Dispatch January 31, 2020

The Senate Is Letting a Criminal Loose

The Senate is about to vote to let loose a criminal who has pledged to commit more crimes. They will do so without bothering to look at the evidence or have a fair trial. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) admitted it in his statement announcing he would be voting against hearing from witnesses. He said he agreed with the House managers when they said there there is a “mountain of overwhelming evidence” that President Donald Trump extorted the Ukrainian government to announce investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden. Yet, Sen. Alexander hid behind the laughable excuse that a president abusing his power to undermine American democracy and national security for his own personal benefit is not a valid reason to remove that president from office.

Republicans in the Senate want to give Trump carte blanche to cheat in the election. He called Ukraine’s president the day after he thought he had avoided accountability after special counsel Robert Mueller testified before Congress. Who will Trump call tomorrow?

Trump’s crimes warrant a trial with witnesses and evidence.

Bribery: Trump solicited a bribe from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, offering official acts—a White House meeting and almost $400 million in military aid—in exchange for something of personal value: the announcement of investigations into Trump’s political opponents. If Trump were not president, he would face up to 15 years in prison.

Honest services fraud: As the House Judiciary Committee wrote in its report, Trump “knowingly and willfully orchestrated a scheme to defraud the American people of his honest services as President of the United States” and utilized foreign wire communications to do so. If Trump were not president, he would face up to 20 years in prison.

Criminal conspiracy: Trump may have engaged in a criminal conspiracy involving others, including his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, legal team members Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, and several government officials.

Violation of the Impoundment Control Act: Per the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office, even without taking his corrupt motives into account, Trump violated the Impoundment Control Act by unlawfully withholding funds from Ukraine for a policy reason. The Trump administration knew it was violating this law as it was carrying out Trump’s scheme.

Trump is going to do it again.

If this is OK, is anything off the table? Trump’s legal team is laying the groundwork for Trump to engage in even more brazen attacks on American democracy.

  • Led by Alan Dershowitz, Trump’s legal team spent hours arguing that engaging in a corrupt quid pro quo with a foreign country to cheat in a presidential election is not impeachable as long as the president believes his reelection is in the national interest. In other words, as long as Trump really wants to stay president, he’s allowed to cheat in the 2020 election as much as he wants.
  • Dershowitz also argued that demanding a foreign government investigate a political opponent is actually more justified than demanding an investigation into a private citizen—an argument that would effectively give Trump carte blanche to target whoever emerges as Trump’s opponent in the general election.
  • Dershowitz now claims he was misinterpreted, but the rest of Trump’s legal team doesn’t seem to think so: They concluded their arguments by not only asserting that Trump’s conduct was not impeachable but also explicitly arguing in favor of the specific investigation Trump was demanding from Ukraine.

As Alexander admits, there is a “mountain of overwhelming evidence” that Trump tried to cheat in the 2020 election. The Senate’s rush to acquit Trump while refusing to let the truth see the light of day not only ensures that his criminal presidency will continue but also all but guarantees that he will continue attacking American democracy for his own personal political benefit.