09.26.2023 0

Why haven’t House Republicans added weaponization of government against Trump to the Biden impeachment inquiry?

By Robert Romano

Both the potential impeachment of then-President Richard Nixon in 1974 and the actual impeachment of former President Donald Trump in 2019 carried the charges of weaponization of government.

Article 2 of the Nixon impeachment as drafted by the House Judiciary Committee charged had “violat[ed] the constitutional rights of citizens, impairing the due and proper administration of justice and the conduct of lawful inquiries, or contravening the laws governing agencies of the executive branch and the purposed of these agencies.”

This included “directing or authorizing such agencies or personnel to conduct or continue electronic surveillance or other investigations for purposes unrelated to national security, the enforcement of laws, or any other lawful function of his office” against political opponents.

Similarly, the 2019 Trump impeachment stated that he “solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, in the 2020 United States Presidential election. He did so through a scheme or course of conduct that included soliciting the Government of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations that would benefit his reelection, harm the election prospects of a political opponent, and influence the 2020 United States Presidential election to his advantage. President Trump also sought to pressure the Government of Ukraine to take these steps by conditioning official United States Government acts of significant value to Ukraine on its public announcement of the investigations. President Trump engaged in this scheme or course of conduct for corrupt purposes in pursuit of personal political benefit.”

Trump did so they said by targeting his political opponent, now President Joe Biden, for the very acts that House Republicans now seek to impeach Biden for: “acting both directly and through his agents within and outside the United States Government—corruptly solicited the Government of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations into— (A) a political opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.; and (B) a discredited theory promoted by Russia alleging that Ukraine—rather than Russia—interfered in the 2016 United States Presidential election.”

The corruption investigations of the Bidens that Trump was asking about related to Biden and his son Hunter’s business dealings at Burisma Holdings, where Hunter Biden was paid $1 million a year, and which House Republicans now allege solicited bribes to the Bidens in exchange for getting the Ukrainian prosecutor general replaced.

In an affidavit in a European court in 2019, former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin testified, “The truth is that I was forced out because I was leading a wide-ranging corruption probe into Burisma Holdings, a natural gas firm active in Ukraine and Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, was a member of the Board of Directors… On several occasions President Poroshenko asked me to have a look at the case against Burisma and consider the possibility of winding down the investigative actions in respect of this company but I refused to close this investigation.”

In a speech to the Ukrainian Rada (the legislature) on Dec. 9, 2015, just days after Devon Archer says Hunter Biden “called his dad” for help for Burisma from Washington, D.C.,  then Vice President Biden stated of Shokin and his office was “desperately [in need of] reform: “[I]t’s not enough to set up a new anti-corruption bureau and establish a special prosecutor fighting corruption. The Office of the General Prosecutor desperately needs reform. The judiciary should be overhauled. The energy sector needs to be competitive, ruled by market principles — not sweetheart deals.”

In the same breath that Biden was pressing Ukraine to overhaul Shokin’s office, he expressed concern and interest over Ukraine’s energy sector. Biden next added, ironically as it turns out, “It’s not enough to push through laws to increase transparency with regard to official sources of income. Senior elected officials have to remove all conflicts between their business interest and their government responsibilities.”

Afterward, on May 13, 2016, according to the Obama White House, Biden had a phone call with Poroshenko about the Prosecutor General’s office, officially welcoming the firing of Shokin: “The Vice President spoke today with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. The Vice President welcomed the appointment of a new Prosecutor General as an important first step to bringing much-needed reform to the Office of the Prosecutor General. The Vice President also commended legislative changes that will set up an independent Office of the Inspector General in the Office of the Prosecutor General and allow prosecutions to begin against Yanukovych-era officials. The Vice President informed President Poroshenko that the United States was prepared to move forward with the signing of the third $1 billion loan guarantee agreement, which will support continued progress on Ukrainian reforms‎. The leaders also condemned the continued aggression by combined Russian/separatist forces against Ukraine, and agreed on the critical importance of accelerating progress on Minsk implementation by all sides.”

In Jan. 2018, then Biden bragged to the Council on Foreign Relations about getting Shokin fired by threatening to withhold a $1.2 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan from then Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in March 2016.

According to Biden, “I said, ‘You’re not getting the billion.’ I’m going to be leaving here in, I think it was about six hours. I looked at them and said: ‘I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money.’… Well, son of a bitch, he got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time.”

And for simply asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky about it on July 25, 2019, the day the Mueller probe ended, Trump was impeached. Trump sought to have Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “look into” Biden in the phone call with Zelensky, with Trump telling Zelensky, “It sounds horrible to me.” Trump was acquitted on all charges.

Now, unsatisfied with the probes by former FBI Director James Comey, former Special Counsel Robert Mueller and two impeachments, Democratic prosecutors at the Justice Department have weaponized federal law enforcement against former President Donald Trump once again, now on classified documents and Jan. 6 related charges, even as Trump stands for reelection in 2024 against Biden.

Only the executive branch can prosecute American citizens in courts of law and under Article II of the Constitution, “[t]he executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.” The  buck stops there.

If the executive branch is prosecuting Trump, the President’s top political rival in the upcoming 2024 presidential election, then Biden is prosecuting Trump, his top political rival. Moreover, Biden has the power to stop the prosecutions, if he wished, whether by directing the Justice Department to stop interfering with the election or through pardons. He hasn’t.

Now, federal laws have delegated many of the President’s responsibilities to the Attorney General and the Justice Department, but it doesn’t change the context: Biden is ultimately responsible for prosecuting the frontrunner not just for the Republican nomination, but now the frontrunner in the 2024 election as Trump leads Biden in the latest national average of polls taken by RealClearPolitics.

Now, it would likely be difficult to prove that Biden directed Merrick Garland to get Trump, but it would be relatively easy to prove after the Durham report that anti-Trump bias has pervaded the Justice Department, leading to multitudes of investigations that ultimately, Biden is now responsible for. Indeed, Biden was aware of the surveillance of the Trump campaign and then transition while he was in office.

But nobody has yet opened the book on what the Obama-Biden White House knew about spying on the Trump campaign in 2016, except that we know of the Jan. 5, 2017 meeting between former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden, former FBI Director James Comey and former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates than was shown a now fully declassified letter former National Security Advisor Susan Rice wrote to herself on Jan. 20, 2017, memorializing the meeting.

Per Rice’s summary “On January 5, following a briefing by IC leadership on Russian hacking during the 2016 Presidential election, President Obama had a brief follow-on conversation with FBI Director Jim Comey and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates in the Oval Office.  Vice President Biden and I were also present.”

This was the Russian interference into the 2016 election briefing given a day before then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper issued the joint intelligence assessment on the same.

However, the version that was given to former President Barack Obama and then-President-Elect Trump on Jan. 5, 2017 included some of the allegations leveled by former British spy Christopher Steele’s dossier, paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, that Trump was a Russian agent.

The allegations were eventually debunked by none other than Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who in his 2019 report stated, “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” and “the evidence does not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference.”

After the core intel briefing on Jan. 5, 2017, in the conversation between Obama, Comey, Yates, Biden and Rice with Obama doing nothing to stop the investigation into the incoming administration: “President Obama began the conversation by stressing his continued commitment to ensuring that every aspect of this issue is handled by the Intelligence and law enforcement communities ‘by the book’.  The President stressed that he is not asking about, initiating or instructing anything from a law enforcement perspective.  He reiterated that our law enforcement team needs to proceed as it normally would by the book. From a national security perspective, however, President Obama said he wants to be sure that, as we engage with the incoming team, we are mindful to ascertain if there is any reason that we cannot share information fully as it relates to Russia.”

Indeed, by directing Comey to handle the investigation of Trump “by the book,” Obama was in essence authorizing the investigation — the entire executive branch was. Nobody quibbled according to the account, or questioned how unbelievably risky it was to conduct surveillance and criminal inquiries into the incoming President, thereby creating factions within the executive branch. This was no peaceful transfer of power.

The memo continued, with Comey noting that no classified information had been passed along to Kislyak: “Director Comey affirmed that he is proceeding ‘by the book’ as it relates to law enforcement. From a national security perspective, Comey said he does have some concerns that incoming NSA Flynn is speaking frequently with Russian Ambassador Kislyak. Comey said that could be an issue as it relates to sharing sensitive information. President obama asked if Comey was saying that the NSC should not pas sensitive information related to Russia to Flynn. Comey replied, ‘potentially.’ He added that he has no indication thus far that Flynn has passed classified information to Kislyak, but he noted that ‘the level of communication is unusual.’”

Afterward, somebody leaked the Flynn call to the Washington Post on Jan. 12, 2017, and then the FBI was sent to ask Flynn about it on Jan. 24, 2017 in a perjury trap. The rest, as they say, is history, leading swiftly to Flynn’s firing, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recusal, Comey’s firing and then the appointment of Mueller, all of which failed to depose, remove or otherwise disqualify Trump.

And so now the Biden administration and Justice Department including Special Counsel Jack Smith are out to finish the job. An interesting question might be why House Republicans including House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) have not expanded their impeachment inquiry to include this flagrant attempt to imprison a political opponent ahead of the upcoming 2024 election.

Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government Foundation.

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