The Democrats bungled the first day of public impeachment hearings
By John Podhoretz
If Democrats think they advanced their case for impeachment with the first day of hearings into the Ukraine matter, they are deluding themselves. The proceedings were confusing, not clarifying.
Speaking as someone who has followed this matter in granular detail, I found it extremely difficult to tease out the set of undeniable facts that would prove Donald Trump did something so appalling, he should be the first president in history to be removed from office and only the third to be impeached. And I assure you, I am willing to be convinced.
The problem is that the argument Democrats were presenting intertwined allegations of arguably impeachable misbehavior — the president blackmailing a foreign government with the leverage of foreign aid into helping him with a political favor — with complaints about the way the president conducts his foreign policy that have no place in an impeachment inquiry.
Yes, William Taylor and George Kent, the two witnesses from the State Department, were impressive in their distress at the way policy was being handled and entirely credible as they related the things they saw and heard. I share their distress.
It is valuable for the American people to know that the president was conducting a two-track foreign policy based partly on a cockeyed theory that Ukraine had been trying to destroy him in 2016. I share the dismay at Trump’s willingness to embrace preposterous conspiracy theories. But these aren’t impeachable offenses.
In that sense, Taylor and Kent were poor leadoff witnesses because their most potent and authoritative complaints really were about how the president exercised his constitutional authority as the head of the executive branch. Their complaints are worthy of a hearing. They are worthy of being discussed during the re-election campaign. But they don’t deserve airing in an impeachment.
Was Trump unfair to our ambassador to Ukraine in relieving her of her duties? It certainly appears he was — but his right to do so under the Constitution is unquestionable. Did he use people outside the ordinary chain of authority to give him advice on Ukraine and help him make policy? He did — as is his right under the Constitution.
Kent and Taylor both expressed deep concern about how Ukrainian policy was somehow being undermined by a crew of shadow diplomats. This would be indeed a powerful concern if they believed that the policy being undermined was the president’s policy.
But that doesn’t appear to be the case. Rather, it appears Trump didn’t trust conventional diplomats to carry out the policy he wanted and turned to unconventional means to have it implemented.
This is important: The foreign policy of the US government doesn’t exist apart from the president. It doesn’t have its own independent track.
Therefore, the idea that Trump was using Rudy Giuliani and two confirmed US ambassadors to conduct a “shadow diplomacy,” as Rep. Val Demings charged Wednesday, is absurd on its face. The president’s diplomacy is American diplomacy.
Now, is Trump’s foreign policy flighty, hard to follow, malleable, changeable and maddening? Yes. But this is literally what he promised the country he would do as president during his run for office. “We have to be unpredictable,” he said in April 2016.
Let us refer to “The Snake,” the Al Wilson song whose lyric he read at his 2016 rallies, in which he declaimed: “You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in.”
What Democrats and those favoring impeachment and removal must prove is that in all these ways, Trump was abusing his power in an anti-constitutional way.
The problem, which the first day of hearings exposed, is that so far, they fall a bit short of having the goods — the, shall we say, “unimpeachable” goods — in a way that would convince a significant majority of the American people that he deserves constitutional defenestration.https://nypost.com/2019/11/13/the-democrats-bungled-the-first-day-of-public-impeachment-hearings/