Tag Archives: House Intelligence Committee

Envoy tosses a live grenade at Oval Office

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

William Taylor said he would not offer an opinion on what he delivered today to the U.S. House Intelligence Committee.

He didn’t need to offer that qualifier. What he delivered was the rhetorical equivalent of a live hand grenade straight into the Oval Office.

The longtime diplomat, a career public servant, today revealed that Donald Trump was more interested in finding dirt on Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, than he was in rooting out corruption in Ukraine.

Yep, Taylor told the panel that there was a quid pro quo, that the president of the United States wanted the goods on the Bidens exclusively to help his upcoming campaign for re-election, which he well could wage against Joe Biden, the former vice president of the United States.

So … what now?

We’re going to hear from some more witnesses on Friday. Then some more next week. Maybe even more than that.

I listened to a lot of what Taylor and longtime State Department aide George Kent told the Intelligence panel.

I collected a couple of takeaways from this remarkable day of testimony … under oath.

  • One is that nothing that Taylor and Kent said is likely to shake any of Trump’s Republican allies out of their fealty to the president. The GOP members of the Intel committee today didn’t defend Trump’s character. They didn’t say that Donald Trump would never do what has been alleged. Instead, they homed in on Democrats’ motives and on the Bidens’ activities in Ukraine. They defended Trump by attacking his critics.
  • The second takeaway was that Taylor and Kent are as polished, sophisticated and dedicated to the nation as had been advertised. They were unflappable in the face of the aggression exerted by GOP questioners.

The hearings will continue. There well might be more rhetorical grenades tossed into the White House. Will there be any signal that GOP devotion to Trump will falter? I am not holding my breath.

Hoping for the truth; fearing that we’ll get a circus

I have every intention of watching as much as I can of the public hearing on whether the U.S. House of Representatives should impeach Donald J. Trump. The hearing will convene Wednesday morning.

Believe it or not, I am going to keep an open mind. Yes, I believe the president has committed impeachable offenses. However, I want to hear from the principal witnesses themselves what they knew, what they heard and saw and whether they — as men and women who are closest to the situation — have drawn any conclusions about what the president has done to deserve impeachment.

OK. That all said, I have a fear that some House Intelligence Committee members will have another agenda. They will seek to destroy the credibility of these witnesses. I am referring to Republicans on the panel. Their strategy is shaping up: attack the critics and do not seek to defend the president as a man of high honor and integrity, as someone who would never do the things that have been alleged.

And what has been alleged? As I understand it, there are allegations that Trump sought a political favor from the president of Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy sought weapons from the United States to help him fight Russia-backed rebels; Trump said he wanted a “favor, though” before he would send the weapons to Ukraine. The “favor” involved obtaining critical information about Joe Biden and his son, Hunter; Biden is running for president and might oppose Trump in 2020.

Abuse of power? Violation of the presidential oath? Obstruction of justice? It’s all on the table.

I am hoping to hear from these individuals who were “on the call” to tell the world what they heard. These individuals are patriots, career diplomats, military personnel. They, too, take oaths to defend the nation and to serve the Constitution.

Intelligence Committee Republicans, though, seem hell bent on destroying their credibility.

I want some discernment to come from these public hearings. Republicans have clamored for public testimony. The impeachment inquiry has gone according to rules established by GOP House leadership. So now the hearings are going to unveiled in full public view.

I fear the worst, which is that the hearings could become a sideshow.

I will hope for the best, which will be that dedicated public servants will be able to clear out all the rhetorical underbrush and reveal what we need to know.

I am all ears for as long as it takes.

Circus is coming to Capitol Hill … maybe

It looks as though they’re going to roll out the big top under the Capitol Dome in Washington, D.C., if Republican members of Congress get their way.

The House Intelligence Committee is taking its hearings into the public arena next week with the first televised hearings into the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump’s term as president.

Congressional Republicans want to hear also from Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, and the individual known only as The Whistleblower.

Why do you suppose they want those two individuals to appear? I can make a guess: They are running out of legitimate defenses for the president’s conduct in office and are trying to divert attention from Trump to the son of a potential 2020 campaign opponent and an individual whose report to Congress spawned the impeachment inquiry in the first place.

At issue, of course, is that July phone conversation between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in which Trump asked for a “favor, though,” in exchange for releasing the weaponry that Ukraine asked for to fight Russia-backed rebels. Quid pro quo, anyone? It’s against the law!

Now the GOP caucus wants to question Hunter Biden over his business relationships in Ukraine, which Ukrainian prosecutors have said broke no law. They also want to quiz The Whistleblower and likely want to question his or her motives in squealing on the president.

The hearings get started with a bang this week when the House Intel panel summons career diplomat William Taylor to testify in public what he has said in private, that Trump did seek a favor from Ukraine, which is — shall we say — against the law!

Get ready for the circus to start. The GOP will seek to provide plenty of distractions from the serious and sober business at hand in the House of Representatives.

What in the world is this ‘Deep State’?

Get ready for it.

The term “Deep State” is about to take its place near center stage in about a week. That is when the U.S. House Intelligence Committee convenes public hearings that will reveal to Americans what they have heard in private.

What have committee members — Democratic and Republican — heard? They have heard evidence that Donald Trump sought a quid pro quo from Ukrainians; he asked them for a political favor in exchange for releasing weapons they want to use to right Russian-backed rebels in Ukraine.

That is a crime, ladies and gents.

Oh, the Deep State? That is the canard we hear from right-wing backers of Trump who say all this impeachment talk is a product of the Deep State.

I have looked it up. I had to find what they mean by the Deep State. I found this on — where else? — Google: The idea of a deep state in the United States is a conspiracy theory whose adherents assert that there exists a coordinated effort by career government employees to influence state policy without regard for democratically elected leadership.

Doesn’t that sound nefarious? Evil? Conspiratorial?

Sure it does. It’s also phony and fraudulent.

I have long adhered to the notion — quaint as it might sound — that “career government employees” work in public service to do good for the country. They wear military uniforms; they serve to protect us; they manage huge bureaucratic agencies; they work in the foreign service as diplomats and embassy staffers; they seek to provide our children with good educations; they want to clean our air and water; they provide affordable health care.

This idiocy we hear from the far right about a Deep State conspiring to undermine the government and, oh yes, impeach the president of the United States would be laughable if it weren’t so damn dangerous.

The House Intelligence Committee is going to trot out career diplomats, some of whom have fought on battlefields against our enemies. They will ask them to repeat what they said in private. Some of their testimony is going to damning in the extreme.

However, their testimony is going to prompt some peanut gallery epithets — perhaps even from members of Congress who subscribe to this Deep State nonsense.

The term “Deep State” is meant to frighten Americans into believing that a constitutional action being taken by Democratic members of the House of Representatives is an evil act.

It is nothing of the sort. It is serious. It is grave. The impeachment inquiry is legal and it is in keeping with the U.S. Constitution.

I am looking forward to hearing what these career government employees have to say about how our president has conducted himself while holding our nation’s most exalted public office.

‘Treason’ becomes a vastly misused term

Donald Trump has accused U.S. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff of committing an act of “treason” as he leads the House probe into whether to impeach the president of the United States.

With that, I turned to my handy-dandy, dog-eared American Heritage Dictionary, which describes “treason” thusly:

“The betrayal of one’s country, esp. by aiding an enemy.”

Why look it up? Why question yet again the wisdom of the president’s unhinged rhetoric?

For starters, Chairman Schiff has performed a duty that the law prescribes. He chairs a House committee and has embarked on a task set forth in the U.S. Constitution. His conduct is the exact opposite of treasonous. He is a patriot who is doing his duty under the law.

Now, what about the president? Has he committed a treasonous act? I do subscribe to that notion, either.

Donald Trump has violated the oath of office he took by soliciting help from a foreign government on his re-election effort and in digging up dirt on a political opponent. However, I want to make this point abundantly clear: The president has committed an act of treason. He hasn’t “aided an enemy” state. It’s not as if the United States is in a state of war with Russia, or with Ukraine, or with any nation on Earth for that matter. I include North Korea in that last point, given that Congress never declared war against North Korea when we sent troops to fight the communist nation during the Korean War in 1950.

Of all the major political figures misusing the “treason” epithet, Donald Trump is by far the most egregious offender. He hurls it at foes with zero regard to the immense consequence of what the term entails and the punishment that falls on those who commit such an act.

He won’t stop misusing the term. He cannot stop.

Donald Trump is scaring the daylights out of many millions of his fellow Americans. I happen to be one of them.

Whistleblower acted ‘in good faith’ and is ‘credible’?

There you have it … from the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire.

The acting DNI told the U.S. House Intelligence Committee today that a whistleblower acted in “good faith” and has filed a “credible” complaint against Donald J. Trump, the White House and the Justice Department.

At issue is whether the president sought foreign government assistance in bringing down a political opponent. Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zellenskiy had this phone chat. Zellenskiy thanked Trump for helping the Ukrainians fight the Russian aggressors, but then Trump said he needed a favor “though” in exchange for continuing the assistance.

This is mighty serious stuff, folks. Congressional Democrats are enraged enough to launch a full impeachment inquiry against Trump.

The whistleblower’s complaint has been made public. In it he or she says that Trump sought foreign government assistance in undermining Joe Biden’s presidential candidacy. Moreover, the whistleblower has alleged, the White House sought to cover it up.

This individual bases the allegation on conversations with people close to the Oval Office. The whistleblower, naturally, has been attacked. Trump calls the individual a “political hack,” even though the president does not know the identity of who has leaked these allegations.

What’s more, Joseph Maguire, a career Navy SEAL and a decades-long public servant, has said the whistleblower acted appropriately, in good faith. He told Intelligence Committee members he finds the complaint to be “credible.”

The plot is thickening before our eyes.

If I could ask Mueller one question …

I want to look for a moment past the Democratic primary presidential debate that’s coming up. My attention at the moment is riveted on an upcoming appearance by Robert Mueller before the U.S. House Judiciary and Select Intelligence committees.

He is going to make public statements before both panels and then will take questions in private. He is going to talk to the nation about the conclusions he reached regarding Donald Trump’s involvement with Russians who attacked  our electoral system during the 2016 presidential campaign.

He concluded that the president’s campaign did not conspire to collude with the Russians who dug up dirt on Hillary Clinton. He also said that despite evidence of obstruction of justice, he declined to issue a formal complaint against the president; he left that resolution up to Congress. He said in that nine-minute statement he read a few weeks ago that rules and policy prohibited him from indicting a “sitting president.”

I heard this notion come from a former federal prosecutor, but I’ll appropriate it here in this blog. I want the former special counsel to answer this question:

If you were not constrained by Office of Legal Counsel rules and prohibitions against indicting a president, would you have indicted Donald Trump on charges that he obstructed justice?

Mueller can answer such an inquiry any number of ways. If he says “no,” that he wouldn’t have indicted the president, well, that statement would stand on its own.

However, were he to provide an answer that stops short of a flat “no,” he well might say something like this, “I will not respond to a hypothetical circumstance. I deal only with what I know.”

Then again, the former FBI director could answer “yes, I would have issued an indictment.” Suppose, though, he demurs with the “hypothetical” non-answer, that opens the door to supposition that he doesn’t want to reveal his desire — under that circumstance — to file a formal complaint against the president of the United States.

You want high political drama in a congressional hearing room? Robert Mueller’s decision to appear before two key House committees in response to a subpoena is about to deliver it.

I am waiting with bated breath.

Waiting to hear from the former special counsel

I know what I will be doing on the 17th of July.

I will be watching TV as former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III talks to two key congressional committees about that Russia investigation he conducted for 22 months.

Yep. The special counsel, who vowed to be finished talking publicly about it, is going to speak in public, in the open and on the record to the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees.

For those of us with a keen interest in what Mueller concluded, this will be — to borrow a phrase — a “must-see TV” event.

The committees had to subpoena Mueller to talk to them. Mueller agreed. Now, the question will center on how much Mueller will divulge that he hasn’t already done in his 448-page report, which he filed some month ago.

Mueller appeared just recently a few weeks back to declare that he didn’t “exonerate” Donald Trump of obstructing justice, and that he had found reason to clear the president, he “would have said so.” Trump, of course, spun that declaration into something unrecognizable, saying he had been cleared of “collusion” and “obstruction of justice.”

Well, now we will get to hear more from Mueller, the former FBI director, a career prosecutor, a meticulous legal eagle and a man of impeccable integrity. That won’t dissuade, of course, Republican committee pipsqueaks from seeking to discredit this dedicated public servant.

Mueller probably is unhappy about getting the subpoena. However, he knows that he must adhere to it, unlike the president of the United States, who has blocked aides and senior advisers from speaking to congressional inquisitors.

I will look forward to what this man has to say.

Chairman Schiff lays it on the line

I have watched this soliloquy a couple of times. I consider it quite compelling.

The speaker is House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, a California Democrat who Donald Trump has ridiculed with a tasteless nickname. He also has bastardized his name.

Schiff responds in this video to his nine Republican committee colleagues who have signed a letter demanding his resignation from the committee chairmanship.

Schiff responded with a controlled sense of seething at the gall of his GOP colleagues, one of whom happens to be Devin Nunes, who chaired the committee until this year.

Schiff stands by his belief that there was “collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russians who interfered with our electoral system. He recites chapter and verse the events of that campaign that has caused so much angst.

Hey, it’s only a little more than 5 minutes long. I found it fascinating. You might, too.

Congressional toxicity is flaring to dangerous level

So . . . just how toxic is the atmosphere in Congress, if not in all of Washington, D.C.?

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff provided a critical example.

Committee Republicans today demanded that Schiff resign as chairman of the committee. Donald Trump has called on Schiff to quit Congress altogether. GOP Intelligence Committee member Mike Conaway of Midland said Schiff no longer has the standing to lead the committee and said he should resign immediately.

Schiff has been a stern critic of Donald Trump. He maintains that the president’s campaign did collude with Russians despite special counsel Robert Mueller’s findings to the contrary.

Schiff then took the microphone after Conaway’s lecture and gave it right back to his GOP colleagues. He held firm on his assertion that there was collusion. “You might say that’s all OK,” Schiff said. “You might say that’s just what you need to do to win. But I don’t think it’s OK. I think it is immoral, I think it is unethical, I think it’s unpatriotic and, yes, I think it’s corrupt.”

Yes, it is highly toxic on Capitol Hill. The mood between Congress and the White House is equally toxic.

Why mention it? Because it seems different now than any era I can recall. President Bush 43 managed to maintain working relationships with the likes of Sen. Ted Kennedy; President Reagan famously befriended House Speaker Tip O’Neill, his after-hours drinking buddy; President Bush 41 also maintained strong friendships with House Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski; President Clinton managed to work with House Speaker Newt Gingrich to craft a balanced federal budget.

These days we hear Donald Trump calling Adam Schiff “pencil neck.” He is throwing out “traitorous” and “treasonous” terms to describe Democrats behavior during the special counsel’s probe into alleged collusion; and, yes, Democrats have tossed those terms at the White House, too.

Good government requires leaders of both political parties to find common ground. Dear reader, there ain’t a bit of commonality to be found these days. Anywhere!

It is going to get more divisive, more toxic the deeper we plow into the 2020 election season. After that remains anyone’s guess.

It is no fun — none at all — watching these men and women tear each others’ lungs out. Too many important matters are going unresolved because of the outright hatred one senses among politicians across the aisle that divides them.