Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and I have something in common.
We both have been victims of attempted, illegal, corrupt acts.
I was reminded of this as I watched much of the U.S. House of Representatives’ hearings on whether to impeach President Donald Trump.
President Trump stands accused of attempting to bribe President Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, for corruption in Ukraine. Solid “ear” witness testimony has been amply provided in the House hearings.
President Trump, the White House, and the once Grand Old Party have a two-pronged defense, such as it is.
First, they say President Trump’s telephone conversation with President Zelensky wasn’t an attempted bribe, aka quid pro quo, because Trump didn’t specify in words the quo he wanted for his quid.
The quid was to release hundreds of millions of appropriated dollars’ worth of military goods that he was withholding, if Zelensky would “do him a favor.”
As evidence has been testified under oath that both Trump and Zelensky knew that Trump’s price for releasing the funds was for Zelensky to go on television and announce that he was opening an investigation of the Biden father and son.
Anyone who has ever watched a gangster movie knows that thugs don’t tell the people they are shaking down exactly what will happen to them if they don’t comply with the request.
They mention what a nice storefront they have, perhaps even what a wonderful family they have, and suggest that it would be wise if they took out some protection.
And this is where I enter the picture.
My experience wasn’t even peanuts compared to the magnitude of Trump’s attempted shakedown of Zelensky, but believe me, it produced fear.
I had written a story for the Tri-City Herald about a union activity, which wasn’t appreciated by the union. That night, I received a telephone call at home “suggesting” the caller knew where I lived and that I might be wise not to write any more such stories. At the time, I had young children and a wonderful wife.
He hung up and I immediately called my editor and reported the threat.
As you can imagine, it was disgusting to hear Republicans’ shameful claims that Trump didn’t attempt to bribe Zelensky. How naive do they think U.S. voters are?
The second prong of the GOP defense is that even if Trump did attempt bribery, blackmail or extortion, that doesn’t rise to a crime worthy of impeachment.
Our founders worried about just such immoral judgment. When Benjamin Franklin, a major player in the Constitutional Convention in 1787, was asked what kind of a government had been drafted, he replied: “A republic, if you can keep it.”
The framers of our constitution feared that political factions would destroy the republic that they created. George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison opposed political parties, then called factions.
Hamilton called them “the most fatal disease” of popular governments. “Madison, wrote in the Federalist Papers, to encourage ratification of the Constitution, that a “well-constructed Union” should “break and control the violence of faction.”
I’m basically a very optimistic person; but it is very difficult to find optimism that we aren’t on the brink of losing our Constitutional government at the hands of the Republican Party.
Terence L. Day is a 47-year resident of Pullman. American history is among his passions. He encourages email at firstname.lastname@example.org