President Donald Trump meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy at the InterContinental Barclay New York hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
There’s a common rule in debate. Never grant a premise you believe to be false while arguing your point. By doing so, you inevitably back yourself into a corner trying to defend something that doesn’t even need to be defended.
This is what Trump has been doing since the beginning of the Ukraine saga, which has now continued within the confines of a farcical impeachment process. The constant refrain has been “no quid pro quo” said in varying degrees of certainty.
On a technical level, I agree. There was no quid pro quo over the aid money because Ukraine was never informed of such an arrangement via any direct order from the White House. The other party knowing they need to do something to receive something is a vital part of a quid pro quo. You can’t have one without the other.
Yet, by settling on just the “no quid pro quo” narrative and refusing to admit the obvious (that he did want these investigations committed to before handing over billions of dollars to a government renown for its corruption), Trump opened the flood gates for a rushing river of misrepresentations and false dichotomies from his opponents. There may not have been a technical quid pro quo because of Ukraine’s lack of knowledge, but the premise was granted to the Democrats and the media that any such hold on the aid money, for any reason, would be improper and/or impeachable.
That’s simply not true and Alan Dershowitz laid this out yesterday in expert fashion, explaining how so many of the arguments being throw at Trump are just misdirection and criminalization of normal foreign policy machinations (even if you disagree with that policy).
Excerpts from the Washington Examiner.
Dershowitz appeared in front of the Senate on Monday to offer the White House team’s first response to allegations reportedly made in Bolton’s tell-all on his time working in the Trump administration. A manuscript of the unpublished book, reported by the New York Times on Sunday, said President Trump told Bolton that Ukraine would not receive military aid until it agreed to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, 77, and his son Hunter Biden, 49.
“If the president, any president, were to have done what the Times reported about the content of the Bolton manuscript, that would not constitute an impeachable offense,” Dershowitz said.
“Let me repeat: Nothing in the Bolton revelations, even if true, would rise to the level of an abuse of power or an impeachable offense. That is clear from the history. That is clear from the language of the Constitution,” Dershowitz continued. “You cannot turn conduct that is not impeachable into impeachable conduct simply by using words like ‘quid pro quo’ and ‘personal benefit.'”
This is exactly correct, and while most of us have nowhere near the mind of Dershowitz, many of us have been saying from the beginning that all foreign policy is a quid pro quo. The question has always been solely about motive. Dershowitz tackles that as well, explaining that the framers clearly never meant for nebulous “abuse of power” charges to make up impeachment because there’s simply noway to separate political gain from Presidential decisions. Almost every official decision a President makes has one foot in the political realm. That’s not new and it’s certainly not impeachable.
But what Trump never should have done done is grant Democrats and the media the premise that it would be wrong for him to seek defensible investigations into Ukrainian corruption and election interference. That was a mistake brought on by his inability to ever just say “yeah, I did what you are accusing me of and there’s nothing wrong with it.”
Holding the aid up to see if Ukraine would take measures against corruption, including into his suspicions about Burisma and Hunter Biden, was a perfectly legitimate action. He should have said that from the start and then left Democrats with nowhere to go. In other words, sometimes it’s best to fight from the fort on the top of the hill and not in a foxhole in no man’s land.
Instead, we got months and months of leaks and accusations which appeared to prove the Democrat case even though their case was and remains irrelevant.
Dershowitz’s argument is what should have been the argument all along.