Analysis: Bureaucrats will strike back as critics claim the president corruptly abused his foreign policy power to score political points.
By Jonathan Allen
WASHINGTON — Democrats are betting the reality-TV presidency of Donald Trump will begin to short-circuit Wednesday when they start putting names and faces to the bureaucrats who collectively contend he placed his own gain above American national security interests.
Democrats are confident enough that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., upped the ante on the eve of his panel’s first publicly televised hearings by teasing the possibility that Trump will face impeachment on charges of bribery as well as high crimes and misdemeanors in an interview with NPR.
“I don’t think any decision has been made on the ultimate question about whether articles of impeachment should be brought,” Schiff told the public radio network. “But on the basis of what the witnesses have had to say so far, there are any number of potentially impeachable offenses, including bribery, including high crimes and misdemeanors.”
In other words, Democrats think they’re about to nail Trump to the wall.
“I trust the American people to figure this out,” Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., a member of the Intelligence Committee, said Tuesday on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports.”
“If the president had anybody who could contradict what has been alleged so far, they would have been there already, they’d be there bright and early [Wednesday] morning to rebut this,” Quigley said.
They will use the rare battery of public Intelligence Committee hearings to give Americans a first look at how a raging battle between two views of governance affected foreign policy, national security and domestic politics in Washington and Ukraine.
In Democrats’ view, Trump corruptly deployed all of the tools at his disposal — from Cabinet officials and loyalists outside of government to official funds and the powerful imprimatur of an Oval Office meeting — to pressure Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, into announcing an investigation that would harm the political hopes of 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden.
They see Trump’s decision to operate outside of normal channels — and his efforts to smear both political rivals and nonpartisan officials who weren’t playing ball — as manifestations of that corruption.
Trump and his allies have declared that he is innocent — that he rightly withheld foreign aid to Ukraine because he believed that the country had not yet committed to probing corruption, and that he has been hamstrung at every turn of his presidency by a “deep state” of government officials who are either insufficiently loyal to his agenda or outright hostile to him.
Trump has described a July 25 telephone call with Zelenskiy in which he discussed U.S. support for Ukraine and a possible investigation into the Bidens as “perfect,” and Republicans have sought to confine public discussion of the Ukraine inquiry to the call itself — rather than efforts by administration officials and Trump friends like Rudy Giuliani to push a Biden probe — and whether it constitutes an illegal quid pro quo agreement between the two presidents.
“The facts are on the president’s side,” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who was added to the Intelligence Committee roster for these hearings on Friday, said. “The truth is on his side.”
Corruption, business as usual — or both
The hearings Wednesday, scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. ET, are to feature Bill Taylor — the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who has already testified privately that he pieced together from conversations with various players in Trump’s orbit that military aid and a White House meeting for Zelenskiy were conditioned on the announcement of a Biden investigation — and George Kent, a veteran State Department official who has described efforts by other Trump administration officials to intimidate colleagues in relation to the Ukraine scandal.