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Edelman: Innocent people don’t act the way President Trump has acted regarding Ukraine scandal

The great American poet Carl Sandburg wrote, “If the facts are against you, argue the law. If the law is against you, argue the facts. If the law and the facts are against you, pound the table and yell like hell.” This is as clear and succinct an explanation as possible of the president’s strategy for opposing the House of Representatives’ investigations into the “Ukraine Scandal.”

Let’s review a few facts regarding the president’s dealings with the Ukrainian government: in response to a whistleblower complaint, on Sept. 25, Trump released a partial transcript of a July phone call to Ukrainian President Zelensky, which one official who listened to the conversation called “crazy and frightening.” Trump asked Zelensky for “a favor,” which we now know was to publicly announce that Ukraine would investigate (and ostensibly find dirt on) Hunter Biden, son of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. What Ukraine would get for that “favor” was a White House visit for Zelensky and release of Congressionally approved military aid they needed to defend their country from Russian aggression.

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These reports have been corroborated by several sources, including security officer Col. Alexander Vindman. He heard the call and described its content as “extremely disturbing.” Ukrainian chargé d’affaires William Taylor expressed dismay at the back-channel activities that Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer, was conducting. He emailed Trump pal and EU ambassador Gordon Sondland, “Are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigation?” The security assistance Taylor was referring to is $391 million in military aid to Ukraine that Trump ordered withheld, against the counsel of defense and national security advisors. Taylor also emailed, “I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.” Taylor had no reason to lie; in fact, he had reason not to lie.

Additional remarks coming from Giuliani and his chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney leave no doubt that Trump tried to pressure Ukraine into performing acts for his political benefit. These are just some of the mountain of facts regarding Trump’s unlawful conduct.

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The law regarding those facts is clear: Longtime Fox News legal analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano said, “Federal law prohibits bribery and attempted bribery, which is withholding the performance of an official duty conditioned upon the personal receipt of a thing of value, whether the thing of value arrives or not.” It is a crime to solicit campaign contributions from a foreign source. A campaign contribution is defined as “anything of value,” including trumped-up dirt on a political opponent.

Obstruction of justice is what led to Clinton’s impeachment and Nixon’s resignation. Trump will have a lot of ‘splainin’ to do about putting complete transcripts of the July 25 call to Zelensly on a classified server. One wonders what could be more damaging than Trump’s own words of bribery and extortion.

Trump’s defense follows his usual pattern: attack his accusers, smear them, accuse them of being unfair partisan hacks, out only to bring down Trump; ignore the facts, throw sand in the gears of investigations, stonewall. The president called those who reported his improprieties to the whistleblower “close to [being] a spy,” and that they should be handled like they did it “in the old days.”

He tweeted that House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff lied and would doctor evidence, adding “Arrest for Treason?” Not content with insulting his integrity, the president called Schiff and House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler “Democrat Savages.” Trump and his allies gave the aforementioned Col. Vindman special treatment: they referred to his being born in the Soviet Union and accused this career soldier and Purple Heart recipient of having divided loyalties and committing espionage. Trump ordered all of his subordinates to ignore invites or subpoenas to appear before Congress. Most did not appear, some did. West Point graduate and lifelong conservative Republican William Taylor testified and was promptly branded a “never-Trumper.”

I’ve omitted more than appears here, documenting more acts of obstruction, removal of diplomats for no reason other than Trump thinking they were disloyal to him, and overt interference with Congressional hearings. Whether the facts and the law are enough to convince you that Trump’s misconduct is sufficient to impeach and convict him, your own life experiences should tip the scales.

Ask yourself how truly innocent people respond to accusations of serious charges of misconduct. They welcome chances to clear their names. They don’t hide evidence in secret vaults. They don’t accuse respected citizens of conspiring to bring them down. They don’t call investigators savages or equate legal proceedings with lynch mobs. They do not behave as if they are guilty. In short, innocent people don’t do any of the things the president has done and continues to do.

Mitch Edelman writes from Finksburg. Email him at mjemath@gmail.com

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