by Bob Barr
Speaking as a former federal prosecutor and impeachment manager in the Senate trial of former President Clinton, and after having reviewed carefully the content and context of the Ukraine call and what we have learned about it subsequently, it is clear that no federal laws were broken and nothing close to an impeachable offense took place.
In fact, in that call the president of the United States was doing precisely what a president should have been doing. In the July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump emphasized that his administration was serious about getting to the bottom of corruption in Ukraine that had affected and had been affected by the United States. Our president made clear he was referring to evidence that Ukrainian interests had been involved corruptly in our 2016 election, and that a high government official in our country — former Vice President Joe Biden — had improperly interfered with that country’s effort to discover and prosecute corrupt acts.
In considering whether the president’s conduct rises to the level of an impeachable or criminal offense, it’s easy to dismiss the rantings of Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters. The fiery congresswoman has been calling for Trump’s impeachment since he became president, and she is itching for a piece of the impeachment action for the Financial Services Committee she chairs. In Waters’ opinion, Trump has engaged in actions that not only are impeachable in nature, but so highly and criminally offensive as to warrant a sentence in “solitary confinement.”
It is not, however, quite so easy to dismiss the analyses of such credible observers as New Jersey state court Judge Andrew Napolitano. The former jurist and long-time Fox News analyst declared shortly after the release of a transcript of Trump’s July 25 phone call that it proved Trump had not only committed an impeachable offense but violated federal criminal law as well.
The fact that one focus of Trump’s demands that Ukraine clean up its act as a prerequisite to continued support from America might also involve an individual now seeking to challenge Trump for the presidency, does not in any way diminish or undercut the propriety of Trump’s insistence that the Ukrainian president take steps to get to the bottom of what corruption already had occurred involving the two countries; and also to ensure that going forward the same corrupt acts would not recur.
To claim, as many have done — including Napolitano — that it is a crime for Trump to insist that Ukraine investigate past corrupt acts involving the United States, and that the country stop doing so moving forward, simply because Joe Biden now has chosen to challenge Trump politically next year, undercuts the very power of a president to protect our country from foreign interference and to investigate corrupt acts by former U.S. officials. Biden is deserving of no such self-imposed immunity.
Moreover, such a warped view of presidential actions turns on its head our system of criminal justice, in which it is the executive branch (headed by the president) that investigates and prosecutes violations of federal law. It was clear in that July 25 call that President Trump was letting President Zelensky know that our attorney general — the head of our Department of Justice that is responsible for such investigations — would be doing just that. To now assert that for this President Trump should be removed from office and prosecuted criminally, is absurd.
Other attempts to characterize Trump’s actions during, surrounding, or following that call as violations of federal campaign laws, the bribery statute, or the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, are equally inapplicable and unsupported by the facts or any reasonable interpretation of the statutes themselves.
Another avenue down which Trump’s critics travel is just as barren. Claiming that the administration’s moves to protect the July 25 call, and probably others between Trump and foreign leaders, by placing them in a more secure database, is hardly nefarious or evidence of a criminal state of mind. The administration already had been plagued by leaks and mischaracterizations of Trump’s conversations with foreign leaders. Taking steps to protect such critical and sensitive communications is not only understandable but absolutely responsible.
Trump was acting responsibly and presidential. He deserves our appreciation, not our opprobrium.
Bob Barr (http://www.twitter.com/BobBarr) represented Georgia in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He currently serves as president and CEO of the https://laweef.org/.