After an Autumn of accusation and acrimony that included two damning weeks of testimony from a variety of witnesses, the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday afternoon released its report documenting the impeachment investigation into the activities of Donald Trump in Ukraine. The information contained within is intended as a baseline for the drafting of articles of impeachment against Trump, a duty that will fall upon Rep. Jerrold Nadler and the members of his House Judiciary Committee shortly.
The report — coming in at 300 pages long, including 150 pages of meticulously-organized notes — got directly to the point in its preface:
President Trump, personally and acting through agents within and outside of the U.S. government, solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, to benefit his reelection…. The President engaged in this course of conduct for the benefit of his own presidential reelection, to harm the election prospects of a political rival, and to influence our nation’s upcoming presidential election to his advantage. In doing so, the President placed his own personal and political interests above the national interests of the United States, sought to undermine the integrity of the U.S. presidential election process, and endangered U.S. national security.
The report explains in ruthless detail the manner in which Trump and his various minions, including personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland, attempted to strong-arm Ukraine into doing Trump’s electoral bidding. Compounding Trump’s Ukraine transgressions, according to the report, have been his ceaseless attempts to obstruct the investigation, and indeed any form of oversight Congress has attempted to execute.
“The damage to our system of checks and balances,” reads the report, “and to the balance of power within our three branches of government, will be long-lasting and potentially irrevocable if the president’s ability to stonewall Congress goes unchecked. Any future president will feel empowered to resist an investigation into their own wrongdoing, malfeasance, or corruption, and the result will be a nation at far greater risk of all three.”
Notably, the House Intelligence report does not recommend any specific articles of impeachment, though several are obliquely suggested. On Monday, The Washington Post reported that House Democrats are debating whether to add impeachment articles specifically related to Trump’s obstruction of justice in the Mueller investigation or emoluments violations.
Also notable, the report does not use the word “bribery,” except to quote Trump and Giuliani accusations against the Bidens and the whistleblower. After weeks of deploying the Latin phrase “quid pro quo” to describe Trump’s illegal actions in Ukraine, Democrats finally began saying “bribery” in connection with Trump’s activities, likely because that word is specifically mentioned in the Constitution as an impeachable offense. The absence of such pointedly specific language in this report is disquieting if it signals a rhetorical retreat by Democrats, but such concerns will be forestalled if that language eventually appears in the articles of impeachment themselves.
The House Intelligence Committee report is a strong document, but it is difficult to imagine how it could be otherwise. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff did a masterful job of managing the public testimony of key witnesses like U.S. envoy to Ukraine William Taylor, Ukraine expert Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, former Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and National Security Council Eastern Europe specialist Fiona Hill, in the face of balderdash eruptions from the likes of Devin Nunes and Jim Jordan. The report is the issue of that endeavor, and stands as a pivot point for the next phase of impeachment proceedings.
The day before the release of the House Intelligence Committee report, Republicans attempted to blot out the sun with a multiple-megaton manure bomb they passed off as their own impeachment hearings “report.” This 110-page ball of sweaty drivel is the culmination of years of Breitbart-bubble GOP conspiracy-mongering.
“Publicly available — and irrefutable — evidence shows how senior Ukrainian government officials sought to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election in opposition to President Trump’s candidacy,” reads the Republican rebuttal report, “and that some in the Ukrainian embassy in Washington worked with a Democrat operative to achieve that goal.”
It’s the dramatic insertion of “irrefutable” that makes this art; the addled accusation that Ukraine attempted to thwart Trump’s election in 2016 has been debunked more times than the Flat Earth theory. It is laughable on its face; more than anything else, Ukraine needs to keep its relationship with the U.S. thoroughly bipartisan if it wishes to survive a Russian aggression campaign that has already captured Crimea. If Ukraine sticks a toe into the fractious waters of U.S. election politics, like as not they’d lose the whole leg.
The GOP’s blatherskite-riddled “report” is a triumph of noise over substance. It should be carved word for word on the tombstone of the Republican Party if and when that bat belfry of an organization finally collapses under the weight of its own well-heeled inadequacies.
The worst part? Republicans know their “report” is a raft of lies, specifically about Ukraine election interference — The GOP-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee has said so in broad daylight — but Trump’s defenders will fountain its gibberish to all points on the compass regardless, because they are playing to an audience of one. As the Eagles foretold, they are all but prisoners here, of their own device.
The impeachment train has a few more stops to make before it reaches a trial in the Senate. The House Judiciary Committee, which currently endures a platoon of GOP nonsense-mongers like Reps. Doug Collins, Louie Gohmert, Matt Gaetz, Andy Biggs and Jim Jordan, is set to become a deliberately disrupted shitshow of historic proportions.
When the smoke clears, the committee’s Democratic majority will present articles of impeachment for a vote. Like as not, those articles will be approved by the committee. After that, a full vote of the House on those articles will come. Almost certain to break along party lines, the Democratic House majority will carry the day, and Donald Trump will officially be impeached … at which point, the show moves to the Senate domain of Mitch McConnell for a trial to decide whether Trump will be removed from office.
I am, of course, not sanguine about the final outcome. Impeachment is a political exercise, and Trump has Senate Republicans wrapped so tightly around his finger that his fingernail is turning blue. All that, however, is for a day yet to come. The case for impeachment has been made beyond question or doubt, and the House Intelligence Committee report is the sum and substance of the argument for Trump’s ultimate removal. It is a document of historic merit.