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INDIANAPOLIS — Since House Democrats impeached President Trump on a mostly party line vote late last month, I’ve been pretty outspoken that his future should be determined by the voters at the ballot box in November. A historic first censure of a president should become a viable option.
Having stated that, we appear to be in for a Senate impeachment trial, though Speaker Nancy Pelosi is refusing to send the two articles to the Senate until Majority Leader Mitch McConnell allows witnesses. Specifically, Democrats maintain that White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, former White House counsel Don McGahn, former nation security adviser John Bolton, and several Office of Management and Budget officials should testify. President Trump wants Joe and Hunter Biden to swear an oath and talk before these Senate jurors.
Since polarized Washington has foisted this debacle on to the American people, then it’s only fitting to have a real trial, with real witnesses. If Trump wants us to believe there was no transgression, he should allow senior aides to testify.
Indiana’s two Republican Senate jurors, Todd Young and Mike Braun, are expected to acquit President Trump on the two articles that allege he abused his power by seeking a “quid pro quo” in upholding $390 million of congressionally-approved military aid to Ukraine in exchange for political dirt on the Bidens that would aid and abet the Trump reelection campaign (which Bolton likened to a “drug deal”), as well as ignoring Congress in its constitutionally-stated role as a check and balance on the executive branch.
In essence, the President of the United States was attempting to extort a nation under attack from Russia (sustaining 13,000 deaths in the process as well as territorial loss), in exchange for domestic political advantage. Our Founding Fathers put the impeachment process in the Constitution over fears of just such foreign intervention in our electoral process.
Young told Indiana Public Media that in this impeachment trial, he will “Do my job, review the factual record, apply it against what I regard is the appropriate standard of high crimes and misdemeanor.”
Young also said in a verbal wink and a nod, “My anticipation based on only anecdotal evidence from what I’ve heard publicly and read publicly is that there will indeed be a correlation between one’s party affiliation on one hand and the votes that are cast on the other hand.”
Braun, who owes his 2018 upset victory over Sen. Joe Donnelly to Trump for his MAGA rallies in Elkhart, Evansville and Southport, appears more predisposed, telling Fox59, “It is a political process. There’s probably not one senator that would be seated as a juror in a regular trial because you bring that political predisposition point of view into it. I don’t think though, there was anything tangible in the sense that there was no quid pro quo.”
But last November in sensational congressional testimony, Ambassador Gordon Sondland, who donated $1 million to the Trump campaign and received a presidential appointment as envoy to the European Union, had this to say under oath: “I know that members of this committee have frequently framed these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a ‘quid pro quo?’ As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.”
And in an Oct. 17 White House briefing, Mulvaney was asked by reporters if there was that “quid pro quo,” with Mulvaney replying, “We do that all the time. Absolutely. Did he also mention to me the corruption related to the DNC server? No question about it. But that’s it. That’s why we held up the money … I have news for everybody: Get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy.”
America’s Founding Fathers were wary of such foreign influence. Federalist No. 68 (usually attributed to Alexander Hamilton) said, “The desire [of] foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our counsels” was a source of corruption and “one of the most deadly adversaries of republican government.”
In his 1796 farewell address, President George Washington issued this warning: “Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence ... the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government.”
Thus, America has a contemporary dilemma. President Trump’s own loyalists and appointees have confirmed under oath and on video such attempts of foreign influence. That’s why Sens. Young and Braun should back the establishment of a true trial, with prosecution and defense witnesses.
For Sen. Braun not to see a “quid pro quo” when it has been confirmed under oath and on video is a “C’mon, man” moment. We saw it. Open your eyes, Senator.
The timing of all this is noteworthy. The July 25 phone call with Ukraine President Zelensky that kicked off this sordid mess came a day after President Trump appeared to have escaped criminal culpability from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia influence probe. The reason for that is Mueller’s citation of a Department of Justice rule that a sitting president cannot be indicted.
President Trump not only did not learn a lesson there, he could barely wait 24 hours to repeat it. The question for Sens. Young and Braun would be this: If such a lesson went unheeded this past summer, why wouldn’t there be a reasonable expectation that this president wouldn’t resort to a similar tactic in the future?
The columnist is publisher of Howey Politics Indiana at www.howeypolitics.com. Find Howey on Facebook and Twitter @hwypol.