If that sounds harsh, you haven’t been paying attention. Trump’s relations with Ukraine show how he operates. There is now overwhelming evidence — not least from the president’s own mouth — that he held up military aid to Ukraine and a meeting with Ukraine’s president over a demand that Ukraine manufacture dirt on former vice president Joe Biden and information clearing Russia of 2016 hacking. This would be not just an impeachable offense but, as Philip Zelikow of the University of Virginia argues, an attempt to solicit a bribe in violation of federal law. But wait — there’s a second layer of corruption too! Trump delegated Ukraine policy to his personal lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, who was trying to drum up business in Ukraine with two shady characters who have now been arrested. Giuliani’s own business practices are under investigation by federal prosecutors.
This seaminess is entirely in character for a president who was surrounded by felons (his previous personal attorney, his first national security adviser and his former campaign chairman); lied about his payments to an alleged mistress in apparent violation of campaign finance laws; engaged in pervasive obstruction of justice to stymie an investigation into his campaign links with Russia; continues to do business as a property manager and developer around the world; lies 22 times a day; and even falsified a weather map to show that he was right about a hurricane.
Given this track record of unethical, even illegal, conduct, how can we possibly assume that the Pentagon’s decision to award a massive cloud-computing contract to Microsoft, rather than to Amazon, is on the up and up?
Trumps’ animosity against Amazon is legendary because its founder and chief executive, Jeff Bezos, also owns The Post, which refuses to give Trump the Pravda-style coverage he demands. Trump tried to get the U.S. Postal Service to raise shipping rates on Amazon and has now ordered the entire federal government to cancel subscriptions to The Post and New York Times. A new book by former defense secretary Jim Mattis’s speechwriter says that Trump also made clear his intention to “screw” Amazon by denying it the Pentagon contract. The White House directed the defense secretary, Mark Esper, to carefully examine the award and, even though Esper recused himself at the last minute, the decision to give the business to Microsoft — which does not have as much experience as Amazon in handling classified data — reeks to high heaven.
Equally malodorous are reports that the probe initiated by Attorney General William P. Barr into the origins of the investigation of the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia has been deemed criminal in nature. Reminder: Robert S. Mueller’s special counsel investigation resulted in 34 indictments and seven convictions along with the release of a report so fair that Trump partisans such as Barr have used it to claim (falsely) that it exonerated the president of collusion and obstruction of justice. Yet Trump continues to insist that Russia’s attack on the 2016 election was a “hoax” and that he is the victim of a Deep State plot.
Barr has been flying around the world pressing foreign governments to help what is clearly an effort to substantiate Trump’s insane theory that a server in Ukraine will somehow show that Russia was framed for the attack. Now, with the impeachment case against Trump gathering steam, the Justice Department’s probe has been elevated into a criminal investigation — potentially allowing for the smearing and intimidation of some of Trump’s severest critics. How convenient.
Trump claims that the probe will uncover “really bad things.” But Sen. Mark Warner (Va.), the widely respected ranking Democrat of the Senate Intelligence Committee, tweeted: “Senate Intel is wrapping up a three-year bipartisan investigation, and we’ve found nothing remotely justifying this.”
I wish I could give the Trump administration the benefit of the doubt. But I simply can’t. No objective observer could. I assume that both the decision to “investigate the investigators” and to award a contract to Microsoft over Amazon are deeply corrupt, just like everything else that Trump touches. The onus is on the administration to show otherwise. That’s hard to do given that you can’t believe a single word that Trump and his dishonest aides say.
When you can have no faith that the president is acting in the public interest — when, in fact, you have good cause to believe the opposite — it’s time to impeach and remove, because the president has lost all credibility and hence his ability to carry out the duties of his office.