For some thirty hours well-fit into 5 days of whole-day testimonies, from within November 13 to 21, America was in rapt attention. So was the world and I, an avid observer. After all, history was unfolding. The momentous event was the impeachment inquiry hearings on the culpability of Donald J. Trump, the 45th President of the U.S. before the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence of the House of Representatives.
If impeached, the matter goes before the Senate for trial. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court will preside. That happens when it is the President who is being impeached.
It is only the third time that impeachment of a President has happened in the U.S. Andrew Johnson (17th) in 1868 and Bill Clinton (42nd) in 1998. Richard M. Nixon (37th) resigned before he could be impeached. The Constitutional basis for impeachment are “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” While the two earlier instances involved local transgressions, the Trump instance involves foreign policy. The abuse of power over its implementation, for his personal benefit.
President Trump is accused of withholding legally allocated financial aid to an ally at war (Ukraine) and putting on hold a State visit invitation to Washington DC unless Uktraine’s President conducted an investigation into the alleged private business activity in Ukraine of a political rival (Biden); and into an allegation that it was Ukraine that meddled in the 2016 US elections instead of Russia. That means inviting a foreign entity to interfere in the US elections.
The inquiry’s objective is to prove that President Trump used the powers of his office for personal gain and not for advancing American foreign policy. Bribing the President of Ukraine with financial assistance in exchange for doing Trump a personal favor. Whether it will be couched as ‘quid pro quo,’ bribery or extortion remains to be seen. The matter is now in the hands of the Judiciary Committee that will draft the Articles of Impeachment.
A quote from a Trump telephone conversation with President Volodymyr Zelensky captures the essence of the case against this American President: “I would like you to do us a favor…though,” will linger long.
It must be pointed out that all the non-partisan U.S. intelligence agencies plus a bi-partisan Senate report has already debunked such notion by concluding that indeed it was Russia that meddled in the elections which Trump won by virtue of the Electoral College vote. The actual popular vote was won by Hillary Clinton by over 3.5 million votes. Such is the US system.
A book or books on this subject event will certainly be forthcoming. In the meantime, I would like to share a few of my own takeaways.
The most obvious difference that sets apart the contenders was in their respective demeanors. It was highly partisan, Democrats versus Republicans. The former were calm and steady while Trump’s defenders were mostly angry and during some moments, near hysterical.
On the basis of optics alone, it was easy to note the variance. For instance, in the choice of legal counsels who were allowed to participate in the questioning process. Democrat counsel Dan Goldman was pleasant looking, had incisive and elucidating questions rendered with a respectful mien. It was very easy for the ‘peanut gallery’ to pick him winning. On the other hand, Republican counsel Steve Castor in comparison to his Democrat counterpart was not pleasant looking at all, somewhat darkish in visage and the questions he propounded were often inconsequential and irrelevant.
Both sides alternated in fielding questions. Again, the differences in approach were stark. Whereas the Democrats exhibited deference and courtesy towards the witnesses, the Republicans were often harsh, combative and even condescending. Of special note for me was a Congressman from Ohio, Jim Jordan, so combative and shrill he was, he was simply a turn-off.
Chairman of the proceedings, Adam Schiff (California Congressman), was calm, composed and authoritative while his Republican counterpart, ranking member Devin Nunes, (also from California) was lackluster, appeared flustered, and repetitive with the Trumpian line --- the debunked conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine and not Russia that intervened in the 2016 US elections.
During the midterm elections of 2018, control of the House of Representatives went to the Democrats, otherwise this political drama would not be happening at all. To impeach, only a simple majority is needed. The trial in the Senate, however, requires a two-thirds vote to pronounce guilt.
The most significant difference to me, however, was the Republicans’ stark inability to refute the sworn-to facts brought forth by the witnesses. The Republicans presented no counter narrative at all, no cross examination based on facts presented. Such inability was accented by their seemingly scripted resort to attacking the process of the inquiry itself, instead of addressing the substance of facts presented; and to unfortunate and uncalled-for ‘ad hominems.’
In contrast to President Trump’s well-known dislike of immigrants and condescension towards women, the truly stand-out and most effective witnesses were two women and a military officer, all three being naturalized citizens.
Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch (Russia), Dr. Fiona Hill (UK), and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman (Ukraine). They are professional career civil servants, faithful to their oaths of office (and of their citizenship), who courageously stood for truth and what is right. In America, “right matters!” The Trump White attempted to prevent most witnesses from testifying before Congress.
There were seventeen witnesses who participated, all of whose declarations brought forth clearly factual pieces of evidence of Presidential wrongdoing and misconduct. While these are hardly in dispute, it is up to the House at large to decide whether the facts rise to be incompatible with the “moral hygiene’ expected of the Presidency and thus impeachable.
The bottom line for the Republicans, however, is clear. Whatever misconduct and wrongdoing Trump is found to have committed, such does not rise to impeachability!
In his somber and eloquent closing remarks, Chairman Adam Schiff expressed the fear and clear danger of damage to the United States, being the model and beacon of democracy, that the behavior of a corrupt president will cause. “We are the indispensable nation…..People look to us from all over the world…journalists from their jail cells in Turkey, the victims of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, people who gather in Tahrir square wanting representative government, people in China who are Uighurs, people in Ukraine who want a better future…they look to us…they’re not going to look to Russia, to China.”
There is no longer any doubt in my mind that President Donald J. Trump will be impeached on the basis of sworn-to and unrefuted facts. It is a consensus shared quite dominantly in American society as surveys have consistently indicated. The House vote will of course be according to party lines. This is to be expected as the Republicans have proven to be impervious to facts. The matter will therefore be elevated to the Senate for trial. The Senate is Republican-dominated. It remains uncertain whether the Senate will find Trump guilty.
The Trumpians have portrayed their President to be, instead, the victim of political vendetta. And that the impeachment process is a coup designed to undo the results of the 2016 elections. Such a gambit seem highly effective with the ‘hometown.’ The Trumpians will hold solid, in a fashion reminiscent of and not any dissimilar to local Philippine Dutertismo attitudes.
Should this come to pass, that in total disregard of the facts, the Senate majority still votes not to find Trump as having violated the high standards of the Office of the American Presidency, the consequence will be self-inflicted. The righteous American electorate just might mete the Republicans a serious set-back. The 2020 elections could bring about a Democratic majority in the US Senate.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Tomas 'Buddy' Gomez III began his professional media career in ABS-CBN's (previously Chronicle Broadcasting Network) DZQL-Radio Reloj in 1957, after which he spent 25 years with the Ayala Group.
In 1986, the then Pres. Cory Aquino appointed him Consul General to Hawaii and later served as her Press Secretary.
During the Ramos administration, he was chairman and president of state-owned IBC-13 Network.
After government service, he became an ‘OFW’ in the U.S., working as front-desk clerk and then assistant general manager of a hotel. He also worked as a furniture and antique restoration specialist.
He is now retired and lives in San Antonio, Texas.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.