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Trump impeachment proceedings based on ‘nothing’ phone call, but fallout will hurt America long-term

Trump impeachment proceedings based on ‘nothing’ phone call, but fallout will hurt America long-term
The transcript of President Donald Trump’s phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart shows no pressure or threats to withhold aid. So why are Democrats and media still reading it that way, and invoking it as impeachment grounds?

For over two years, the Democrats pinned their hopes on Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who was investigating the claims of “Russian collusion” and obstruction of justice in relation to it – only to come up empty-handed back in May.

Undeterred, the party pushed impeachment anyway, arguing that the report somehow showed obstruction of justice somewhere between the lines, and proved something it explicitly said it did not. Even that rationale was abandoned this week, when Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi finally announced the impeachment proceedings.

Instead, the entire case was hung on the claim that Trump somehow “engaged in behavior that undermines the integrity of our elections, the dignity of the office he holds and our national security,” as Pelosi phrased it, in a telephone conversation with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine that took place on July 25. 

Also on rt.com Trump’s transcript tells the whole story, I don’t want to interfere with US elections: Ukrainian President Zelensky

The actual transcript of the conversation reveals no such thing. Moreover Zelensky himself said he was not “pressured” into anything, in a joint press appearance with Trump on Wednesday at the UN. This has not deterred Pelosi, who said she “hasn’t seen” the transcript before launching the probe, or the rest of her party – and the media – who have been tying themselves into pretzels to interpret the conversation as ominous, even criminal.

For example, House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff (D-California), one of the principal peddlers of ‘Russiagate,’ described it as “a classic mob shakedown.”

Candidates for the 2020 Democrat presidential nomination also jumped on it, with Senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) saying the transcript was “apparent proof that Trump pressured a foreign nation to meddle in our democracy again.” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), currently leading the pack in the polls, called the transcript “a smoking gun.” 

Except literally none of this is true. There is not even a smoke signal of impropriety in the conversation – aside from the clear demonstration that Ukraine is not an independent country but a vassal of the US in every way, but that’s not something either Democrats or Republicans would be comfortable contemplating.

Also on rt.com Real Ukrainegate: America midwifed the mess, and now wants Europe to pay

It appears that while extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, truly outlandish claims require no evidence at all – as shown by Russiagate, the attempt to derail the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and now this Ukraine business. 

What is fascinating is that there are plenty of actual questions when it comes to the US-Ukraine relationship, from the run-up to the 2014 coup to the origins of the Russiagate claims in 2016, and Trump seems to have asked Zelensky to look into some of those in the course of rooting out corruption in his country.

Specifically, the US president asked about Crowdstrike, a contractor for the DNC that originated the claim that Russia hacked the party’s emails in June 2016. He asked about the DNC servers that Crowdstrike never allowed the US authorities to inspect, and a rumor they might be in possession of an oligarch in Ukraine.

He also asked about the firing of a prosecutor and whether he was investigating a gas company that paid Vice President Joe Biden’s son $600,000 a year to sit on their board, simply on account of his last name and family connections. Biden himself boasted publicly, at an event in 2018, about threatening to withhold aid from Ukraine if the prosecutor wasn’t fired. 

The Democrats are in effect saying with this impeachment push that the American public does not need or deserve to know the answers to these questions. Merely to ask them is somehow treasonous and evil. 

Trump’s critics appear to be betting that impeachment will mobilize their base going into the 2020 election. Yet that amounts to a tacit admission they do not have a platform or a candidate strong enough to beat him at the ballot box. The tactic is likely to backfire, even, mobilizing the GOP base the way it did in the 2018 Senate races, following the Kavanaugh circus. Republicans already see the ‘Ukrainegate whistleblower’ affair as yet another partisan attack on Trump.

So what comes next? If the 1998 impeachment of Bill Clinton is anything to go by, there will be months of hearings and congressional drama – except this time, instead of one committee and a special counsel, there are six congressional committees competing with each other for attention and resources. Clinton’s impeachment lasted almost six months, but the process may take longer this time and overlap with the primaries of the 2020 campaign.

Keep in mind that no American president has ever been successfully impeached. Nixon resigned before it could happen. Both Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Clinton in 1998 stayed in office, after they were impeached in the House but not convicted in the Senate. This is also likely to happen to Trump, since Democrats would need the votes of 13 Republican senators in order to convict.

Also on rt.com ‘If impeachment trump card doesn’t work, it will guarantee Trump re-election,’ civil rights lawyer tells RT

The very same members of Congress that condemned the Republican-led impeachment of Clinton for lying about having an extramarital affair in the White House are now leading the calls for Trump to be impeached for… what exactly? When pressed on it, none of them can say. 

This, rather than anything Trump has said or done, is what is destroying not just the US reputation around the world, but the fabric of the American republic itself. Once unraveled, it may not be possible to ever put it back together. It didn’t have to be this way, but here we are.

Nebojsa Malic, senior writer at RT

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