Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Blogger Candidate Forum: Drama Queens And Inconsistent Testimony

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House Republicans today
Hello Everyone:

Blogger Candidate Forum is back after a difficult week and a few minor technical difficulties.  Today it is impeachment go-round.  We start with the House Republicans. 

The Candidate Forum is not quite sure what to make of the House Republicans crashing a secure facility at the Capitol today, causing a five-hour delay in a closed-door testimony.  Led by Florida Republican and Trump ally Representative Matt Gaetz, a group of two dozen Republican representatives stormed into Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, the area designated to securely store intelligence.  Never mind that Rep. Gaetz and his colleagues do not sit on any of the committees running the impeachment inquiry.  Never mind that they compromised national security by bringing in their phones in an effort to prove that House Intelligence Committee Chair Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) is running a kangaroo court (; date accessed Oct. 23, 2019).  The president and his allies have complained about not getting due process but it is a little hard to make that argument when your legal strategy is non-cooperation.  Bad idea.  Drama queens or faithful defenders of the president, you figure it out.  Shall move on to emoluments?

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The Foreign Emoluments Clause

Last weekend, Mr. Trump announced the location of the 2020 G7 Conference.  His choice was the Doral Resort in Miami Beach, Florida.  A golf resort in Miami Beach sounds like an excellent place to the leaders of the seven top industrialized nations, right?  Wrong.  The Doral Resort is a Trump-owned property and would have been a violation of The Emoluments Clause in the United States Constitution.  Allow The Candidate Forum to explain.

The Constitution has a few provisions that can be referred to as "emoluments" clauses.  One of those provisions (above left), expressly forbids the president or any federal officer from receiving a title or thing of value from a foreign head of state.  Therefore, hosting the G7 Conference at his golf resort, even though Mr. Trump said it would be at cost, would be considered a violation of Article 1, Section 9, Clause 8 of the Emoluments provision. 

Almost immediately, the announcement was roundly criticized, forcing the president to cancel the venue.  Never one to gracefully accept criticism, he blamed the backlash against his attempt to profit from the annual conference, crying you people with this phony emoluments clause (Ibid; Oct. 22, 2019).  He further tried to argue that if other presidents can conduct business during their tenure, why cannot he?  Pointing to one of his favorite scapegoats, the president claimed without evidence that President Obama negotiated a book deal (announced in March 2017) and production deal with Netflix (announced in May 2018) while still in office.  Ever the student of history, he claimed that President George Washington conducted his business while still in office (Ibid).  Regardless, neither is a valid legal argument.  If any of the previous presidents did violate the emoluments clause, then they did and that does not give the president license to do the same.  Further, his phony emoluments clause suggests his lack of understanding of what emoluments are.  The president believes that he is being attacked for conducting personal business while in office but failed to realize that hosting foreign leaders on his property is a crystal clear violation.  Finally, there was testimony and there was explosive testimony.

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American Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor

 Yesterday was explosive day in the impeachment inquiry.  American Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor testified that "he had been told President Donald Trump would withhold military aid [; Sept. 30, 2019; date accessed Oct. 23, 2019] until it publicly declared investigations would be launched that could help his reelection chances--including into former Vice President Joe Biden..." (Ibid; Oct. 23, 2019).  

In his 15-page opening statement, Ambassador Taylor said "he was told that everything Ukraine wanted--from a one-to-one meeting between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to hundreds of millions in security aid--was dependent on publicly announcing an investigation that included Burisma, the company that hired Biden's son Hunter, and Ukrainian alleged involvement the 2016 election" (Ibid).  His 15-page opening statement, painted a precise portrait of meetings between Ambassador Taylor and senior officials during which he learned that official the president's personal attorney, you guessed it, Rudy Giuliani was pushing Ukraine to open an investigation into the Bidens.  

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Excerpt from Ambassador Taylor's opening statement

During his testimony, Ambassador Taylor said that American Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland (Ibid; Oct. 17, 2019) told that "he'd made a mistake by telling the Ukrainian officials that a White House meeting with Zelensky 'was dependent on a public announcement of the investigations'" (Ibid; Oct. 23, 2019).  Ambassador Taylor testified,

In fact, Ambassador Sondland said 'everything' was dependent on such an announcement, including security assistance,... "Trump wanted Zelensky" in a public box "by making a statement about ordering the investigations" (Ibid) 

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Ambassadors Taylor and Gordon Sondland
Special Envoy Kurt Volker
In essence, military aid, already approved by Congress, and a face-to-face meeting between the presidents was contingent on a public announcement of an investigation into alleged dubious activity by father and son Biden.  Ambassador Sondland also stated this was not a case of quid pro quo and that if President Zelensky did not publicly clear up the situation, the situation would remain at a stalemate.  Ambassador Taylor told the committees assembled for the ten-hour hearing, that special envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker (Ibid; Sept. 28, 2019) explained him that the president was a businessman.  He said,

Ambassador Sondland tried to explain to me that President Trump is a business man.  When a businessman is about to sign a check to someone who owes him something, he said, the businessman asks that person to pay up before signing the check,... (Ibid; Oct. 23, 2019)

This makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.  Even more troubling was the fact that Ambassador Taylor made it very clear that he could not get a straight answer why aid was withheld.  Ambassador Bill Taylor's testimony does establish a connection between alleged withholding the aid package in exchange for a political favor  The Candidate Forum say allegedly because despite numerous written document requests, the White House has decided to play the "tough guy" and ignore it.  What did The Candidate Forum say about it being in the president's best interest to cooperate?  Regardless, there are plans to recall Ambassador Gordon Sondland to explain why there inconsistencies in his testimony.

Where does that leave us now?  Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is firmly in control of the time line and will call for a vote when ready.  The president and his defense team will have their chance to confront witnesses and evidence if and when the process moves on to trial in the Senate.  For his part, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) must be re-thinking his support after he  denied the president mentioned he spoke to Leader McConnell about the infamous phone call.  The Candidate Forum does not expect Leader McConnell or his top lieutenant South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham to turn on the president but you sort of have to wonder how much longer will they and other congressional Republicans will continue to defend the president.  

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