Dispatch December 11, 2019

Trump Gets Caught Red-Handed


The House Judiciary Committee has introduced two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, for abusing his power and obstructing Congress. The House of Representatives has been able to move so quickly because President Trump got caught red-handed: His extortion scheme was discovered and exposed before it could be completed.

Meanwhile, U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report on the Russia investigation suggests that, had the FBI been more thorough in its investigation, Trump might have been caught red-handed in 2016 as well. Instead, the FBI proceeded with such extreme caution that it appears to have undermined subsequent efforts to investigate the Trump campaign’s collusion with Russia.

Trump was caught red-handed extorting Ukraine.

  • Impeachment has moved so quickly because the evidence is overwhelming. Trump bribed and extorted Ukraine, demanding investigations of Trump’s political opponents in exchange for a White House meeting and military aid Ukraine desperately needed.
  • Trump and his defenders maintain that he did nothing wrong and, according to The Washington Post, have advanced at least 26 arguments in his defense. However, they have yet to credibly dispute a single fact in the case against Trump.
  • As Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) said, there is no need to ask what the president knew and when he knew it. The evidence clearly shows that, when it came to Ukraine, “Trump knew everything.” 

Horowitz’s report not only shows that Trump’s claims about bias against him were false, but also suggests that the FBI could have been significantly more aggressive in 2016.

  • The report shows that the FBI chose not to open Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants on Paul Manafort or Mike Flynn, despite significant concerns about their debts to and relationships with foreign governments.
  • The FBI delegated more people to work on the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server—which finally quietly ended earlier this year with no finding of wrongdoing—than it did to investigate whether one candidate was an asset of a hostile foreign government engaged in an active attack on American democracy.
  • Not only that, the FBI kept the Russia investigation under wraps until months after Trump took office and actively shot down reports that the investigation existed. Yet, at the same time, the FBI leaked about the email investigation so continually, including to Trump adviser and now-personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, that then-FBI Director James Comey felt the need to discuss it publicly twice.

The FBI’s slow-burn investigation gave Trump and his team months to cover their tracks.

  • By the time special counsel Robert Mueller took over the Russia investigation, the central misconduct—the Trump campaign’s collusion—was more than six months old.
  • The Mueller report contains numerous references to missing messages, suggesting that members of Trump’s team, such as Steve Bannon and Erik Prince, may have deleted potentially incriminating texts or used encrypted messaging services. (Bannon and Prince have denied any wrongdoing.)
  • Six members of Trump’s team have been convicted of or pleaded guilty to lying to investigators as part of a cover-up effort, while the second volume of Mueller’s report documents 10 possible instances of Trump’s personal efforts to derail the investigation. By Mueller’s own account, that obstruction may have prevented his team from fully exposing the Trump campaign’s wrongdoing.

The Russia investigation still resulted in the most damning report ever released about a sitting president.

  • Mueller uncovered that Trump’s campaign shared polling data and internal campaign strategy with somebody they believed was a Russian spy. Rick Gates has said that he shared his view with Manafort that Konstantin Kilimnik was a “spy”; however, when interviewed, Manafort said that “he did not believe Kilimnik was working as a Russian ‘spy.’”
  • At least one associate of the Trump campaign knew months in advance that Russia planned to release stolen emails through WikiLeaks.
  • Other campaign associates proactively set up a back channel to WikiLeaks to better coordinate strategy surrounding those releases—something Trump explicitly encouraged.
  • Trump and his team then appear to have engaged in unprecedented efforts to cover up that collusion.

Trump won’t stop trying to cheat his way out of accountability for his actions. Already, Trump, Attorney General Bill Barr, and the president’s other defenders have launched a campaign to mislead the American public about both the Ukraine scandal and the DOJ inspector general’s report. Congress must vote not only to impeach the president but also to remove him from office to prevent him from continuing to undermine American democracy.