Tag Archives: Watergate

Prosecutors exhibit courage in quitting this probe

Four prosecutors who recommended a seven- to nine-year prison term for a convicted felon who’s also a friend of Donald John Trump have quit.

Why? Because the attorney general of the United States, William Barr, has said he wants to reduce their recommendation to send Trump pal Roger Stone to the slammer for as long as nine years.

Does this seem like political meddling in the criminal justice process? It does to me.

And who, pre-tell, ordered this recommendation? It might have come from, oh let’s see, the White House.

Stone is awaiting sentencing for lying under oath and for hindering the investigation into the Russian collusion matter that ended up on special counsel Robert Mueller III’s desk.

Trump called the career prosecutors’ sentence recommendation a “miscarriage of justice.” My question now is whether Barr acted on the president’s Twitter rant. If so, then it looks for all the world to me as though we have yet another case of presidential meddling where it does not belong.

The prosecutors who quit have shown considerable backbone and grit in walking away from their responsibilities in this matter. They remind me of when AG Elliot Richardson and his deputy William Ruckelshaus resigned rather than follow President Nixon’s order in 1973 to fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox as the Watergate scandal began to spin out of control.

These four prosecutors today can stand tall for the principle they have endorsed.

‘Our Constitution works’

I am fond of recalling the words of a brand new president who took office in the wake of a dark time in American history.

Gerald Rudolph Ford placed his hand on a Bible, recited the presidential oath of office, then stood before the world to declare that “our Constitution works.” He succeeded Richard Nixon, who quit earlier that day to avoid being impeached. The Watergate scandal brought down the Nixon presidency.

Yes, the Constitution worked just as it should during that time.

It is working now as another president faces the unforgiving assurance that every morning he awakes for the rest of his life, he will be an “impeached president.”

Yes, the Constitution works, just as President Ford declared on Aug. 9, 1974.

No matter the outcome of the Senate trial that is pending, the Constitution will have done its job. If the president is cleared, it will have worked. If he is convicted and removed from office, it will have performed as the framers constructed it.

Almost no one believes the current president will be kicked out of office. A failure to convict him doesn’t mean failure for the Constitution. It means only, to my mind, that an insufficient number of senators were willing to put duty to the nation ahead of fealty to a president. That doesn’t besmirch the Constitution, under which the House impeached Donald Trump and the Senate conducted its trial.

It is good at times like this to take a step back and look at the big picture. The framers crafted a brilliant governing document. It’s a bit clunky at times, but that’s the nature of a representative democracy, which is as Winston Churchill described it: a lousy form of government, but better than anything else ever produced by human beings.

My faith in the system remains as strong as ever, regardless of the outcome that more than likely awaits the nation at the end of this process.

I shall cherish the words that President Ford spoke moments after assuming the nation’s highest office: Our Constitution works.

Love, not hate, drove House to impeach Trump

The rhetoric coming from Donald Trump’s allies that those who impeached him “hate” the president more than they love the country is maddening in the extreme.

I am going to continue to hold in my soul and heart that love of country drove those who voted to impeach the president, not any hate toward the man.

That might sound Pollyannish to some readers of this blog. They are welcome to challenge my view, but I will hold fast to it.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressed specifically her “love of country” when she asked the House to draft articles of impeachment. I have no reason to disbelieve her, nor do I disbelieve the stated motives that steered those who impeached the president. They are concerned, as many of us out here in the heartland are concerned, about the abuses brought by Trump to the office he holds and the damage it might do to that office over time long after he vacates it.

To be sure the nation is more divided perhaps than at any time since the Vietnam War. The nation healed those wounds. It healed after Watergate. It healed after the hotly contested 2000 presidential election.

I have abiding faith in our nation’s ability to heal after Trump’s tenure has expired. I also will retain my belief in the stated motives of those who made history with their decision to impeach the president.

I believe they love our country enough to want to save it.

Impeachment takes dramatic turn

Now we know what the U.S. House Intelligence Committee has compiled.

It says the president of the United States, Donald Trump, abused the immense power of his office to seek a political favor from a foreign government. It speaks to extended phone conversations between the president’s personal attorney, Rudolph Giuliani, with Ukrainian government officials. It offers evidence that Giuliani was conducting a covert foreign policy operation.

Some talking heads are suggesting there might be more evidence to gather. They are saying the impeachment process might take even longer than planned.

I am one American who is beginning to suffer from a bit of impeachment fatigue. I do not need to be persuaded any further of the president’s culpability. I want the Intelligence Committee to hand this off to the Judiciary Committee; I want the Judiciary Committee to conduct its hearings. I want Judiciary to approve articles of impeachment. I want the Senate to put Trump on trial. I want enough senators to vote to convict Trump and remove him from office post haste.

I am confident that all but the last event will occur.

No minds are likely to be changed. Trump’s stranglehold on the Republican Party is unlike anything I’ve seen while witnessing these impeachment proceedings. We went through this in 1973-74 and again in 1998-1999. Some Republicans voted to approve articles of impeachment against President Nixon in 1974. Some Democrats did the same when the House impeached President Clinton in 1998.

This time, it’s strictly partisan. By “strictly partisan” I mean precisely that: Republicans and Democrats are dug in. They aren’t moving. Republicans are standing by their man; Democrats want him kicked out of office.

So, let’s get on with this, shall we?

RIP, William Ruckelshaus

They buried a Republican champion the other day, a man whose obituary contains a direct reference to his political heroism during a dark, scandalous time in U.S. history.

William Ruckelshaus died at age 87 at his Seattle home.

This man was an amazing, principled public servant who stood tall during the Watergate scandal. He was the nation’s deputy attorney general who, when his boss — AG Elliot Richardson quit while refusing to obey a presidential order — also exhibited supreme courage in following Richardson’s lead.

President Nixon was being swallowed up by the Watergate scandal. In 1973, Congress confirmed Archibald Cox as a special prosecutor to examine the evidence about whether the cover-up extended into the White House. Nixon pledged that Cox would be fully independent, that he could be fired only for malfeasance.

Cox began to get close to Nixon, who then ordered the AG to fire him; Richardson refused. Then the deputy AG got the order; Ruckelshaus quit. It fell, then, to Solicitor General Robert Bork to do what the president demanded.

The Saturday Night Massacre, as the resignations have come to be known, has become etched indelibly into American political lore. William Ruckelshaus stands as a giant man of principle among the key players in that drama.

It is his courage under political fire that is so terribly missing these days, particularly among those who comprise what is left of the Republican Party.

Ruckelshaus, moreover, was the founding director of the Environmental Protection Agency, which the Nixon administration created in 1970. Ruckelshaus was wedded to the idea of protecting our planet. That, too, remains high on his legacy of public service accomplishment.

If only this good man’s political descendants could rip a page from his Book of High Principle and adhere to the courage that William Ruckelshaus demonstrated in a time of political peril.

Set to make impeachment history once again

Here we are, on the cusp of another politically historic event awaiting the U.S. House of Representatives.

The House Intelligence Committee is going to hand off to the Judiciary Committee, which then will decide whether to file articles of impeachment against Donald John Trump.

This shouldn’t be a close call. However, it’s likely to become a partisan vote, with Democrats voting to impeach the president and Republicans saying “no.”

I’m out here in the Peanut Gallery. What I have seen from the middle of Trump Country tells me that the president deserves to be impeached; he also deserves to be convicted in a U.S. Senate trial. The allegations leveled against him are far worse than anything that befell President Clinton in 1998 and rise at least to the level of what President Nixon faced in 1974 when he resigned.

House Republicans impeached Clinton for lying about an inappropriate relationship he had with a White House intern. Nixon quit before the House could impeach him for obstructing justice in the search for the truth behind the Watergate burglary in June 1972.

What does Donald Trump face? He is facing an accusation — which he more or less has admitted to doing — of soliciting a foreign government for a political favor. In exchange for the favor, which included digging up dirt on a potential political foe, the president would release weapons to Ukraine, which is fighting rebels backed by Russia.

The U.S. Constitution expressly forbids such activity. It cites “bribery” along with “treason” specifically as crimes for which a president can be removed from office. It isn’t treason, but it sure looks for all the world to me like bribery.

I fully expect to get some dipsh** responses from High Plains Blogger critics who think I’m whistlin’ Dixie with regard to the crimes I believe the president has committed. That’s fine. Let ’em gripe.

I stand by my assertion that Donald Trump has committed crimes that rise to the level of impeachment. They certainly are far more egregious than what ended up on President Clinton’s record.

The record as I’ve seen it pile up during the impeachment inquiry is replete with evidence of wrongdoing. The House and Senate Republican caucus, however, is equally replete with political cowardice among House members and senators who choose to stand with the president and refuse to stand for what they piously proclaim to be “the rule of law.”

And so, history is about to be made once again as one House panel passes the torch to another one. Let this lawful, constitutional and appropriate impeachment effort proceed.

This impeachment debate is getting personal … and graphic

I just performed a rare — for me, at least — social media act.

I severed a social media relationship based on something this individual posted. I don’t like admitting it, but I am doing so now.

Here’s my side of the story.

The impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump’s conduct as president has drawn some amazing commentary on both sides of the great divide among Americans. It has stormed onto social media in ways I did not expect.

This evening on Facebook, I got a message from someone I know — although not well — that made me wretch. It contained an encrypted picture that had a note that it contained a graphic image; I had to click on a link to view it, so I did.

It turned my stomach. It showed a terrible image of what was described as a U.S. envoy being tortured; juxtaposed with that image was a picture of former Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch with a caption that said she had her “feelings hurt” by Donald Trump.

I put the encryption back on the picture and then “unfriended” the person who posted it from my Facebook network.

Yes, this is the kind of anger that the Donald Trump Era of Politics has brought us. I do not like it. Not in the least.

Although I have to say that the debate over Donald Trump’s fitness to serve as president and the inquiry into whether he should be impeached is revealing a lot about people I thought I knew. I am finding that some of my many acquaintances harbor some pretty nasty tendencies, such as the picture that one of those individuals posted on a social media platform.

I have lived through two serious presidential crises. The first one involved President Nixon and the Watergate scandal; the second one concerned President Clinton and the White House intern scandal. Nixon was on the way to getting impeached, but he resigned the presidency; the House impeached Clinton but he was acquitted by the Senate at trial.

In neither of those crises do I remember the intensity being exhibited by partisans on both sides of that divide. However, the image I looked at today — yes, I saw the warning, but looked anyway — goes so far beyond the pale that I parted company with someone who I thought was better than that.

I am afraid this tumult is going to damage a lot more relationships.

Don’t expect GOP heroes to emerge in public impeachment hearing

I feel the need to offer a sad scenario.

It is this: Do not hold your breath waiting for any Republican members of Congress to emerge as heroes during the public questioning of witnesses in the impeachment inquiry into Donald J. Trump.

Previous impeachment proceedings have produced congressmen and women who have crossed the aisle. I do not expect that event will occur at least in this phase of the impeachment inquiry.

Trump will get impeached by the House. That’s almost a lead-pipe cinch. The public hearings that commence on Wednesday will become a circus. How do we know that? Consider that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has installed Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio on the House Intelligence Committee. Jordan has emerged as arguably the most vocal Trump sycophant in the House and I believe he will do all he can do to divert this probe away from the issue at hand.

And it is: whether Donald Trump abused the immense power of his office for personal political gain by seeking a favor from Ukraine in exchange for weaponry that Ukrainians want to use against their Russia-back insurgents.

Will any Republicans on the Intelligence panel step forward the way, say, they did during the Watergate hearings of 1973 and 1974? Nope.

Remember it was GOP Sen. Howard Baker of Tennessee who asked back then, “What did the president know and when did he know it?”

Then came the million-dollar question from fellow Tennessean, Fred Thompson, who was GOP legal counsel on the Senate select committee investigating Watergate: “Are you aware,” Thompson asked White House aide Alexander Butterfield, “of any listening devices in the White House?” Thompson, being the good lawyer he was, knew the answer would be “yes,” that Butterfield was aware of such devices.

It was effectively game over at that point.

If only there could be some political heroism emerge today.

Partisanship is alive and festering in this pending impeachment

The highly partisan nature of the House of Representatives vote today on the impeachment inquiry into Donald J. Trump reveals a fundamental shortcoming in this process.

It remains a highly partisan, divided endeavor. Republicans voted “no” on the inquiry resolution, while all but two congressional Democrats voted “yes.”

The resolution lays out the rules and procedure that the House will follow from this moment forward as it decides whether to impeach the president on grounds that he violated his oath of office.

If only it wasn’t so damn partisan!

Looking back at the impeachment proceeding that resulted in President Nixon’s resignation from office in 1974, I am reminded that Republicans joined their Democratic colleagues in the search for the truth about the Watergate break-in and who was behind the coverup of the crime.

Nixon, the Republican president, quit when GOP senators told him eventually that he was toast, that a Senate trial would convict him. Indeed, during the Senate Watergate hearings in 1973, it fell to a GOP senator, Howard Baker, to ask famously, “What did the president know and when did he know it?”

And then came the question from the committee’s Republican legal counsel, Fred Thompson, who would go on later to be elected to the Senate alongside Sen. Baker of Tennessee: “Are you aware of … any listening devices in the Oval Office?” Thompson asked White House aide Alexander Butterfield, who answered “yes.”

Are there any Republicans now who are willing to exhibit that kind of courage? No. They are digging in to defend a president who has actually acknowledged that he sought political help from a foreign government. They are challenging the “process,” calling it a “Soviet-style” inquisition.

The partisanship being exhibited here reminds me of the shamelessness we saw during President Clinton’s impeachment in 1998. Republicans were hell bent toward impeaching the Democratic president, whose Democratic allies in Congress were equally hell bent in protecting him from the GOP attack dogs.

It’s playing out all over again.

But we have this major wrinkle: We’re now staring straight into a presidential election.

You want partisanship? Let’s hang on with both hands.

Secrecy? What secrecy in impeachment probe?

Donald Trump and his Republican allies are yapping about “secrecy” in the impeachment inquiry underway in the House of Representatives.

They are all wet. They are dead wrong. They are blathering out of both sides of their mouths.

House committees are meeting behind closed doors. There is nothing “secret” about what’s going as they take depositions from witnesses with information to share regarding whether the president has committed potentially impeachable offenses.

All the committees are staffed fully by Republican as well as Democratic members of Congress. Their staffs are present, too. GOP lawmakers are able to ask questions of the witnesses, just as their Democratic colleagues are doing so.

What’s more, they are operating under rules established in 2015 by a GOP-led congressional majority.

These hearings are taking place the way the Watergate hearings commenced in 1973 and the way the “Benghazi hearings” occurred in 2012. House members took testimony in private then flung the doors open for the public to see and hear for itself much of what had been discussed in private.

Yet the Republicans are bitching about what they contend is an “illegal” impeachment inquiry. Give it a break, ladies and gentlemen of the right wing.

There will be a public moment or two of reckoning to take place. The House is going to open its doors in due course, possibly quite soon, for the public to see for itself what it is learning.

I am one American who is willing and quite anxious to see and hear what is occurring. I know the House will do what it has done before and what it is doing now under the rules it has established.

Republican attacks on the process seek to divert attention away from congressmen and women are examining. The process doesn’t worry me. What gives me pause and deep concern is what the process is going to produce.