If the President of the United States asks a foreign government to explore the possibility that the son of a political opponent was receiving payments indirectly from a corrupt predecessor to that government, ostensibly for the securing of favors from the United States government, is that an impeachable offense? Nancy Pelosi
apparently thinks so, and she has called President Trump’s reported such inquiry “a serious possible breach of constitutional duties by the president,” which would mark “a grave new chapter of lawlessness” on the part of Mr. Trump.
The anti-Trump media has piled on, as has the opportunistic nominally Republican Senator Mitt Romney who, though he once was the party’s nominee for president, seems to delight in assuming the role of presidential critic to a Republican president. “If the president asked or pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate his political rival, either directly or through his personal attorney,” said Romney, “it would be troubling in the extreme.”
The president has, actually, confirmed that he had discussed possible financial chicanery on the part of the Biden family with the current Ukrainian president, stating that “we don't want our people like Vice President Biden and his son [contributing] to the corruption already in the Ukraine.”
A brace of Trump critics appears to believe that this is a “gotcha” moment, and that this will finally provide the holy grail that will be enough to remove the man they believe to be a usurper from the presidency.
The Russia Collusion hoax, the sordid machinations by Democrats in Congress and the Justice Department to find something — anything — to undermine and remove a duly elected president of the country, insofar as they betray a startling disregard for the rule of law and the Constitution, give off a strong mephitic whiff of duplicity and malevolence, but this latest impeachment trope reeks of something closer to lunacy.
Mr. Trump’s aim was to find out the facts regarding Biden and his son, Hunter, who undeniably had a very lucrative arrangement with a politically-powerful Ukrainian natural gas company which reportedly paid him as much as $50,000 a month. He was made a board member of the company, presumably for his advice on Ukrainian “natural gas regulatory issues,” though the younger Biden, as Peter Schweizer explained for Fox news, “has no background in Ukraine,” nor any “background in energy or natural gas.” Schweizer notes that Hunter’s father, Joe Biden, the Vice President at the time, was “the point person on U.S. policy to Ukraine." Schweizer reaches the reasonable conclusion, and Donald Trump apparently has, as well, that Hunter was being paid to influence his father favorably toward the Ukraine.
It is certainly curious that many of the same people who have sought to criticize President Trump for operating hotels patronized by foreigners (who, these critics claim, wrongly seek to curry favor with the president) seem to think it is inappropriate to investigate similar conduct on the part of the Biden family.
Article II, Section 4 of the United States Constitution provides that an executive or judicial branch official shall be removed from office for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors,” and, of course, the purported conduct on the part of Hunter Biden (with the presumed acquiescence of his father) seems to fit the definition much more easily than does a presidential attempt to investigate such conduct. At the time, of course, Hunter Biden was a private citizen, but his father, the Vice President, was not.
How much more curious that the same Trump critics who long maintained, without any credible evidence, that Donald Trump was controlled by Russia, or who turned a blind eye toward conduct on behalf of the Clinton Foundation by Mr. and Mrs. Clinton, including many millions of dollars from foreign sources, want to set in motion proceedings to remove Mr. Trump for seeking answers about possible Biden family misconduct in the Ukraine.
Indeed, the likelihood of the discussion of these matters injuring the candidacy of Mr. Biden looms much larger than the possibility of any successful impeachment proceedings against Mr. Trump. Republican Congressman Devin Nunes, in fact, has concluded this is the death knell for the Biden presidential candidacy. Nunes notes that the Biden/Ukraine Corruption trope was first raised by Hillary Clinton to knock Biden out of the 2016 presidential contest, and this strongly suggests that the current impeachment brouhaha directed at President Trump might well be a strategic move by the campaign of one of Biden’s announced or unannounced rivals for the 2020 nomination.
“Curiouser and curiouser,” as Alice observed.
Stephen B. Presser is the Raoul Berger Professor of Legal History Emeritus at Northwestern’s Pritzker School of Law, the Legal Affairs Editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, and a contributor to The University Bookman. He graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School, and has taught at Rutgers University, the University of Virginia, and University College, London. He has often testified on constitutional issues before committees of the United States Congress, and is the author of "Recapturing the Constitution: Race, Religion, and Abortion Reconsidered" (Regnery, 1994) and "Law Professsors: Three Centuries of Shaping American Law" (West Academic, 2017). Presser was a Visiting Scholar in Conservative Thought and Policy at the University of Colorado's Boulder Campus for 2018-2019. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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