Now that the impeachment trial of President Trump is underway in the U.S. Senate, I appreciate more than ever how complicated this matter is. So much to understand, so much to consider.
The singular, significant fact I come back to is that President Trump tried to get a foreign country (Ukraine) to “investigate” a U.S. citizen (Joe Biden’s son). The president wanted to subject a U.S. citizen to the criminal justice system of a corrupt foreign government, and for that government to publicize it through media. Trump has repeatedly acknowledged his desire for Ukraine to do this. He has never apologized for it.
That is so wrong.
The Constitution is meant to protect U.S. citizens from law enforcement abuses, and the FBI and Justice Department have rules and policies written to safeguard our rights in the criminal justice system. What do those protections mean if President Trump can sidestep them at his whim, wander outside the bounds of the U.S. legal system and use a corrupt foreign government to supplant U.S. law enforcement authority? Trump cannot trust the “deep state” to carry out his will inside our own government, but he can trust a Ukrainian prosecutor overseen by Trump’s personal attorney?
If there is a credible basis to investigate a U.S. citizen, then U.S. law enforcement should investigate that U.S. citizen. If U.S. law enforcement requires foreign government assistance to pursue such an investigation, that foreign government assistance may be requested by U.S. law enforcement. But Joe Biden’s son was not under FBI investigation. Trump’s attempt to use the Ukraine to selectively investigate the Bidens was not connected to any legitimate U.S. legal proceeding.
Much of Trump’s defense now seems to consist of griping about the essential Constitutional rights he has been denied during impeachment — his right to due process, to counsel, to confront witnesses, to fairness. Those Constitutional rights applied to Joe Biden’s son, too, actually far more so as a private citizen. Yet Trump did everything he could to empower Ukraine to violate those rights, to accomplish in Ukraine what was impermissible in the United States. And why? Above all, Trump’s motive was to harm his political opponent in the 2020 campaign.
It was wrong. It was a blatant abuse of presidential power. In a complex and sometimes confusing legal and political proceeding, that much should be clear to all Americans.