertain gain.

        Moreover — and this is why your claim about wanting to rush it because of the 2020 election is wrong — if they had litigated it, it would be May or June by the time they had finished the process. (Remember, the Trump administration was claiming immunity, not privilege. So first they’d have had to litigate this fake immunity thing all the way up to SCOTUS. Then after SCOTUS ruled that it wasn’t a thing, the people would have had to appear for testimony, and would have claimed executive privilege, and each of those claims would have to be litigated.) And by May or June, Republicans would all be saying, “I don’t care if you have conclusive proof that he raped and murdered a school bus full of kids; it’s too close to the election to impeach.”

        (Many are already saying that with a full year left on the president’s term.)

    3. If we could crack open the books on this admin’s dealings with, to name a few, Saudi Arabia, Qatar (remember when they were terrorists/sympathizers up until Jared finally squeezed money for 666 out of them?), Turkey, and the mother lode itself Russia, I’ll bet the money in my pocket against the money in yours such a pattern will appear.

  7. Seems to me that most of the formulations have Trump seeking an actual investigation, with the request shifting to an announcement at or near the end; I have a hard time reading into those circumstances (If I have them right) that the investigation itself was irrelevant to Trump, or that he understood none would occur. Either way, the issue it does seem to give rise to a justification for more evidence (or would, if the House Managers and Trump’s team were more focused on these arguments, instead of ones that a crime is required or the Burisma thing is irrelevant or conclusively debunked).

    1. As below, I agree with this (although I don’t think it changes the removal question). This idea that Trump only wanted the announcement and not the investigation is the thing on a thin reed. It comes entirely from Gordon Sondland’s testimony and when he was asked to explain how he knew Trump only wanted an announcement:

      SONDLAND: … President Trump presumably, communicated through Mr. Giuliani, wanted the Ukrainians on-record publicly that they were going to do those investigations.

      GOLDMAN: You never heard anyone say that they really wanted them to do the investigations.

      SONDLAND: I didn’t hear either way.

      That’s a HELL of a presumption to assume this meant Trump only wanted an announcement as opposed to an investigation.

      Additionally, this talking point makes the cloudstrike investigation request even more ludicrous. No one has said Trump wanted an announcement of an investigation into a feverdream conspiracy. He wanted an actual investigation into the feverdream. And this request was hand-in-hand with the request for investigating Biden.

      1. Yeah, and I’d go further, to say that an impeachment based on circumstantial evidence of intent is inappropriate in any event. I get that inferences like that happen in other contexts. But in criminal courts the high standard of proof helps protect against flimsy convictions (and thus indictments). And civilly, there are cost-benefit considerations that won’t apply in the political sphere absent a cost-imposing norm that you don’t impeach for otherwise-legitimate acts because you’re convinced (even rationally) that the president is a pretty bad dude who must have had shady motives. The potential difference-maker to me would be direct evidence (which we currently don’t have) removing the rational possibly that Trump’s motives were mixed and demonstrating that no legitimate end was even being sought (e.g., a direct admission in an email or memo that not actually conducting any investigation was part of the proposed deal).

      2. HELL notwithstanding, it’s a presumption not evident.

        People make those sorts of presumptions all the time. We created all these big elaborate legal procedures to keep such presumptions from being consequential absent strong supporting evidence.

        But Orange Man Bad. So nevermind.

  8. For all politicians, personal political interest and the public interest are one and the same.

    1. That doesn’t mean that anything they do in furtherance of either is justified. But it is legal for the President, who is the chief law enforcement officer, to make a light inquiry to the mere idea of further investigating a situation involving a political opponent which has the appearance of impropriety or corruption.

      Now if Trump was spying on the Biden campaign with a FISA warrant on flimsy evidence, and the national media was on fire for years with outlandish conspiracy theories, innuendo, and leaks from our intelligence agencies, that might be different.

  9. In other words:

    We have decided that Trump had a very specific set of thoughts about the investigation announcement. We have also decided he had no other thoughts about it, and that there’s no way to interpret those thought we have decided Trump had.

    Obviously the problem is you have no direct evidence for those conclusions. No conversations that show that’s the only thing that was happening. It’s merely something you’ve decided. You’ve decided it because you need a justification to commit an act that would otherwise be unjustifiable.

    Actually proving your story is handwaved away. That’s how dictators and totalitarians decide things, not how western civilized societies are supposed to decide things.

    Did you forget? Or is this who you were all along?

    The entire line of reasoning can be refuted by: “publicly announcing an investigation makes it more likely an investigation will actually be conducted”. Do you have anyone quoting Trump directly saying to announce but not to actually investigate? No. The only direct quotes refute your story. It’s evidence versus supposition and you choose supposition.

    1. It seems like this is where more evidence comes in. I have significant problems with an impeachment based on intent with respect to an otherwise legitimate presidential action (even if the action was carried out in a decidedly bush-league fashion), and I’d argue the thing never should have made it out of the House on the current facts. But now that we’re here, maybe it makes sense to see whether Bolton or whoever can take the situation out of a “mixed-motives” fact pattern. If so, it seems the case for impeachment/removal is at least a lot stronger and less problematic as a matter of precedent.

    2. The entire line of reasoning can be refuted by: “publicly announcing an investigation makes it more likely an investigation will actually be conducted”.

      Then why, the very moment the request for an investigation was publicly disclosed, did Trump abandon the demand?

      1. The only thing that was explicitly conditioned on the announcement of an investigation was the meeting at the White House. Zelensky never announced the investigation and he didn’t get a meeting at the WH.

        1. See, the problem with defending Trump is that any time one makes an argument in defense of him, there’s going to be a tweet of his contradicting one’s argument. Trump just claimed that there wasn’t any such condition on a WH meeting.

          But of course your argument relies on the typical Trump defense of looking at evidence in isolation. Ukraine wanted multiple things — a WH visit, aid, javelins — and at multiple times Trump, personally or through his associates, demanded the announcement (on television) of an investigation in exchange. You don’t get to say, “Well, in this call he only said X, and in that message Rudy only said Y, so therefore these things don’t prove anything.”

          1. Why not?

            I have flour and eggs. It does not follow that I am baking a cake.

            1. I see a cake box on the kitchen counter. A bunch of people who talked to you and/or your agents said you were baking a cake. As soon as I asked you whether you were baking a cake, you stopped what you were doing, swept everything off the counter into the trash, and claimed you weren’t baking anything at all. I tried to ask several people in the kitchen at the same time as you what you were baking, and you refused to let any of them answer.

              1. You guys sure like making up stories.

          2. The only witness who has testified so far who had direct contact with Trump is Sondland. The Dems make a big deal out of his saying that he “presumed” that the aid was conditioned on the announcement but :
            “President Trump never told me directly that the aid was tied to that statement about investigations.”

            So everything that flowed from his presumption is the so-called case. Taylor relies on Sondland. He never spoke to Trump. Anything that people claim Rudy said is also conjecture. The only thing that Trump actually said to Sondland was that Z wouldn’t get a WH meeting without an announcement, and there wasn’t and there wasn’t.

      2. Does the answer matter? Just make up an emotionally satisfying story for yourself and use that as the answer.

        Here’s a dumb made up story: Everything that happened was already planned and whatever you are talking about happened on the schedule it was already planned for.

        Here’s another: It was part of a sinister plot to indirectly damage … (rolls dice) … Jeff Bezos.

        Now you can make up one. Then explain why we are making up stories and what they’re supposed to be about.

  10. How is seeking an announcement of an investigation into Joe Biden worse than committing perjury against, and suborning perjury against, Paula Jones?

    1. The former corrupts an election. The latter does not impact the functions of government.

      1. How does the former corrupt an election?

        How does the former corrupt an election in the manner that the indictment against Rick Perry did not corrupt an election.

        1. Nixon would have loved you.

      2. “The former corrupts an election.”
        Announcing that Biden is being investigated for corruption is not the equivalent of, say, claiming without evidence that he was caught with a dead girl or a live boy. Given the mile-wide conflict of interest that Hunter’s position represented, and Biden’s extortion of compliance from Ukraine that benefited Hunter’s benefactor, an investigation would seem to be in order at the very least. Even if we assume the very unlikely possibility that Biden was innocent of influence peddling his tolerance of such a conflict of interest should be disqualifying.

      3. No it doesn’t

  11. I think there is an important element here that nobody on either side mentions. I believe that a significant number of voters in 2016 were fed up with our government, and the two parties, and American democracy. They were in a rebellious mood and might have voted to overthrow government if such a thing was on the ballots. I argue that they helped to elect Trump as a weapon to punish government and the country; and that his role was to throw a monkey wrench into government.

    If the public wishes to elect a President contemptuous of American government the Constitution, and traditional norms of behavior, is that not their right?

    If we don’t want repeats, then we need to invent a way to accomplish overthrow and revolution without bloodshed. In short, people need the ability to vote “opt-out”.

    1. Put in a less aggressive many Americans felt the government had moved for serving the people, especially people like themselves to serving special interests and factions. Those voters wanted a President who would stand up to entrenched interests and to entrenched power.

      1. “Those voters wanted a President who would stand up to entrenched interests and to entrenched power.”

        What they wanted and what they got are two radically different things.

        My read is that the people who wanted (and, for some reason, still want) Trump to be President are largely rooting for a guy who drives the darned liberals crazy, and want that badly enough that they don’t mind that they guy does so by working against their own interests.

        1. I get it that nobody wants to reply to JP because that would mean getting caught up in a long series of counter-comments eventually landing in increasingly thin slices of almost indistinguishable semantic differences.

          OK, I will.

          JP, you’re…right.

          1. Perfect.

            1. Thanks. But he’s still right.

        2. I can say, without equivocation, that what I wanted and what I got are pretty much equal. So, at least for me, you’re wrong about that. I AM disappointed that we don’t have the wall yet….

        3. So, isn’t that their right? If a majority voters want a lawbreaker for President, should minority voters be able to negate their choice?

  12. “In effect, the announcement would function as a commitment measure and thus would be more valuable than a private assurance that an investigation would ensue. If there were any evidence in the record to support such an account, I might find it plausible, but there isn’t.”

    Professor Adler, I disagree with this sentence as there is evidence that this was what Trump wanted. It’s one of the first things Bill Taylor said, that Trump wanted to put Zelensky “in a public box.” In other words, make the announcement so Zelensky has to follow through with the investigation. There is no “public box” if the only thing that mattered was the announcement.

    However, I disagree that whether Trump wanted an investigation or just an announcement is material. He was seeking investigations for his own personal gain on the government’s dime. While there maybe a slippery slope as to what diplomacy is both good for the country and also good for the politician, I am confident in saying that this was something solely good for Trump and worthless to the country, and thus an abuse of power.

    1. However, I disagree that whether Trump wanted an investigation or just an announcement is material. He was seeking investigations for his own personal gain on the government’s dime. While there maybe a slippery slope as to what diplomacy is both good for the country and also good for the politician, I am confident in saying that this was something solely good for Trump and worthless to the country, and thus an abuse of power.

      So what?

      It is not as if you oppose abuses of power by your side.

      1. Yes, me debunking a Democratic talking point clearly shows that they are my side, and I never criticize abuses of government power undertaken by Democrats.

        Good talk.

      2. The notion that there was no benefit to the country seems like a political view – a basis for impeachment fee would say is proper. I tend to think that an investigation into the Bidens would have been unwise and revealed nothing more than the sort of perfectly legal graft that happens all the time in our system. But it seems like a tough slog to argue that an investigation into a situation that everyone agrees have rise to at least an appearance of a high-level conflict of interest is per-se “worthless.”

        1. When you say “an investigation”, presumably you mean an official one, by at least a semi-neutral investigator. Rudy’s been digging in Ukraine for quite some time, and yet didn’t mention any wrongdoing that could actually be proven real. That’s what tells me there’s nothing actually there.

          Like when Don kept telling us that we wouldn’t believe what his investigators found when they looked for Obama’s real Hawaiian birth certificate.

    2. I agree with you until the last two sentences.

      Investigating and publicizing abuses of power and corruption by prior administrations is good both for the pursuit of justice, to maintain our diplomatic standing, and reveal if there is deeper corruption without our own borders. I can definitely understand an opinion that it wasn’t worth the diplomatic capital or that it was not a wise use of time, but that’s a policy decision, not a basis for calling it an abuse of power.

    3. “He was seeking investigations for his own personal gain on the government’s dime.”

      I agree with this point. If he wanted to expose corruption, he could have asked the US Attorney General to have an investigation launched. Or he could (and did) pay his own attorney to look into it. But he wanted an announcement that somebody else was ALSO looking into it, because that would look like somebody not directly beholden to Trump was finding dirt, or at least looking for it.

  13. “UPDATE: A reader posits the possibility that the reason President Trump focused on an announcement of an investigation is that such an announcement could make it more likely that Ukainian officials would follow through with a meaningful investigation. In effect, the announcement would function as a commitment measure and thus would be more valuable than a private assurance that an investigation would ensue. If there were any evidence in the record to support such an account, I might find it plausible, but there isn’t.”

    Well, there is the bare fact that “such an announcement” would, in fact, indisputably “make it more likely that Ukainian officials would follow through with a meaningful investigation.”

    Nothing can be stronger evidence of the subjective intent behind an action, than the entirely predictable and foreseeable results of that action.

    1. “Well, there is the bare fact that ‘such an announcement’ would, in fact, indisputably ‘make it more likely that Ukainian officials would follow through with a meaningful investigation.’ ”

      You find it inconceivable that a Ukrainian politician might lie?

      1. Your comment doesn’t make sense. The fact that a Ukrainian politician might lie only further demonstrates why a public announcement makes follow through more likely that a private statement. This is indisputable.

  14. All the evidence of intent is purely hypothetical except the direct quotes attributed to Trump. The specific thoughts you have decided Trump had are not established in those quotes. There’s no need for other quotes to establish a counter-narrative to an argument with no substance.

    Trump has also directly denied the allegations in public and in private to all the witnesses who claimed to have spoken to him. That’s evidence. You can discount it if you want. Discount it to zero, it still weighs about evenly with guesses about what Trump might have been thinking.

    He only wanted an announcement and not an actual investigation is a very carefully chosen, very specific allegation. It is nowhere near proven, even while not being perfectly disproven.

    1. You could also divine intent if Trump took specific actions to achieve a result, modified those actions toward achieving the result, and then succeeded by those actions to achieve the result. You could say the thing he accomplished was the thing he intended. That would be evidence.

      Now apply it to this Ukraine thing and … nope, it didn’t happen that way. You still just have a tale about what you guess he might have intended.

  15. “UPDATE: A reader posits the possibility that the reason President Trump focused on an announcement of an investigation is that such an announcement could make it more likely that Ukainian officials would follow through with a meaningful investigation. In effect, the announcement would function as a commitment measure and thus would be more valuable than a private assurance that an investigation would ensue. If there were any evidence in the record to support such an account, I might find it plausible, but there isn’t.”

    I’m glad you posted this update, Professor. I believe it may have been one of my comments that prompted it. Regardless, the point is important. Trump is a New Yorker as I am, and New Yorkers have a manner of speaking that is not universal among English speakers. It is important to consider dialect, and style.

    What Trump probably was doing when he said he wanted to see an announcement is to use a more passive form of directive, out of respect or deference to the addressee. It allows Trump to make clear that he wants action without overtly asserting himself or imposing upon Zeleinsky. Instead of saying “conduct an investigation,” he uses the more passive “I want to see an announcement of an investigation.”

    See English: Meaning and Culture by Anna Wierzbicka, p. 192

    1. I’m sorry, but I find your comment in the update baffling. We have a completely legitimate explanation for what is otherwise inexplicable.

      The focus on the “announcing an investigation” is absurd on its face. If Trump wanted to just have an announcement, it would have taken all of thirty seconds to type it on Twitter. This is especially supported because there was no announcement until the “whistleblower”

      Did he perhaps mean “I don’t want to pressure a conviction”? That sounds quite reasonable, and in fact, fair.

      By the by, if an announcement was made and no investigation followed, that would have completely undermined any rhetorical value. What could Trump have possibly hoped to gain unless an investigation followed?

      As you said, anyone who can directly confirm or deny has not testified. However, the claim is just not reasonable. It puts Trump in the absurd position of demanding an announcement of an investigation but not the actual investigation itself, when the announcement would have been trivially easy.

      1. The focus on the “announcing an investigation” is absurd on its face. If Trump wanted to just have an announcement, it would have taken all of thirty seconds to type it on Twitter.

        No; he didn’t want an announcement in the abstract; he wanted to have a third party announce it. If Trump announced it himself, it would have been seen as obvious retaliatory bullshit; he wanted the announcement from an ostensibly independent source, so that he could point to it and say, “My opponent is so crooked that he’s being investigated by the Ukraine for corruption.”

        By the by, if an announcement was made and no investigation followed, that would have completely undermined any rhetorical value. What could Trump have possibly hoped to gain unless an investigation followed?

        Um, the announcement is the gain. Remember how Trump milked the investigation into Hillary’s email server? He didn’t need any outcome; he just needed to be able to say that she was being investigated. Which is what he could have said re: Biden if an investigation was announced, regardless of whether it took place. The public would know the former, not the latter.

    2. Interesting point. I ran it by a Stanford-trained sociolinguist I happen to know well (my spouse), anticipating that it would be supported. But for what it’s worth, no dice on that front. Apparently, the research says that a New Yorker would if anything be less likely than the median American to use the passive directive in this context.

      1. Well, your wife is wrong. So there’s that. Having grown up in NYC, I can attest to the FACT that people talk this way – both in telling you what they want you to do, and in making thinly veiled threats.

        1. That’s fine, and completely possible (as to the bottom line reality for sure, and less likely – but still possibly – the research). She’s (did you guess or Google her gender?) very smart and a credible, non-biased source, but the research only goes so far as to “context,” and your local view could well be right here in the specific circumstances. My point was less to say that you’re wrong (after all, I agree with your broader view) than to say that your view might not find strong objective support as evidence to an outside observer.

          1. Is it also possible that your experience is valid, but that the median American does the same thing to as great (or an even greater) extent? If so, your point would be valid but applicable more broadly than to New Yorkers.

            1. ” If so, your point would be valid but applicable more broadly than to New Yorkers.”

              Mr. Trump is now a self-proclaimed Floridian, not a New Yorker. He thought that this might help him claim immunity in NY courts.

          2. These days “wife” is gender neutral. Try to stay current.

  16. Someone needs to show at least one instance where Trump has offered public advocacy contrary to the preferences of his base. Show some single instance where Trump sacrificed at least a fragment of his own popularity on behalf of attaining a public policy he thought was a good one, despite objections from his base.

    Until we can see that, I suggest relying on a rule that Trump does not care at all about the content of any policy whatever, whether for or against corruption, or anything else, but instead thinks only and entirely in terms of transactional gains he can reap for himself by public posturing.

    That may not separate him by much from many other politicians, but it does completely rule out the suggested inference that Trump sought any particular policy outcome in Ukraine. I do not think anyone can show by evidence that Trump cares about any policy at all.

    1. “Someone needs to show at least one instance where Trump has offered public advocacy contrary to the preferences of his base. Show some single instance where Trump sacrificed at least a fragment of his own popularity on behalf of attaining a public policy he thought was a good one, despite objections from his base.”

      There are myriad examples of this, Stephen. His consideration of supporting a vaping ban, and his consideration of support for increased firearms background checks are just two examples.

    2. Gun control
      Immigration “in greater numbers than ever before”
      Red flag laws
      Bump stock ban
      Amnesty and path to citizenship for 700,000 DACA recipients
      Path to citizenship for 650,000 H1Bs
      Amnesty and path to citizenship for 1,800,000 Dreamers
      Tax bill didn’t close carried interest loophole
      Trump has only built like 2 miles of new wall
      Didn’t end wars, increased troop presence in M.E.

      1. Stephen Lathrop: *crickets*

      2. “Immigration ‘in greater numbers than ever before'”

        Except that Mr. Trump’s actual stated immigration goals are vastly reduced immigration. They just deported a guy who had a valid visa even though a judge had issued a stay on the deportation.

        1. Nope. That is a quote from Trump on his actual stated immigration goals. From his SOTU address, no less. Any other gross misunderstandings you need cleared up?

          1. It doesn’t match the actual proposals brought forward. In today’s lesson, we learn that, from time to time, Mr. Trump may tell a little fib to keep the twits happy. Are you happy?

        2. James, that “guy,” a student at Northeastern, has close family ties to people in terrorist organizations; and, a lawmaker in his home country has just put a bounty on our President’s head. I think an excess of caution is in order.

          1. “James, that ‘guy,’ a student at Northeastern, has close family ties to people in terrorist organization”
            Maybe the time to decide you don’t want the guy in our country is BEFORE you give him a visa.

            “a lawmaker in his home country has just put a bounty on our President’s head.”
            Whereas OUR lawmakers weren’t involved in the decision to ACTUALLY KILL one of their government’ leaders. Because one of these governments is led by the sort of person that just orders people killed.

      3. None of those are factual.

        1. They are all factual. Are you just misinformed, or are you another one of these steadfast deniers of facts?

      4. M L, your comment seems the most substantive among these few wan Trump defenses. But it’s a preposterous list, and not at all responsive to my challenge. Mostly, the stuff you mention did not happen, or was forced by folks other than Trump, against his objections.

        Think about it. If Trump cared about policy, don’t you suppose he would have learned by now something about the legal mechanics required to make policy work? Trump is the executive branch, for pity’s sake. Executive stuff is about the means to make things happen. And Trump remains clueless. Time and again, he announces stuff that will never happen, because his administration has not laid any groundwork to do it. Then acts as if his proclamations changed policy legally, and then gets sued.

        Or, alternatively, Trump goes on Twitter to assert nonsense, then breaks the law to align his “policy” with his tweets. For a horrific glimpse of that process in action, read this week’s New Yorker article about the treatment of an Iraqi asylum seeker by the Trump administration.

        Long story short, Trump has stupidly asserted that there are hundreds of terrorists among asylum seekers. But since 1980 there is zero evidence that there has ever been even one such terrorist. The vetting process has been far too thorough for that. So Trump is trying now to deport this guy on a frame-up—to face almost certain death. Trump needs the scalp to justify his posturing about asylum and terrorism.

        1. Most of this list is things Trump has actually done. The others are things he has very strongly and directly advocated. The fact that major immigration reform hasn’t been passed into law is hardly surprising, and yet these things would happen the moment Democrats wanted to do it rather than being more interested in making sure Trump doesn’t get anything done.

          And there are many, many more things Trump has done or advocated which are at odds with his base. Now, even so, you could absolutely still say that Trump is doing this for his own popularity and political success. That’s why I think it’s generally pointless to try and distinguish between personal political interest and the public interest, as these are one and the same in the mind of every politician, and the politician believes that a good policy is, or at least should and can be, a popular policy. Personal pecuniary interest is different; it’s very easy to draw the contrasts there.

    3. Traditionally we ask the accuser to prove their allegations, not the accused to prove their innocence.

  17. “As virtually all of the evidence in the record shows, what he asked for was the announcement of an investigation, and that he had no interest in combating actual corruption of any kind.”

    All of the “evidence” in the record is either speculation o hearsay. And the hearsay is mostly at least third hand.

  18. As virtually all of the evidence in the record shows, what he asked for was the announcement of an investigation

    There is no evidence whatsoever of this.

    This perception is the product of hearsay ‘witnesses’ and others saying how they felt about what was said.

    There is no evidence AT ALL that the only thing Trump wanted was an announcement.

    In fact, it is made plain in the transcript of the single call that is the supposed source of all this that he wanted an investigation of Counterstrike, of Burisma, and of Joe Biden’s actions.

    1. “This perception is the product of hearsay ‘witnesses’ and others saying how they felt about what was said.”

      Well, that and the transcript of the perfect phone call.

    2. Remember: ‘hearsay is BETTER than direct evidence’ now.

  19. Biden must be corrupt, otherwise the Dems would welcome an investigation that found him clean.

    1. That is, assuming an investigation that found him clean would actually say so. Apparently, Rudy’s been working this for quite some time, but hasn’t gotten around to offering any evidence to the public that backs the notion that Mr. B is dirty. They (Team Trump) haven’t even gotten around to pointing at anything Biden, Sr., did and saying “see? He did that because the corrupt people who paid off Biden Jr. wanted that to happen”, which is usually a key part of showing that a public official is corrupt.

      Biden, Jr. got a sweet job for which he lacked any sort of visible qualification. It seems likely that the corrupt sort of people who gave him that job did so because they wanted to influence Biden, Sr. But… there’s no claim that it actually worked. They intentionally don’t connect any dots in that area, because that would be actionable defamation.

  20. There is utterly no evidence that Trump solicited a vacuous announcement of an investigation. Adler just made that accusation up in his own mind, and felt it would be ok to go public with such an imagined claim.

    Wait. It’s even worse than that. Adler knows full well that his accusation is ungrounded, and being a highly lauded law professor and all, knows that going public with such an accusation is a foul thing to do. But Adler is compelled to this foulness by his dark soul.

    We know, because we know Adler is that kind of person.

    We know bacause it’s obvious.

  21. Trump’s sin was, and still is, being thoroughly unfit for public office of any kind. Turns out though, that isn’t Constitutionally disqualifying. The voters are supposed to figure that out by election day.

    1. Unfit? Trump has done a better job than any previous president in my lifetime: on immigration, the economy, constitutional rights, foreign affairs, trade, and so on.

    2. And still a million times better than the other candidate.

  22. I have no issue with Prof. Adler’s post, but in the grand scheme of things I don’t think it’s worthwhile to engage in dialogue with the disingenuous and insincere.

  23. A reader posits the possibility that the reason President Trump focused on an announcement of an investigation is that such an announcement could make it more likely that Ukainian officials would follow through with a meaningful investigation.

    I don’t think this is the case here, either, but such things are done. There’s the famous clip of George Bush the Elder giving a toast to Ferdinand Marcos’ “committment to freedom and democracy”. IIRC Democrats ripped him for that. It’s also a staple in Trump’s bag, praising dictators to get them to agree at the table. Or do I read too much into that?

  24. “UPDATE: A reader posits the possibility that the reason President Trump focused on an announcement of an investigation is that such an announcement could make it more likely that Ukainian officials would follow through with a meaningful investigation. In effect, the announcement would function as a commitment measure and thus would be more valuable than a private assurance that an investigation would ensue. If there were any evidence in the record to support such an account, I might find it plausible, but there isn’t. Nothing the White House has said or released supports such an account. Not only that, but those individuals who might be able to substantiate such a theory have been barred from providing testimony. So while I accept the point that there is a hypothetical legitimate rationale for the demand for a public announcement, such a rationale remains purely hypothetical.”

    Wtf?? It’s MORE hypothetical to suppose that trump wanted a hollow announcement without any underlying investigation, but then failed completely to make that detail explicit. What if the Ukrainians accidentally started an investigation? His whole plan would backfire! Why the eph wouldn’t he have clarified that key point if that were the linchpin of the whole plan?? That’s an insane assertion.

    1. What makes you think he failed to make that detail explicit?

  25. I don’t know what anyone is still following the comments to this post, but I wanted to share something I learned here, from a couple of posters, that I find quite remarkable. And that is that Donald Trump, in his conversation with Pres. Zelinsky, never – NEVER – said anything about an announcement of an investigation. I say this having just read the full transcript of the conversation, that you may recall DJT made public. Read it here:

    https://www.cnn.com/2019/09/25/politics/donald-trump-ukraine-transcript-call/index.html

    So, all of you talking about Trump asking for an announcement and never really wanting an investigation – including you, Prof. Adler – have either never read the transcript and are just picking up a false narrative and running with it; or you are being intentionally untruthful.

    Here is the complete transcript of the only part of the conversation that deals with Biden:

    “There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it… It sounds horrible to me.”

    And there you have it. “[I]f you can look into it….” Check for yourselves, and perhaps rethink your position on this; though I’m sure none of you will, being invested in a particular narrative already.

    I know when I am wrong, and am not shy about admitting it, and rethinking my position.

    1. Perhaps you are unaware that — contrary to what Trumpkins pretend — impeachment does not turn on one phone call.

  26. Professor Adler,

    As a follow-up to my previous comments, I believe that John Bolton’s manuscript as reported provides additional evidence that Donald Trump did not merely want an announcement of an investigation. According to Bolton, president Trump wanted something different than what Sondland and Taylor understood. Bolton says Trump wanted Ukraine to turn over all documents and evidence regarding the Russian election interference which related to Hillary Clinton and the Bidens. Once again, this is a request for something other than just the mere announcement of an investigation.

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