Action by the House if Trump refuses to comply with a demand?
Gee, Mitt. Whatever do you have in mind?
Whether you love Trump or loathe him, we should all agree that it would be high comedy watching the few remaining Trump-skeptic Republicans in the Senate forced to sweat it out on whether to vote to remove the president from office after he’s been impeached.
NEWS: Sen. Mitt Romney tells me Trump “should make available the whistleblower complaint that has been deemed to be credible and urgent. I think it'd be very helpful to get the bottom of the facts. If they don't, it will be up to the House to decide how to proceed.”
— Geoff Bennett (@GeoffRBennett) September 23, 2019
Trump has said that he’d consider releasing the transcript of his July phone call with Ukraine’s president. He hasn’t said (as far as I know) that he might release the complaint. Romney’s pushing him here.
Whether to vote to remove Trump for leaning on Ukraine on the Biden investigation is one question. Whether to vote to remove him for refusing to turn over a whistleblower complaint to Congress is an entirely different one. There are always separation-of-powers defenses when the two branches clash, and Trump would have an argument that his authority over foreign policy and national security means that Congress has no right to demand information from the executive branch about how he’s performing his duties in both areas. Congress would counter that they have constitutional authority to police the president for the commission of high crimes and misdemeanors and therefore absolutely have the right to see a formal allegation of wrongdoing. Where would SCOTUS come down in that dispute?
With Congress, I think. Although they might require Pelosi to initiate some sort of formal impeachment proceeding first.
Elsewhere in the Senate today, the comedy of watching Senate Republicans try to duck questions about Trump and Ukraine is already under way. Six months ago, Ben Sasse would have lambasted the president for allegedly courting foreign interference in a U.S. election and using taxpayer money as leverage. Nowadays he’s too focused on winning another six years in the Senate to have any deep thoughts about it. If you want answers, ask “James,” whoever that is:
A moment ago I asked @BenSasse about the whistleblower complaint, Trump’s conversation w/ Ukrainian prez.
“I’m not doing any interviews right now” – he notes that he’s on senate intel committee “so we have our own briefings on these topics…and we haven’t gotten them all yet.”
— Elizabeth Landers (@ElizLanders) September 23, 2019
I asked @BenSasse a second time if he had any concerns about the news reports circulating about the whistleblower complaint and Trump:
“You’re welcome to talk to James in my office.”
— Elizabeth Landers (@ElizLanders) September 23, 2019
CNN tried to corral some Republicans into commenting, with limited success. Chuck Grassley told them that he’d love to talk to the whistleblower, so maybe CNN could use its platform to encourage that person to come forward.
Senate GOP, for most part, avoiding criticizing Trump over withholding whistleblower complaint, criticizing whistleblower and for bringing up Bidens in phone call with Ukranian president. Grassley, for one, told me he wants to talk to whistleblower but wouldn't criticize Trump pic.twitter.com/wf57lgRNbu
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) September 23, 2019
Why should the whistleblower have to come forward, though? The whole point of having a formal legal whistleblower process is so that people can report misconduct to the DNI and, by extension, to Congress through a specified channel. The whistleblower used that channel. Grassley wants him to out himself anyway.
Seems like Chuck’s complaint here isn’t, or shouldn’t be, with the whistleblower but with the executive branch for refusing to share the allegations.
In fairness to Sasse and other Republicans, “no comment until we have more facts” is the prudent — and politically safe — way to go. But it gets us back to Romney’s point. What are Senate Republicans prepared to do if Trump decides that he doesn’t feel like supplying more facts? If the idea, per Romney and Grassley, is that Congress has the right to know of potential presidential wrongdoing, how far are they prepared to go if Trump counters that they have no such right?
National Review is out with an editorial about the Ukraine matter tonight. Trump was wrong to lean on Zelensky, they acknowledge, but impeachment isn’t the remedy here. Next year’s election is. Pelosi couldn’t say it better herself!
[W]hatever Joe and Hunter Biden’s vulnerabilities might be, pursuing them is obviously not an appropriate goal of U.S. foreign policy. It’d be even worse if Ukraine were presented with a quid pro quo, an investigation of Biden in exchange for U.S. defense aid…
The way Democrats and the media now wish to proceed — starting with the public release of transcripts of conversations between Trump and foreign leaders — would set a perilous precedent. For the sake of American national security, it is vital that leaders communicate frankly and that their negotiations include the most sensitive matters. This can only happen if there is a reciprocal assurance of confidentiality.
As for impeachment, if Democrats are intent on going down this road, it ought to lead to searching inquiry into the analogous behavior of past presidents. We would want to learn, for example, about the Obama administration’s dealings with Kyiv in 2016, when a Ukrainian investigation involving Trump campaign official Paul Manafort was suddenly revived, and a leak of documents — sourced to a Ukrainian legislator tied to the Clinton campaign — resulted in Manafort’s ouster as campaign chairman. We would also want to learn more about the investigation of alleged Trump–Russia “collusion,” which appears to have been encouraged by the Obama administration and whose origins are currently being probed by the Trump Justice Department.
I know I’ve said it numerous times today but I’ll say it again: I don’t think Trump will hand over the transcript or the whistleblower complaint. Whatever’s in them, it’s unlikely to be flattering to him. Handing them over would also undercut his “but he fights!” image with the right. The safest play is to exert executive privilege and hope the public loses interest. Foreign policy rarely captures voters’ imagination, especially foreign policy towards a country as obscure to the average American as Ukraine.
He’d just better hope that the whistleblower doesn’t come forward and/or that no one in the natsec bureaucracy leaks the document. But the odds of that are low: Natsec people love Trump, right?
In lieu of an exit question, here’s Shep sounding extra Sheppy about all this today on Fox.
Fox News host Shep Smith: "The real issue here" is Trump's phone call to Ukraine, not false claims about Biden pic.twitter.com/orwpfQN5Io
— TPM Livewire (@TPMLiveWire) September 23, 2019