The hearings so far and the triumphant note in the Democrat's pronouncements (or feeling) that after the Gordon Sondland, Fiona Hill, David Holmes and other very damning testimonies that they have the impeachment virtually sealed requires a rethink on their part and everyone connected with these hearings. The White House has claimed all along that it was nothing but a witch-hunt coming on the heels of the Mueller investigation on Russian implied support for the Trump campaign. After the amount of noise made an impeachable offence does not appear to have been established. Lawyers would contend that a beleaguered President was merely covering his flank from a potential threat. The fact that a quid pro quo has been established through the testimonies would at best be construed as an error of judgment or misdemeanor. Neither of these could lead to impeachment because so many other facts that may not have surfaced about the actualities.
For example it has come to light that in 2016, and with the support of other world leaders, Joe Biden threatened to withhold $1 billion of U.S. aid unless Ukraine's leaders fired the country's top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, for being too soft on corruption. However, before Shokin was fired, he had been conducting an investigation of Burisma, and Hunter Biden allegedly was a subject. Of course various constructions can be put on it. There is no doubt though that Hunter Biden was deeply involved with Burisma Holdings. Hence the Russian connection cannot be ignored. Russia's state-owned energy company Gazprom has officially offered Ukraine's Naftogaz a one-year deal to continue the transit of Russian gas through Ukraine on its way to Europe. The offer signals a potential weakening of the US-backed Ukrainian government's bargaining position. The current agreement between Naftogaz and Gazprom is set to expire at the end of the year, and without a new deal in place both Ukraine and Europe could experience significant disruptions to gas supplies as cold winter temperatures set in. With Russia's offer on the table, the Ukrainian oligarchy must now choose to either end its legal disputes with Gazprom and move forward with the limited one-year deal, or risk throwing Europe into an energy crisis that could erode Kiev's support in Paris and Berlin. Any further reduction in gas flowing through the country to Europe would both materially and politically weaken the country. The Ukrainian state relies on gas-transit fees to fund its crippled economy and uses its status as a major transporter to gain political support from Germany and France in its confrontation with Moscow.
Before further complexities come into the investigations and these lead to larger investigations into the Russia connection both the Democrats and Republicans have to sit back and consider whether they would like to spend the time till the winter recess along these lines when chances of watertight impeachable evidence for impeaching a sitting president is not likely to result, certainly not likely to pass through the Senate as things stand. The same applies to the media.
They should all consider the effect of further dragging out a process that all concerned at this point in time would readily concede has slim chance in it resulting in impeachment. Then why the continuing of the drama with costs involved to the exchequer and putting on hold so many other legislative matters for weeks and months to come.
The Democrats believe that while impeachment would not go through they would have exposed the president for the type of leadership he is providing. Here again the public that is already polarized along well-defined lines would get further polarized. Would that be in the interest of the Democrats who had hoped to make a dent in the president's rating? They would know that while some may have second thoughts his support base could also harden. There are other consequences to be considered. In the coming weeks and months the president has to make important foreign policy decisions that are likely to have a major impact on the US and the world. These are well-known and are not required to be spelled out in this short paper. Not only could the opponent's of the US take advantage of the president's humiliation, it could impair his negotiating position. These are grave consequences that go beyond partisan considerations. The spectacle that the world is hugely enjoying must cease.
It is not in the national interest of the US or that of several friends and allies to see the Democrats losing ground on a failed impeachment in the 2020 presidential election. They should call an adjournment or a break to re-assess. The testimonies of the seasoned state department diplomats while satisfyingly spectacular for the public are insufficient to say the least. When the hearings are over irrespective of how they play out lawyers and experts will scrutinize these very carefully. The first aspect that would strike them would be that beside Ambassador Gordon Sondland the other diplomats testifying might subconsciously have developed a bias against the president on account of his rudeness and habit of removing them from their posts without cause. While their highest standards of professionalism would have allowed them to uphold their charge with the distinction that had become the hallmark of the state department diplomats around the world, personal insults do rankle. Although it did not sway their testimony the manner in which certain aspects were reinforced with their own opinions on the subject did not always smack of total objectivity to a neutral bystander. Briefly:
- When questioned as to how the delay in handing over the military supplies would affect Ukraine and the US they steadfastly and strongly opined that it would encourage Russia to take advantage. The background was that these had not been made available by the Obama Administration till after the Minsk Agreements. It was the Trump administration that had provided the lethal equipment including the Javelin anti tank missiles asked for. In the short period that elapsed in the decision to release the arms while skirmishes by both sides continued on the ceasefire line the chances of Russians sending armoured columns to further expand their territory was uncalled for speculation. Each one of them highlighted this aspect in turn to play on the audience's fears. A detailed analysis by Pentagon experts might not have led to the same conclusion;
- From the above all of them seemed to have brought out again and again that it impinged on the national security of the USA. Again too far-fetched. They should have been asked to spell out as to how they had come to this conclusion based on the delay in the supply of arms and also as to how the interest of the US in continental United States could have been directly threatened. For the listeners the testimony did appear to be alarming.
Last but not least the Democrats made a mistake by not thoroughly examining in-house closed- door sittings on former Vice-President Jo Biden's and his son's involvement: how long had it been going on; sums received; could father and son be compromised were the Ukrainians to go ahead with a full-fledged investigation to keep the findings classified for a rainy day or at the urging of President Trump. It is not inconceivable that whether the testimony were to clearly bring it out or not the US President could turn around to say that the truth at this stage would only harm the prospects of Mr. Biden's presidential ambitions, whereas damning material coming out later might turn out to be even more sinister. Its exposure could irretrievably lead to damage the US or its relations with Ukraine. The Democrats should have similar concerns. Under the circumstances for the sake of abundant caution Nancy Pelosi might like to go in for a strategic pause.