As the impeachment hearings stir up troubling, though complicated, testimony against President Trump, it appears to me that a breakthrough for congressional Democrats may have come in the final, uneventful moments of the 5 1/2 -hour hearing last Wednesday.
While damaging information has come forward, it is intertwined with a large cast of characters (nearly all with difficult-to-pronounce names) and therefore presents a big picture that is hard for the public to grasp. The Democrats struggle because the messaging is murky.
But a rather obscure Democratic congressman, Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois, may have indirectly provided the most effective impeachment point of attack while questioning acting Ukraine Ambassador William Taylor, a former West Point cadet and decorated war veteran.
Taylor confirmed that if a U.S. commanding officer withheld weaponry or other firepower in a battlefield situation until he deviously received a big favor in exchange, he would face a court martial. That response indicated a mid-level Army officer would face a trial and military ouster for engaging in essentially the same type of rogue behavior as Trump.
In this scenario, the officer would have violated the Military Code of Conduct. Too bad we don’t have a Political Code of Conduct.
The reality is far more significant as it involves $400 million in desperately needed military aid for Ukraine, a key European ally, one involved in a shooting war with invading Russian troops. Under those circumstances, the president engaged in a let’s-make-a-deal approach that brushed aside U.S. national security interests.
So, a simple message — that this impeachment process is similar to a Commander-in-Chief facing a court martial — could be instantly relatable to the public at large. It’s an analogy that would cut through all the clutter.
With U.S. troops involved in military operations across the globe assisting friendly countries, the president’s intent to use the Ukrainian aid as a cudgel for personal gain – to smear a top-tier election opponent – certainly raises a dangerous precedent. Let’s also remember that the $400 million was an appropriation approved by Congress and Trump’s delaying tactics defied federal law.
This is not to suggest that the forthcoming Articles of Impeachment from the House could make a connection to the Military Code of Conduct. But in the court of public opinion Dems linking the Commander-In-Chief to “conduct unbecoming an officer” would certainly fit in with other egregious Trump actions such as:
- The president’s decision to remove U.S. troops in northern Syria and allow Turkey to take hold, which was widely viewed as a betrayal of the Kurds, our trusted anti-terrorism allies who have a long history of conflict with the Turks.
- Numerous examples of the president siding with Russia’s Vladimir Putin over U.S. interests in various foreign policy controversies.
- Trump spewing wild rhetoric that he “knows more” than the Pentagon generals and the entire intelligence community.
- The president pardoned soldiers implicated in war crimes, in some cases based on testimony from fellow troops, drawing sharp criticism from current and former Pentagon officers.
Of course, Trump is not a lieutenant or a corporal blocking a small arms shipment until he receives a couple cases of premium scotch or a trip to Tahiti. The president was pressuring a shaky, new Ukrainian administration to launch a phony investigation that would smear Joe Biden.
It almost worked. We were almost on the path toward another manipulated election. All because the president wanted to demonstrate his twisted version of the art of the deal.