The saying goes; “it’s not the crime, it is the cover-up.”
Granted, a normal political scandal doesn’t have clear evidence of extortion and bribery, an admission by chief of staff, and documentation within a memorandum put out by the White House itself. So, normally, the last thing one would worry about in a matter as serious as Trump’s Ukraine bribery would be the “cover-up” of the crime.
But normally the administration and Republican defense isn’t based upon; “Yes, we did it and there was nothing wrong in doing it.”
THAT is where “cover-up” of the crime might become a big deal, because it is far harder to pompously state that the administration did nothing wrong when there is clear evidence that they sure as shit did all they could to ensure no one knew what they were doing. In law, we call it “consciousness of guilt” and it can be damning as hell, which is why the new Washington Post report could be critically important.
Per the Washington Post as summarized by Rawstory:
Three sources familiar with the records told The Post that “hundreds of documents” reveal the “extensive efforts” to come up with a justification for withholding Ukraine aid after the whistleblower report was filed and Congress began to look into the matter.
“The research by the White House Counsel’s Office, which was triggered by a congressional impeachment inquiry announced in September, includes early August email exchanges between acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and White House budget officials seeking to provide an explanation for withholding the funds after President Trump had already ordered a hold in mid-July on the nearly $400 million in security assistance.”
“Seeking to provide an explanation.”
That doesn’t jive with: “We were fighting corruption!”
The more interesting question is whether any laws were broken in that effort to “provide an explanation.” Was Congress lied to in any letter or official correspondence? Was any documentation destroyed?
There is more, and it gets better:
The early August email showed Mulvaney asking acting OMB director Russell Vought for an “update on the legal rationale for withholding the aid.” He wanted to know how much longer it would be delayed. The White House and GOP have struggled to come up with a justification for Trump’s bribery efforts.
“Emails show Vought and OMB staffers arguing that withholding aid was legal, while officials at the National Security Council and State Department protested. OMB lawyers said that it was legal to withhold the aid, as long as they deemed it a ‘temporary’ hold, according to people familiar with the review,” the report said.
If you are arguing whether or not something is “legal,” then you have an issue, because you’re already doing something highly unusual. The fact that the White House was arguing with itself about the legality of the procedures proves that they knew they had no legitimate rationale for withholding the funds.
We cannot know whether or not this will have much meaning with respect to Trump’s legal and political fate. One would have thought that having a Trump-appointed stooge like Sondland sitting his ass down, staring right at the Republicans on the committee and averring that; “Yes, it was a quid pro quo” would have been damning. Yet it is not, according to Republicans.
On the other hand, we are becoming increasingly aware of the public’s fickle nature, even people who are “dug-in” with their Trump position. Evidence that Mulvaney and Trump were sweating their asses off trying to legally justify Trump’s bribe might prove highly embarrassing. It might also be the evidence needed to pry loose testimony from Mulvaney, Pompeo and Bolton.
I am done getting “too excited” about anything with respect to impeachment. We have the quintessential impeachment case on the table, bribery of a foreign leader in an attempt to screw your political rival, and it hasn’t moved a single elected Republican. But, I am also open to how quickly things change in this dynamic. Perception really is reality with this crowd, and perceptions can change fast, especially when your own words prove that you damn well knew you were doing something very very wrong.
firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter: @MiciakZoom