Jeffries reminded us that the whistleblower complaint went to the White House (the subject of the complaint), where, without an actual assertion of executive privilege, the White House counsel, the acting director of national intelligence and the Justice Department held it back from Congress. It was not until Congress got wind of the whistleblower complaint and demanded it that the intelligence community’s inspector general followed the law to turn it over. But now that Trump has abused power and tried to hide his conduct, Jeffries asked the question: “What are we going to do about our character?”
Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.) took it from there and recalled a parallel effort from White House aides and lawmakers to get Trump to release the aid that had been illegally and dangerously delayed. Aides tried to get him to move forward. A group of senators wrote a letter trying to pry the aid loose. An official from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) tried to shift blame to the Defense Department for the /holdup, prompting a Defense official to email, “You can’t be serious. I am speechless.” A variety of excuses were raised for the delay until it was released, without undertaking any further anti-corruption efforts or any efforts to get more aid from NATO partners (two excuses the White House used to explain the holdup.)
Crow dismissed the notion that Ukraine did not feel pressure by the withholding of aid. He first noted the notion was irrelevant, since the crime here is Trump’s misuse of power. Moreover, he demonstrated Ukraine very much was worried about the aid: Ukrainian officials raised it with Vice President Pence and other administration officials, and the Ukrainians were willing to do a CNN interview to announce the phony investigations. To this day, Ukraine remains dependent on U.S. aid.
It was then House manager and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff’s turn to take us through why Trump’s corrupt actions not only endangered Ukraine but also hurt our own national security, our efforts to promote anti-corruption actions and our standing as an ally. Trump put out the welcome mat for foreign dictators who can manipulate and essentially bribe him to get what they want. He is a danger to us, Schiff (D-Calif.) explained, so long as we have a president who thinks “Trump first, not America First.”
At critical points in the narrative, the managers explained that we could learn about the motives and get evidence about the coverup if we had the testimony of people such as Michael Duffey at OMB (who held up the aid), former national security adviser John Bolton (who kept telling his people to go talk to the lawyers) and John Eisenberg, the White House lawyer who helped stashed the rough transcript of the July 25 call.
This was a tightly argued, brisk presentation that allowed the senators who care about such things to get the facts straight, understand the implications of what occurred and see how additional witnesses are needed to complete the picture of inappropriate and illegal conduct. Alas, Republicans will feign boredom and announce they knew it all before (perhaps we should quiz them on some basic facts) and need no more witnesses. For the rest of us, however, we are getting a definitive portrayal of a corrupt and dangerous president and his enablers, who include those Republican senators.