Untitled, Oil on Canvas, 24” x 30”, Richard J Van Wagoner, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust**
The GOP’s no harm/no foul defense to impeachment is nonsense for six primary reasons.
First, while it is becoming clear that Mr. Trump held up and conditioned the release of congressionally mandated military aid for a personal political favor, Russian aggression continued in Ukraine. People died.
Second, Congress deemed the purpose behind providing Ukraine military assistance in its resistance to Russian aggression in the national security interests of the United States. Accordingly, the delay by withholding and attempting to condition such aid in definance of congressional findings and mandate placed the national security interests of United States at risk.
Third, Mr. Trump’s alleged abuses of power advanced hostile foreign powers’ goals to undermine the credibility of the United States electoral system and create public discord, unrest and uncertainty.
Fourth, withholding promised and appropriated military aid on condition of announcing an investigation of Mr. Trump’s political rival continued to undermine United States’ credibility with allies throughout the world.
Fifth, conditioning congressionally approved military aid on a personal, political favor rendered the United States corrupt, a country whose leadership willingly thwarts democratic principles for personal/political gain.
Sixth, an attempt or conspiracy to commit a crime against the United States is its own crime — for valid reasons. Legislatures, including the United States House and Senate, uniformly criminalize attempts and conspiracies to commit crimes, regardless of whether the underlying crime is complete. They do so because the evil intent and steps toward completion of the crime are inherently harmful to the rule of law and an ordered society. And, the perpetrator must be held to account for many reasons, including as personal and public deterrent to future crimes.
One can be convicted of attempt or conspiracy without being convicted of the underlying crime. The crime of attempt or conspiracy to bribe/extort a foreign power for personal political gain would be an unprecedented abuse of power designed to undermine the sovereignty of the United States. Having explicitly used “bribery” in the Impeachment Clause tells us something about what the Founders may have had in mind. If Trump was found out before the bomb detonated, the plane crashed, the building burned to the ground, the bank vaults emptied, the snitch (whistleblower) was murdered execution style, or this foreign power successfully influenced the outcome of the United States presidential election by caving to Mr. Trump’s extortive threats and offers of bribes, thankfully some of the harm would be thwarted. Getting caught in the nick of time does not, however, minimize the punishable criminal intent and abuse of power, the seriousness of the conduct, and the dire urgency of removing someone hell-bent on rigging the election in his favor from any stewardship or position of trust or influence over the United States.
Parenthetically, while the Southern District of New York’s broader investigation of campaign finance violations and shadow diplomacy continues, please note that partners in crime typically have the goods on each other. Statistically, the higher the number of people who are exposed to potential criminal conviction, the more likely one or more is to turn. Mr. Trump, along with his defenders in the House and Senate, may attempt to distance him from those with their fingerprints all over the shadow diplomacy and attempts to violate campaign finance laws. Anyone with criminal exposure who is facing a loss of liberty is a prime candidate for turning against others, including other members of an alleged conspiracy. Often, one’s loyalty to others — Michael “I’d-take-a-Bullet-for-Trump” Cohen, for example — falls flaccid in the face of a realistic loss of liberty.
How will that go for Pompeo, Barr, Giuliani, Mulvaney, Sondland, Igor and Lev? Lev, shunned by Mr. Trump, already announced his disapproval and willingness to be of service in the House impeachment inquiry.
*My brother the very talented fiction writer and novelist, Robert Hodgson Van Wagoner, deserves considerable credit for offering both substantive and technical suggestions to https://medium.com/@richardvanwagoner and https://lastamendment.com
**Richard’s list of honors, awards and professional associations is extensive. He was Professor Emeritus (Painting and Drawing), Weber State University, having served three Appointments as Chair of the Department of Visual Arts there. He guest-lectured and instructed at many universities and juried numerous shows and exhibitions. He was invited to submit his work as part of many shows and exhibitions, and his work was exhibited in a number of traveling shows domestically and internationally. My daughter Angela Moore, a professional photographer, photographed more than 500 pieces of my father’s work. On behalf of the Van Wagoner Family Trust, she is in the process of compiling a collection of his art work. The photographs of my father’s art reproduced in https://medium.com/@richardvanwagoner and https://lastamendment.com are hers