Monday, January 27, 2020

"Don't build your fortress on quicksand!"

In National Review, Andy McCarthy writes,
Don’t build your fortress on quicksand.

That’s been my unsolicited advice for President Trump and his legal team. You always want the foundation of your defense to be something that is true, that you are sure you can prove, and that will not change.

Instead, the president and his team decided to make a stand on ground that could not be defended, on facts that were unfolding and bound to change. Last night, that ground predictably shifted. In a soon-to-be-published memoir, former White House national-security adviser John Bolton asserts that the president withheld $391 million in defense aid in order to pressure Ukraine into investigating Trump’s potential 2020 election opponent, former vice president Joe Biden.

For months, I’ve been arguing that the president’s team should stop claiming there was no quid pro quo conditioning the defense aid Congress had authorized for Ukraine on Kyiv’s conducting of investigations the president wanted. Trials and impeachment itself are unpredictable. You don’t know what previously undisclosed facts might emerge during the trial that could turn the momentum against you. So you want to mount your best defense, the one that can withstand any damaging new revelations.

Here, the president’s best defense has always been that Ukraine got its security aid, and President Volodymyr Zelensky got his coveted high-profile audience with the president of the United States (albeit at the U.N., rather than at the White House). Kyiv barely knew defense aid was being withheld, the very temporary delay had no impact whatsoever on Ukraine’s capacity to counter Russian aggression, and Zelensky was required neither to order nor to announce any investigation of the Bidens.

...Prosecutors do not need someone to admit, “there is a quid pro quo” in order to prove one. And when someone says, “there is no quid pro quo,” but then acts as if there is one (under different names, such as “stalemate” and “do the right thing”), that can actually improve the prosecutor’s case.

...They could have stayed on the ground where they are strongest: Nothing happened. All foreign policy involves pressure and quid pro quo. There is a good-faith basis to suspect the Bidens were involved in corrupt self-dealing. It is ridiculous to suggest that Ukraine’s defense, let alone American national security, was in any way compromised. President Trump has done much more to protect Ukraine from Russia than President Obama and the Democrats did — indeed, some of the Democratic House impeachment managers voted against the very aid to Ukraine, the brief, inconsequential withholding of which they now feign outrage about.

Ukraine is a pervasively corrupt country. One minute Paul Manafort is a top political consultant to the regime, the next minute they have him under investigation. That is how it goes in Kyiv, where the party in power routinely persecutes political adversaries and attempts to curry favor with its Western supporters. Ukrainian investigations have no credibility. Americans might care deeply if Biden’s son is shown to have been cashing in on his father’s political influence — which such investigative journalists as Peter Schweizer have been illustrating. But Americans would put no stock in any Ukrainian investigation. As best we can tell, even if they announced they were investigating Biden today, they’d be erecting a statue of him by next month if his polls improve. Who cares?

On Monday, the president’s defense team is supposed to be arguing their main defense in the Senate impeachment trial. It should be focused on these ultimate issues. They should be in a strong position to contend that all the witnesses and documents Democrats want to subpoena cannot alter the stubborn fact that nothing of consequence happened in Ukraine — certainly nothing worthy of impeaching and removing a duly elected president nine months before Election Day.

But they decided to contest the underlying facts, where the president’s case is weakest. They decided to fight on quid pro quo . . . so now they will have to deal with John Bolton’s account and the rising demands that he be called as a witness.
Read more here.

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