Trump’s impeachment strategy (and its possible consequences).

The Cynic has not opined about impeachment for one reason: it seemed like an open-and-shut case — in the president’s favor.

The president asked Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. The Democrats contend that the request was for the express purpose of securing info on Joe Biden to, in turn, rig the 2020 election. The trigger for the entire House of Representatives investigation was the assertion that the president withheld, or threatened to withhold, aid to Ukraine until such an investigation was commenced.

The president then released a transcript of his conversation which he claims exonerates him. The Democrats, MSNBC (Chris Matthews) and CNN (Jeffrey Toobin) insist, on the other hand, that the transcript condemns the president.

So, after a hurried investigation, the Dems in the House voted two articles of impeachment: obstruction of Congress (really?) and abuse of power.

The Republicans keep yelling for anyone who will listen that the aid was in fact delivered to Ukraine in spite of the conversation, or in American vernacular, “no harm, no foul.”

But this argument by the Republicans seems shallow. It encourages the dismissal of the articles without addressing the alleged transgression. The president’s request to Zelensky to investigate continues to dangle untouched, for any of Trump’s opponents or enemies to point to as evidence of the president’s unfitness to hold the world’s highest office.

The Democrats, while feigning outrage over the acquittal, will be ecstatic at the campaign issue that the Republicans have so obligingly dropped in their laps.

Don’t believe for a second that it’s only by coincidence that this is being tried at the beginning of the campaign season. Democrats are counting on the results so that they can make the way the impeachment was treated by Republicans (rather than President Trump or his fitness to hold office) the issue. It thereby gives the Democrats an issue they can use in every race (Senate and House) in 2020. Impeachment will become a hammer which Democrats in every close district can use to beat their Republican opponents into submission.

It is the smart play.

The Republican defense should be simple:

“Call Hunter Biden to the stand.”

Trump Defense Lawyer: “Mr. Biden you were receiving money by a Ukraine company known as Burisma?”

Hunter Biden: “Yes.”

TDL: “How much?”

HB: “$83,000 per month.”

TDL: “For what service?”

HB: “I am on Burisma’s Board of Directors.”

TDL: “That is all. Thank you.”

Note that this is simple, short and direct. A more comprehensive line could be taken, but from the Cynic’s point of view, it seems unnecessary.

“Call Viktor Shokin.” (Former Ukraine prosecutor)

TDL: “Was your office investigating Burisma at the time of your firing?”

Shokin: “Yes”

TDL: “That’s all. Thank you.”

Note that the Democrats may cross-examine in order to assert that the Ukraine prosecutor was himself corrupt.  Republicans shouldn’t be afraid of this line as it makes no difference. It is the president’s motive and frame of mind that the Democrats have put on trial.

“Call former Vice President Joe Biden.”

TDL: “Mr. Biden, did you threaten to withold a billion dollars in aid to Ukraine unless Prosecutor … was fired?”

Joe Biden: “Yes.”

TDL: “Thank you. That’s all.”

Again, the Dems can pursue any additional line of questioning. It won’t matter. If the Democrats try to establish that the Vice President was only insisting that Ukraine fire an already-corrupt prosecutor, it won’t make a difference. Aren’t corrupt prosecutors capable of making valid investigations?

Trump Defense Lawyer: “Ladies and gentlemen, the three witnesses called by the defense have clearly established a possible connection between the firing of prosecutor Shokin, insisted upon by vice president Joe Biden, and the investigation of Burisma, a company from which Hunter Biden was receiving $3,000 per month as payment for being a corporate director. This possibility gave President Trump ample reason to call for an investigation into the possible corruption of the Bidens. Thank you”

This line of questioning by Republicans, if put to the three witnesses, would establish the appearance of corruption. Appearance is all the president would need to satisfy his claim that there was nothing wrong with his phone call. A president surely does not need to establish probable cause before calling for an investigation, as the investigation itself may in fact be looking for probable cause.

Anything short of this defense (or one that is vigorous in its defense of the president) will leave the Democrats the dangling issue they covet. The impeachment will then have been more about making Chuck Schumer the Senate Majority Leader rather than defending the president.

This is the quandary in which Republicans now find themselves:

  1. Vigorously defend the president’s actions and possibly risk opening a can of worms they can’t control.
  2. Do the lawyerly thing and extricate the client (the president) in the most expeditious way possible. That would be an early dismissal.

Taking the latter choice would cement Rich Lowry’s assertion that what the president did was wrong but it doesn’t rise to the level of impeachment. What Democrat wouldn’t *relish* the opportunity to run a campaign in which the central issue was that the consensus of Republicans believe what the president did was wrong but they chose to do nothing?

Trial lawyers are used to plea bargaining, getting the charges reduced and taking the path of least resistance.  As we have been continuously reminded, however, this is no ordinary trial. If the lawyers persuade the president to take this path, and it appears that they are doing their utmost to move the president in that direction, they will have left a void in the conscience of the American people.

This will be a void that will have been exchanged for an acquittal. A price that the president’s lawyers seem anxious to pay. The void left by the acquittal will be quickly filled — and most likely filled by the president’s opponents.

The media will jump at the chance to the fill the void left by the trial but at this point they have little credibility. While the media won’t be president’s friend, the public doesn’t look at the media as its friend, either. That just leaves the question — the question the public (and every cynic in the world) will ask. A potentially dangerous question for the president, especially as the 2020 campaign get rolling:


Why did the president’s team take the easy way? Why not exonerate the president rather than punt and simply claim exoneration? The Fox News followers will claim there was nothing to see while CNN and MSNBC will claim that the trial was Kabuki theater and a travesty thrust upon Americans. President Trump’s base will fall in line and that will leave, as usual, the independents…

This is where the danger lurks, for independent voters will not so quickly dismiss their curiosity in favor of pat answers from Republicans. Historically, when curiosities go unsatisfied, the minds of the curious work overtime to appease them and Occam’s razor gets thrown out the window. The appeasement, therefore, is very often of a sinister nature.

If this happens, it could bode ill for the president — the economy be damned.


Note: If this transpires — that is, if the impeachment is dismissed without exonerating the president — the Cynic will wonder:

  1. Why?
  2. Was there something they didn’t want us to know?
  3. Were the president’s motives not so pure as he would have us believe?

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