Collusion? — The House Should Act to Clear the Air
I don’t always agree with Charles Krauthammer. Over the years, however, I’ve come to respect the fact that he strives to reason with integrity. Therefore, when I disagree with him I’m literally driven to rethink my own understanding. I use the word (“rethink”) literally. I go over the thinking that led me to take a different view of things, comparing it to the logic of his position. Is his understanding of the facts better informed than mine? Does he look at things from a perspective that takes account of some line of reasoning I missed, some aspect of the situation I overlooked or failed to weigh accurately?
Or is it a matter of principle, i.e., a difference with respect to the fundamental priorities, precepts, rules or other necessary assumptions that must be consistently taken into account? With all this in mind, I pondered his commentary on the emails Donald Trump, Jr. recently released about his June 2016 meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a person described in the emails as “’a Russian government attorney’ possessing damaging information on Hillary Clinton.” Before seeing the emails, Mr. Krauthammer remained unconvinced that charges of Trump team “collusion” had any merit. After reading them, he writes
The evidence is shown. This is not hearsay, not fake news, not unsourced leaks. This is an email chain released by Donald Trump Jr. himself. A British go-between writes that there’s a Russian government effort to help Trump Sr. win election, and as part of that effort he proposes a meeting with a “Russian government attorney” possessing damaging information on Hillary Clinton….Donald Jr. emails back. “I love it.” Fatal words. Once you’ve said, “I’m in,” it makes no difference that the meeting was a bust, that the intermediary brought no such goods. What matters is what Donald Jr. thought going into the meeting, as well as Jared Kushner and then-campaign manager Paul Manafort, who were forwarded the correspondence, invited to the meeting, and attended.
Is Mr. Krauthammer right to say that “it makes no difference” whether the promised information changed hands at the meeting? If the exchange involved, say, a promise to pass on stolen gems, which turned out to be false, the absence of the stolen goods would certainly make it difficult to show that any criminal exchange occurred. To be sure, Trump, Jr.’s “I love it” is evidence that the promised information would probably have been eagerly received. But the fact that someone has a strong motive for murder, for example, makes no difference if the purported victim turns up alive.
The mixed metaphor is entirely intentional. Though supposedly incriminating vapors clog the air, how can there be more than smoke and mirrors if the intended criminal act never took place? At present, wouldn’t it be correct to conclude that the only victim of the meeting, as it actually transpired, is the Trump Administration’s focus. In their efforts to dispel the vapors, they keep smacking themselves about the head and neck, or else tripping over their own feet to avoid blows that have no punch, if there was in fact no crime.
But before we dismiss their frenzy with a friendly admonition to “take a beat, and breathe deeply”, we need to consider the body politic. Like the ultimate source of its authority, the body politic remains
invisible, except in its effects. It effects appear mainly in the results of elections, which occur periodically, at various levels of government in our society. They determine which individuals are authorized to act for the body once it dissolves, again, into a plethora of individuals. The information on which those elections turn may adversely affect the body politic, especially if it strengthens forces adverse to its existence.
Relations between the United States and Russia are still heavily seasoned with competition, with distinctly adversarial highlights coming to the fore in certain parts of the world. Candidate Donald Trump made clear his intention to lighten things up, moving the US-Russia experience toward a more harmonious palette of flavors. However, the impression that the Trump team was willing, perhaps even eager, to be beholden to the Russian government for political help (especially in an unpublicized, and therefore politically blackmailable fashion) prejudices the environment of public opinion. That makes it more difficult to achieve a favorable political environment for improving US-Russian cooperation.
This allows adversaries of President Trump’s policy goal to exploit the impression that he pursues it on account of improper Russian influence, rather than America’s national interest. The charges of Trump team “collusion” with Russia involve damage to our nation’s capacity for independent action. But independence is an essential aspect of our sovereignty as a people. So, at the Presidential level, charges of collusion involve a blow struck directly against our body politic. They foment distrust of the elected official most vital to our national security. The damage this involves persists, and may worsen, unless and until the air is authoritatively cleared of these allegations.
When will our representatives in the people’s House of Congress realize that they are Constitutionally responsible for achieving this clarification? When will they realize that the impeachment process is precisely intended to achieve this result. In President Trump’s case, less evidence exists of any offense than was the case for President Clinton’s trial. So why is it rational to assume that the impeachment process will result in anything but a dismissal of all charges (i.e., a House resolution that finds insufficient evidence for trial of any impeachable offense.) Impeachment is not simply about charging a President with crimes. It’s also about taking decisive action, systematically and visibly to examine the charges; judge their merits of lack thereof; and formally publicize the House’s judgment, in an authoritative fashion, timed to allow the body politic to take it into account at election time.
So, House Republicans should not neglect or cater to partisan Democrat calls for impeachment. They should take charge of the process of dealing with the accusations that give rise to them, as the Constitution requires. This is their obligation of fairness to the President. It is their challenge as citizens of the United States. It is their office as Representatives of the body politic, vested with the Constitutional power to act. They are oath bound properly to exercise that power, to preserve the functional integrity of our Constitutional self-government. Before the nation is swept up in the frankly partisan frenzy that precedes mid-term elections, they should do their duty. Examine and dismiss the charges; or else, pass on to the US Senate any they deem to warrant trial. Clear the air, so that our nation can get passed the incessant barrage of factious teapot tempests, and focus on matters truly vital to our common good.
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