US hearings leading nowhere

The Australian Editorial
Monday November 25 2019

Donald Trump’s combative insistence in a Fox News interview that he “wants” to be tried for impeachment in the US Senate is no surprise. After the conclusion, for now, of public hearings by the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives intelligence committee, his confidence is high. The hearings have seen antagonistic diplomats presenting as non-partisan but clearly nursing grudges against Mr Trump and hyperventilating by the Democrats, cheered on by a largely partisan US media that has treated the event as an anti-Trump blood sport. Yet for all that, no “high crime and misdemeanour” has emerged, as demanded by the constitution, to justify short-circuiting the President.

While Mr Trump is open to criticism for appearing to have sought to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rival Joe Biden and son Hunter that does not mean he committed an impeachable offence.

Neither does it mean the process, after being waved through the Democrat-controlled house, as it will be, is destined for anything but failure in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Holding presidents to account is one of the gravest issues in the US system. Bill Clinton committed a crime by lying under oath (Ed - on a sex-related issue). Democrats then said that was not impeachable. Richard Nixon resigned when recordings revealed he had obstructed justice by ordering a cover-up of the Watergate break-in (Ed - to spy on the Democrat Party's plans by using wiretaps and stolen documents).

Mr Trump asked a foreign government to investigate Mr Biden for corruption but the probe never happened. He allegedly threatened to withhold $US400m in military aid. That didn’t happen, either.

A US president’s foreign policy should not be part of impeachment discussions.

No witness has testified that Mr Trump did anything impeachable. No one, for example, heard him first-hand order a quid pro quo in which Kiev would dig up dirt on the Bidens in exchange for aid. Ambassador Gordon Sondland said he was told specifically by the President that he wanted no quid pro quo. That was lost in the biased coverage. Democrats may yet regret following the impeachment route.

** End of Editorial