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America in the balance

Trump’s attempted bribe will test the ability of Congress to fulfill its role

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Can a U.S. President offer a bribe to a foreign head of state and get away with it?

That is the question that will be answered by Congress in the coming weeks as part of the impeachment proceedings over President Trump’s withholding of aid to Ukraine.

Cut through all the smoke and talking points coming from the president’s defenders and the case before Congress is really quite simple.

Forget about the whistleblower, whose identity at this point could not be more irrelevant. The whistleblower blew the whistle. Once blown, the president’s crime was there for everyone to see. The very notes of President Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, which were released by the White House in September, provide clear basis for believing that President Trump offered Zelensky a $400 million financial inducement (the release of military aid that Trump had frozen) for announcing an investigation into one of Trump’s leading political opponents.

That evidence has only been bolstered by a steady stream of current and former diplomats who confirmed through both direct and indirect eyewitness testimony in recent days that the president was focused on “deliverables” in exchange for the release of military aid as well as an invitation for a politically important White House visit.

In other words, it was the quid pro quo (I’ll give you this, if you’ll give me that) at the heart of the crime of bribery.

While we often view bribery as centering on an exchange of money, bribery can involve any number of inducements, financial, political, or even sexual.

It would be easier to understand Trump’s crime in this case if money had been involved. If, when Trump told Zelensky, “I would like you to do us a favor though…,” he then asked for $10 million in a suitcase, we would all easily recognize the crime for what it was.

In this case, however, Trump wasn’t looking for money he didn’t need, he was offering to use his office to give Zelensky something Ukraine desperately needed in exchange for a political gift that was potentially worth much more than $10 million to President Trump.

Some have suggested that this kind of thing happens all the time in the real world. Those claims are made by people who have no idea how the U.S. government actually functions. Without doubt, the United States has long used its political and financial influence to pressure other countries to take certain actions. That’s called foreign policy. Yet, in those instances, the representatives of the U.S., whether it’s the president, secretary of state, or an ambassador, are advocating an outcome that has been discussed and vetted by informed government officials and is consistent with the interests of the United States, not the narrow interests of the individual who is representing the United States.

In this instance, the Congress had already overwhelmingly approved the aid to Ukraine to help that politically allied nation fight a separatist revolt instigated and backed by Russia. The U.S. foreign policy apparatus, including the State Department, was fully behind the aid and recognized its critical importance. Officials were rightfully stunned and confused when President Trump, on his own, refused to release the aid. Once it became clear that Trump was doing so in order to use the aid as leverage or inducement to get the Ukrainians to announce an investigation into Vice President Joe Biden and his son, alarm bells went off. It wasn’t just a single whistleblower. We now know that National Security Advisor John Bolton and others were rightfully alarmed and made sure that lawyers for the National Security Council were informed. Bolton, according to eyewitnesses, referred to the whole sorry episode as a “drug deal,” making no bones about his view of the legality of this obvious quid pro quo.

The only question that ultimately matters, of course, is whether Congress cares enough to do anything about it. We know what our Founding Fathers would have done. The U.S. Constitution specifically authorizes impeachment upon a finding of “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

If a president can use the levers of power inherent in their office to gain foreign political or financial favors, and not be held accountable by Congress, we are on a slippery slope to the death of the American experiment in self-governance. In the aftermath of the first Constitutional Convention, an interested citizen famously asked Benjamin Franklin if the founders had delivered a monarchy or a republic, and Franklin responded: “A republic, if you can keep it.”

Congress, in the next few months, will help to answer the question inherent in Franklin’s sage words.

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Scott Atwater

Vice president Joe Biden brags in public about his extortion of the Ukrainian government, yet the editorial writer can't seem to make the connection.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UXA--dj2-CY

To quote the writers own words: "If a president can use the levers of power inherent in their office to gain foreign political or financial favors, and not be held accountable by Congress, we are on a slippery slope to the death of the American experiment in self-governance."

This latest example of blatant hypocrisy is astounding. Journalism is truly dead.

Saturday, November 23
Marshall Helmberger

Mr. Atwater is, again, peddling false narratives. The removal of former prosecutor Victor Shokin was a fully vetted foreign policy decision by the United States and European foreign policy apparatus due to his well-known connection to corrupt actors in Ukraine. Biden was using financial leverage to implement U.S. foreign policy. Trump was using financial leverage to undermine U.S. foreign policy for his own personal benefit.

It's a key difference that many Trump supporters, like Mr. Atwater, are doing their best to avoid understanding.

Sunday, November 24
bonfire

Most Trumpers know and don't care if Trump is the most corrupt president in US history and a sociopathic narcissist. Trump gets his support not despite the fact that he's an abominable person but because he's an abominable person.

Monday, November 25
bonfire

Today Trump tweeted image of his head photoshopped on the body of Rocky Balboa. None of his behavior is normal or sane. He has been mentally deteriorating in plain sight for a long time and the deterioration is increasing rapidly.

Wednesday, November 27
Steve Jacobson

Or, maybe, he did it just to piss you off - successful?

Wednesday, November 27
Scott Atwater

Mr. Helmberger is too politically biased to realize that it is impossible for Trump to undermine US foreign policy. You see, the President sets foreign policy, not state department holdovers from former administrations. Helmberger seems to be saying that Biden's actions were legitimate because of corruption in the Ukrainian government, yet Trump's actions were not because he wanted an investigation of corruption in the Ukrainian government.

The political "personal benefit" BS doesn't fly either, as an envoy from the Trump administration began looking into the Burisma scandal well before Biden announced his run for the presidency.

Mr. Helmberger doesn't pass the smell test on this one folks.

Wednesday, November 27
bonfire

Why in the world would the president of US want to "piss off" so many decent Americans? For that matter, why would the president of US want to alienate so many other countries?

"Pissing off" liberals seems to be a big goal of many trumpers, maybe the only priority, as if that means "winning". I hate to break it to you but most non-trumpers aren't so much "pissed off" as they are horrified and extremely concerned at the damage trump, WH trump self-dealing appointees/advisors and complicit Republican legislators are doing to our country's institutions, rule of law and our reputation, relationships with our ally countries while trump has continually shown himself to be a fawning toady to Putin and many other murdering, corrupt dictators. Birds of a feather.

Friday, November 29
Steve Jacobson

Mission accomplished!

Sunday, December 1
Scott Atwater

Only one reason why Liberals are "horrified and extremely concerned"..........they've begun to believe their own propaganda.

Sunday, December 1
jtormoen

Say,,putt putt, while we have your attention ... What is it about fascism that you find so appealing?

Sunday, December 1
Scott Atwater

Say Tormoen, I find nothing appealing about fascism.

As a matter of fact, I despise fascists that stalk people on public forums because of their expressed political views. You want to keep playing?

Sunday, December 1
jtormoen

Again with the deflection. Would be intrigued to hear what I might have ever posted on the TIMBERJAY which even hinted to a longing for any characteristic of fascism.

In contrast, of course, to the plethora of pleadings you seem to so enjoy throwing out.

Game on!

(although isn't it about the 8th inning???)

Monday, December 2
Steve Jacobson

Yes, it's the 8th inning and it looks like you used up your whole bench - game over!

Monday, December 2
jtormoen

Perhaps I ought also to inquire of Mr. Jacobson ... What is it about fascism that is so appealing to you?

Monday, December 2
Scott Atwater

So Tormoen, are you going to begin harassing Mr. Jacobson now too?

You never post anything about the subject matter in these threads. Instead you choose to follow certain people around and disrupt any chance of discourse. If your sophomoric little question about the appeal of fascism isn't a marvelous example of fascist behavior, I don't know what is. A violation of the forum user agreement, I'm sure.

If there is one thing I've learned about Liberals.....if they are accusing you of something, it's almost certain that they themselves are guilty of it.

Monday, December 2
jtormoen

Just as a suggestion find and explanation/definition of fascism ... note the characteristics ... then evaluate the degree to which you buy into them. It is not that difficult. A great exercise in eye opening.

And a good lesson in logic ... rational thought processing ... might enlighten. Consider it. Surely during the cold snowy season ... never can tell what might emerge into the thinking processes.

Might.

And maybe fresh spark plugs ... maybe

Monday, December 2
Scott Atwater

Oh..........I get it now. Your campaign of harassment is out of concern for those that you disagree with!

Jackass.

Wednesday, December 4
jtormoen

Ongoing deflection and ignoring of a simple question ... a simple request.

AND NAME CALLING.

Oh, come on, putt putt. Surely you can do better.

Wednesday, December 4
Steve Jacobson

I had to google the word "fascism" because you use it almost as much as my kids saying "Whatever" to me. I had to recheck the meaning because I actually think it fits the democratic agenda more than Trump's. So my question - "What is it about fascism that is so appealing to you?

Thursday, December 5
jtormoen

While a bit sorry that you had to look it up, your valiant attempt to deflect is ... well, not very valiant.

In fact, almost in the realm of laughable ... except for the issue of true impact on our society.

But as you suggest ... "whatever"

Thursday, December 5
jtormoen

But what would ... or might ... be of interest would be for you to take the description of fascism and list items on one side of a page ... and your thoughts on the issues key to Democrats, and match them on the other side of the paper. Per your comment, the items would easily line up ... match up ... so sounds like an easy exercise. And gosh, it might even change my mind on some things.

But please do not include the word "socialism" ... for fear of expressing ignorance as to both its meaning and any suggestion that it is of the agenda of the D folks.

Thursday, December 5
Steve Jacobson

I love Socialism! It's what will get Trump re-elected! Dems tripping over each other offering the most free causes they can. My choice - Bernie of course. There's a guy to give your full support to.

Thursday, December 5
jtormoen

The line between sarcasm and ignorance is pencil thin

Thursday, December 5
Steve Jacobson

I recognized it - I just wasn't going to call you out on it.

Your Welcome!

Friday, December 6
jtormoen

What is mine, is mine ... I fully agree. But any ownership of "welcome" ... no, I am sure not.

Friday, December 6
Steve Jacobson

Your Welcome anyways!

Friday, December 6
jtormoen

With the gentle suggestion that you avoid your English teachers, it is time to move forward, not backward.

Until another post

Friday, December 6
Steve Jacobson

Damn, when you've lost the battle and there seems like no hope - go to spell check to bring your enemy down!

Sunday, December 8
Scott Atwater

Anyone notice that the one always whining about deflection hasn't addressed the subject matter of the article?

Like I said, whenever a liberal accuses you of something rest assured that they are guilty of it themselves.

Tuesday, December 10
bonfire

Trump said he's president so he can do anything he wants. He said he could shoot someone on 5th avenue and his supporters wouldn't care. He's unbelievably obsequiousness to dictators, totalitarians which is obvious with his fawning toward Putin, Saudi Crown Prince bin Salmen who is close to Jared Kutner, Erdogan, Jung Un, Duterte. He won't press the Saudi Crown Prince on the murder of Khashoggi nor the Saudi who murdered soldiers at Pensacola. He said he'd like media journalists who report on his actions in prison. In 2017, right after trump fired Comey, he met with Russian foreign minister and ambassador in the WH where trump proceeded to tell them he was not concerned about Moscow's interference with 2016 election and then revealed highly classifed, extremely sensitive information to them which resulted in US swiftly removing their Moscow source on election meddling. Right after the impeachment charges were announced, trump had a meeting at WH Russian foreign minister Lavrov.

Russia, Russia, Russia. He and his cohorts , several of whom are now in prison, have been deep in the Russian muck. If trump wants to be exonerated, why hasn't he presented witnesses to testify but he won't allow Pompeo, Mulvaney, McGahn, Bolton, etc to testify. The blabbermouth has indicted himself. He said to press and all of us that he wanted China and other countries to investigate Biden. Republican lawmakers with no moral codes have made a conscious decision to try to protect trump and his crimes. This is not your grandfather's Republican party.

Trump is a hot mess mentally, corrupt his entire adult life and ignorant beyond belief. When he was briefed on North and South Korea, he asked why Seoul, a city of 25 million people was so close to North Korea, 35 miles away. He then said "They have to move". Those in the room thought he might be making a poor joke but trump repeated "they have to move". Also reported is that trump asked Putin what he would like him to do with North Korea. He admires and takes directions from dictators. It's hard to imagine any patriotic American or political party would still support someone who is this damaged and dangerous.

I suppose it's someone's idea of a joke to say fascism fits Democrat's goals than trump's but most fascist states have used techniques for an anti-liberal, anti-socialist, violently exclusionary, expansionist nationalistic agenda. (Robert Paxton, professor emeritus of social science at Columbia widely considered the father of fascism studies.)

The cultish people that actually believe or pretend to believe the proven facts on trump are "fake" news or the people who think it's just an amusing game to "own liberals" are to be pitied. The majority of them have never lived under a dictatorship and don't have the sense to imagine what their lives and their families lives would look like if they ever have to. Of course, if their lives are upended by trump and his cohorts in the WH and elsewhere, I know they will simply blame it on liberals or whoever.

My question is what do these people think they are gaining sticking with the trump gang? What are they getting out of it? Name the benefits, not only to themselves but our country. Nevermind, I expect any honest answers.

4 days ago