Much worse?

The Ukraine is a US ally, and we don’t have any major disagreements with their government. And yet, Mitt Romney had this to say:

China is very different. The US regards China as our number one rival. They are seen as a threat. We worry about their spying, their attempts to subvert our political process. On top of everything else, we are currently engaged in a major trade war with China.

Just just imagine if Trump were to ask the Chinese to dig up dirt on his number one political rival!!

Umm, he just did. In public:

President Trump called for Ukraine and China to investigate his political rival, Joe Biden, doubling down on his efforts to push foreign countries to undertake probes that could benefit his re-election campaign.

If China wants a good trade deal, they’d better come up with some dirt on Biden.

But hey, I’m sure it’s fake news. They doctored the video and the audio. No doubt 60% of Republican voters will deny he said this.

Here’s my question for Romney. If doing this with Ukraine is “troubling in the extreme”, how would you characterize doing it with China?

(Watch the commenters who tell me that I don’t understand the China threat now tell me that it’s good when China tries to influence the outcome of our presidential elections—as long as it’s in Trump’s favor.)



19 Responses to “Much worse?”

  1. Gravatar of Lorenzo from Oz Lorenzo from Oz
    3. October 2019 at 16:07

    There’s a good chance we will be having these things happening right in front of us for the next 5 1/2 years. *Head hits desk*. It will be a very long 5 1/2 years.

    Just as long as we NEVER get to the stage when look back at the Donald Interregnum nostalgically …

  2. Gravatar of Scott H. Scott H.
    3. October 2019 at 16:09

    I think we can all agree that Trump’s mere existence is in bad taste. But impeached for requesting an investigation into suspicious activity?
    These are strange times.

  3. Gravatar of John Arthur John Arthur
    3. October 2019 at 16:14

    Oh my thats a lot of posts Scott! Long day, or were you struck with some creative brillance?

  4. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    3. October 2019 at 16:24

    Sumner, given Elizabeth Warren is the most likely next POTUS, how likely is it that the Chinese will win the trade war?

    Regardless, I prefer a focus on Trump’s other offensive rhetorical flourishes (AKA blatant lies).

  5. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    3. October 2019 at 17:23

    I enjoy the Trump antics.

    I suspect part of his problem is that he is a rank amateur, a dilettante.

    A President Hillary Clinton would have had an underling approach an intermediary who approached an underling of the president of Ukraine.

    A justifiable reason to impeach President Trump would be that he is too stupid to know the right way to do things.

    Lorenzo from Oz says we have another five years of Trump.

    I wonder about that, and then I see the Democratic offerings.

    Could the Keystone Cops outsmart Inspector Clouseau?

  6. Gravatar of Don Geddis Don Geddis
    3. October 2019 at 18:30

    @Scott H.: “But impeached for requesting an investigation into suspicious activity?

    Please try — just try! — to take your blinders off for a moment:
    1. There is no “suspicious activity”. Trump is making this “controversy” up.
    2. Even if there were, the proper investigating authorities would be the FBI, for illegal activities in the US. That would be where a relevant crime would have occurred.
    3. Even if there were foreign crimes, the problem is that Trump is leveraging the foreign policy of the US, in exchange for personal benefit for his campaign. That is the key to the impeachable nature of his action. He is using the power of the Presidency, not for the benefit of America, but instead for his personal benefit. You should think of it like a kind of embezzlement.

  7. Gravatar of Christian C. Christian C.
    3. October 2019 at 20:41

    Trump is normalizing the Ukraine call by doubling down with his chief rival. He’s telling the world that he doesn’t think what he did is illegal.

    The question is what constitutes proper executive action versus an illegal campaign contribution. This is the only way I can characterize these charges since there is absolutely nothing illegal about applying diplomatic pressure to have a corruption investigation opened.

    Certainly it’s anathema to the American underdog culture that a president should be allowed to turn the apparatus of state against his opponent (although it’s not without precedent, see IRS weaponization et al). But when it comes to impeachment, the only modern precedent we have for the line in the sand is conspiratorial breaking and entering, i.e. Watergate. If we are going to widen that net to illegal campaign contributions, then we are going to throw open the doors to all sorts of accusations of impropriety which no sane citizen could wrap their head around much less find unethical. I think it’s a much better idea to stick to actually crimes a private citizen could commit as the line in the sand versus obtuse ethical chicanery which is subject to all sorts of interpretations.

  8. Gravatar of P Burgos P Burgos
    4. October 2019 at 03:57

    You know, prof. Sumner should be in favor of this kind of thing. Doesn’t he want Trump to lose the trade war? Trump just gave them enormous leverage, as I would be surprised if they don’t already have fat dossiers on all prominent US politicians and their families. Granted, this only helps with the Trade War if Trump realizes he now has to accept what China wants if he is to get any deal at all.

  9. Gravatar of Bob Bob
    4. October 2019 at 05:38

    It is corrupt and (by definition) counter to American interests for any politician to request election help from a foreign country, whether it’s Russia, Ukraine, or China.

  10. Gravatar of Bob Bob
    4. October 2019 at 05:57

    5 1/2 more years would be a major problem. What’s overlooked is the damage to the agencies. Scary times.

  11. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    4. October 2019 at 07:51

    Scott, Are you being intentional disingenuous, or have you actually not been following this case and don’t know what’s going on here?

    John, The latter.

    Harding, Fairly likely. BTW, betting markets give her a 25% chance. (Which is admittedly pretty good, at this stage.)

    Christian, There’s a shell game going on here. If you want technical law violations, it’s easy to find them. Trump violated the law by not turning over his taxes to Congress. The law is crystal clear. Then they say “but that’s not an important law”. Ditto for obstruction of justice–not an important law. Trump obviously engaged in HIGHLY corrupt activity by withholding $400 million in aid to Ukraine to pressure a Biden investigation. That’s worse than Nixon. But then they say “but that’s not a technical law violation.” A shell game.

    It’s up to Congress to determine what’s an impeachable offense.

    BTW, these days the Feds have a pretty expansive view of what’s a crime. I’m not defending that, but let me give you an example. Michael Milken went to jail for years for the crime of giving people some free advice on stock purchases in exchange for useful information. The advice he gave would normally have been legal, but was viewed as illegal because he was such an expert on stocks that his opinions had monetary value. So that meant he was viewed as having “paid” for the information he received, even though no money was involved. With that sort of expansive view of the law, it would be easy to find dozens of Trump violations. I don’t favor that, I favor impeaching him for abuse of power, and have from almost the beginning of his administration.

    The following is regarding Boris Johnson, but it’s even more applicable to Trump:

    “In his two months in office Mr Johnson has made a habit of violating the norms on which the British system of government is based. Dan Hough of the Centre for the Study of Corruption at the University of Sussex likens the British system to cricket, where lots of rules are unwritten but respected nonetheless. Contrast that with football, where players feign fouls to gain control of the ball. Mr Johnson’s government is applying the logic of football to a system run more like cricket. Once such codes are breached, it can be nearly impossible to reinstate them, says Mr Hough. And the more often it happens, the less scandalous it appears.”

    Trump keeps doing this stuff so that his banana republic behavior will seem “normal”. If we don’t want it to happen here, at some point we need to put our foot down. Now’s as good a time as any. Unfortunately, it won’t happen and he’ll likely be re-elected.

    Burgos, For me, the trade war is less important that our system of government being corrupted. But yes, Trump is willing to trade away America’s interests for personal gain. He’d give in on the trade war if the Chinese gave him an exclusive concession for luxury hotels in Beijing and Shanghai.

  12. Gravatar of Don Geddis Don Geddis
    4. October 2019 at 07:57

    @Christian C.: “I think it’s a much better idea to stick to actually crimes a private citizen could commit as the line in the sand

    But your idea is unconstitutional, to create a new bar for impeachable actions. The US Constitution already explicitly covers this case, the question of what actions constitute impeachable offenses. The answer, from Article II Section 4, is: “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

    That phrase is not identical to your suggested phrase of “crimes a private citizen could commit”.

    (Especially since you are also apparently advocating ruling out “illegal campaign contributions” as an impeachable offense, despite the fact that it is clearly a “crime a private citizen could commit”. It seems to easily match the text of your suggestion, yet you don’t want it to be an impeachable offense. I also find it fascinating that you apparently think “illegal campaign contributions” are actions that “no sane citizen” would even find “unethical” — despite the fact that you already agree they are illegal!)

    Your argument appears to be incoherent and self-contradictory.

  13. Gravatar of foosion foosion
    4. October 2019 at 09:49

    No doubt 60% of Republican voters will deny he said this.

    Right on cue, Marco Rubio, “That’s not a real request”

    4. October 2019 at 11:33

    A great new podcast by Weinstein with Andrew Yang…

    Yang goes out of his way to say DeKrugman and his crowd will be NOWHERE NEAR ANY PART of his Admin or Fed – doesn’t even think they should have platform opine from.

    Sooner than later, Dems are going to realize with Biden gone, Yang is there beat chance vs Trump.

    Hope it’s not too late.

  15. Gravatar of bill bill
    4. October 2019 at 12:03

    Excellent post.
    Farmers in Iowa and manufacturers and all US consumers, all paying a price in a trade war, then we will now back down for an investigation of one person? (I’m not for the trade war at all, but for those who were, how can they not feel betrayed?)

  16. Gravatar of Christian C. Christian C.
    4. October 2019 at 13:21

    @ssumner: >Trump obviously engaged in HIGHLY corrupt activity by withholding $400 million in aid to Ukraine to pressure a Biden investigation. That’s worse than Nixon.

    I disagree. I don’t think it’s obvious that this occurred, and it is easily read as two separate, completely legitimate activities of executive power : (1) diplomatic relations and (2) furthering investigations of federal crimes. Remember, the president is charged with enforcing the law of the land as its chief executive.

    @Don Geddis
    >But your idea is unconstitutional, to create a new bar for impeachable actions.

    I am not creating a new bar; I’m pointing out that there is no bar. We have exactly one data point of case law and a questionable one at that since Nixon was not convicted at Senate trial. There is not a voluminous code of laws and guidelines to determine the procedural application of the Impeachment Clause as there would be in a federal court. Quite obviously, its infrequent invocation would suggest that the bar for such ‘high crimes’ must be extremely high.

    Where you want to set the bar is one of personal judgment, I suppose, but you’d better make sure that you’re prepared to have the same law applied to “your guy” when he or she is elected. Politicians have been engaging in diplomatic horsetrading with fringe benefits since the profession came about, and no doubt every last sitting president could be convicted at bar for the same activity should you do enough digging. And I certainly don’t think it can be equated with the much more straighforward crime of breaking and entering.

  17. Gravatar of Don Geddis Don Geddis
    4. October 2019 at 17:08

    @Christian C.: “I am not creating a new bar; I’m pointing out that there is no bar.

    False. You in fact were more specific. You suggested that the new bar should be “to stick to actually crimes a private citizen could commit”. Although then of course you immediately violated your own suggestion by proposing that “illegal campaign contributions” don’t count. Apparently, you now favor an even more limited new bar of only “straightforward crime”, although of course you haven’t bothered to actually define that term.

    In any case, your attempt to equate impeachment criteria with criminal law has long been rejected. You can find references, for example, in wikipedia: “The notion that only criminal conduct can constitute sufficient grounds for impeachment does not comport with either the views of the founders or with historical practice. … impeachable offenses need not be limited to criminal conduct.

    We have exactly one data point of case law

    False. The United States House of Representatives has investigated impeachment of a US President at least six times before Trump: Clinton, Johnson, Nixon, Bush, Buchanan, Tyler.

  18. Gravatar of Mike Sandifer Mike Sandifer
    4. October 2019 at 21:00

    I consider any felony committed by a President to be a “high crime”. Trump has openly, publicly incriminated himself with respect to multiple felonies, including obstruction of justice and multiple counts of soliciting political aid from foreign governments. He also was an unindicted co-conspirator in the Michael Cohen prosecution. He’s guilty of a felony there as well. He’s also in violation of numerous ethics rules and laws, in addition to the emoluments clause of the Constitution. And that’s only the beginning.

  19. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    5. October 2019 at 09:32

    foosion, That Rubio comment was hilarious. The GOP is like chickens running around with their heads cut off. They don’t know what to say.

    Christian, You said:

    “I disagree. I don’t think it’s obvious that this occurred,”

    I’m not going to waste any more time talking to ostriches. It did occur.

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