Some ultra-savvy pundits will scoff: Didn’t Democrats just get through impeachment? And some Democrats will be tempted to slink away in defeat, muttering that impeachment wasn’t “worth” the “trouble.”
But this is precisely the wrong message to take from what just happened. The impeachment and trial produced a remarkable new fact record documenting extraordinary misconduct and likely criminality on Trump’s part. This has stripped away any illusions about what Trump is capable of inflicting on our political system — demonstrating why continued efforts to protect the country are even more imperative.
“We have to use all the oversight powers we have to try to check efforts by Trump and the White House to steal the election,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a member of the Judiciary and Oversight committees, told me.
“Just because we’ve impeached the president does not mean his schemes have stopped,” Raskin added. "He continues to be a one-man crime wave.”
For starters: One of the House committees should immediately invite former national security adviser John Bolton to testify, and if he refuses, subpoena him.
Bolton’s forthcoming book will report that Trump privately linked nearly $400 million in frozen military aid to Ukraine directly to his demand for sham investigations validating lies about Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election that absolve Russia of that crime and smearing potential 2020 foe Joe Biden.
Bolton’s book will also report that as early as last May, Trump instructed Bolton to press the Ukrainian president to work with personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani on the scheme to extort those announcements from Ukraine.
Learning more about both these episodes — which Senate Republicans refused to do — will further illuminate the scope, reach and inner workings of this whole scheme. Bolton can almost certainly detail other episodes implicated with it.
This matters because this scheme is still in operation today. Republicans have been running ads in Iowa that echo the fabricated narrative of Biden corruption in Ukraine. Giuliani has been meeting with former Ukrainian officials to further validate that narrative.
And Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, is still pursuing a “review” of the origins of the Russia investigation that appear designed to discredit that investigation — and its conclusion that Russia sabotaged the 2016 election to help Trump — just as Trump wants.
What this all means is that post-acquittal, Trump will simply keep up his smearing of Biden with disinformation, including with “evidence” fabricated by Giuliani with the help of foreign officials, as well as his ongoing whitewashing of Russia’s 2016 attack on our political system.
A maximal picture of Trump’s willingness to corrupt the government in service of this whole effort will better equip the American people to evaluate the disinformation and lies we’ll continue seeing on all these fronts. Testimony from Bolton about Trump’s orchestration of this scheme will focus public attention on it as it continues.
Call Lev Parnas
That’s also why House Democrats should seek testimony from Lev Parnas, the former Giuliani associate who turned on Trump after getting indicted on campaign finance charges in connection with efforts to push out Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine who stood in the way of the extortion plot.
Parnas’s lawyer has indicated he is prepared to testify in detail about the whole scheme, including the role played in it by Trump and Giuliani, and other players such as Barr and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
To repeat, this scheme is ongoing as we speak. Trump’s propaganda network will continue to bombard voters with disinformation about fake Biden corruption and invented Ukrainian 2016 electoral sabotage. House Democrats need to keep the focus on this disinformation’s corrupt origins.
“Parnas can speak to the shady characters Rudy is talking to,” Sam Berger, an expert on democracy reform at the Center for American Progress, told me. “Congress needs to figure out everything it can about Trump’s ongoing efforts to cheat in the upcoming election.”
Get to the bottom of Barr’s activities
As part of the case against Parnas, prosecutors in the Southern District of New York have opened a criminal investigation into whether Giuliani broke U.S. laws by working with foreign officials to oust Yovanovitch, something that could further implicate Trump.
Has Barr allowed this case to proceed undisturbed? We have no idea.
Trump has threatened retribution against Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the lead impeachment manager. And Gabriel Sherman reports that Trump has privately told people he wants to see Bolton criminally prosecuted. Fox News’s Sean Hannity has preposterously claimed Biden broke laws in Ukraine.
Given Barr’s role in helping Trump whitewash Russia’s attack on our democracy, one cannot rule out at least the possibility of Barr somehow using the Justice Department against one or more Trump foes in some form, perhaps to lend validity to Trump’s narratives.
What exactly is Barr doing with his “review” of the Russia probe? Has Trump ever tried to instruct him to prosecute one or more of these enemies? Democrats should try to grill Barr on these matters.
“Every other attorney general has appeared before the Judiciary Committee,” Raskin told me. “I would expect this attorney general to appear as well.”
Administration officials will resist any and all efforts at such oversight. But Democrats must try and, if necessary, go to court. Protecting the country demands no less.