Every day brings new evidence of Donald Trump’s crimes, or his commiting a new one in front of the television cameras. The scene changes rapidly, but the House Democrats are starting to focus on how to impeach Trump.
Although it is not official, the strategy that has been mentioned is to concentrate on Trump’s abuses of power in his attempts to force the President of Ukraine to comply with his desires to absolve Russia of interference in the 2016 election and to manufacture a scandal against the Bidens that would serve the same purpose as Hillary’s emails. The investigation and current depositions are consistent with this strategy.
It’s a good strategy because an airtight case is necessary, and only one or a few of Trump’s high crimes and misdemeanors can be investigated to that point, because of the limitations of time. Impeachment does not require that all crimes be addressed in this way, just enough to make a persuasive case. Presumably a list of uninvestigated probable high crimes and misdemeanors could be part of the bill of impeachment.
It also helps to focus the public’s attention and make credible Trump’s lawlessness. After the closed-door depositions now taking place, the House committees intend to hold open hearings. The purpose of the depositions is to learn the extent of this set of crimes, gather evidence, and focus the open hearings.
The attempts at influencing President Volodymyr Zelensky contain multiple probable high crimes and misdemeanors. Some may be statutory crimes. Others may amount to abuse of power or obstruction of justice. All seem to be against the interests of the United States. Here’s a list:
- Obstructing the distribution of funds as Congress has voted
- Asking non-US persons for help in an election campaign
- Using government funds to acquire personal benefits
- Using a personal attorney to perform governmental functions (This probably contains multiple other crimes, like communicating classified information over insecure channels to people not cleared to receive it.)
- Lying to Congress (This would include people working for Trump. If he instructed them to, he is culpable too.)
- Abuse of power in firing an ambassador
- Accepting non-US funds for an election campaign (Parnas and Fruman?)
Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman are connected to both Rudy Giuliani and Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash and seem to have been passing money through to Republican campaigns, although it is not clear whether they are connected with the scheme to influence Zelensky. Beyond this immediate crime cluster, other crimes associated with Ukraine may become apparent.
Michael Cohen, Trump’s attorney now in prison, was a connection to Ukrainian organized crime in the United States. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry tried to influence Ukrainian officials to put people of his choosing on the board of Naftogaz, a Ukrainian natural gas company. Kashyap Patel, a congressional aide, supplied President Trump with information on Ukraine.
Update: Adam suggests that John Solomon is another backchannel. He is being represented by Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing, who keep popping up in this drama. I’m not including all Adam’s suspicious because I am more cautious about that, but Solomon is worth noting. Potentially diGenova and Toensing connect several of the players, but I have run out of yarn to connect all the stickies on the wall. Adam’s suggestion reminded me of another aspect to the attempts to influence Zelensky. It’s possible that once Trump had Zelensky “in a box,” he would put pressure on him in other ways. In other words, he would be able to direct Ukrainian national policy.
Further back, Paul Manafort and others in Trump’s campaign tried to exert influence relative to Ukraine in multiple ways.
Recent depositions implicate Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland and Special Representative Kurt Volker. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Attorney General Bill Barr have been mentioned in the depositions.
There is much more to come.
Cross-posted at Nuclear Diner