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Bill Straub: Where is the line drawn on reprehensible conduct? After Sondland testimony, where is honor?


It’s kind of like the old joke, “Well, besides that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?”

For many Republicans, and every single Trumpster, it would seem, the question becomes, “Well, besides the obvious evidence that the president committed impeachable acts, made a shambles of the nation’s foreign policy as a result and sought to coerce the president of Ukraine into investigating a political rival, how do you like MAGA?”

Most, if not all, would undoubtedly respond, “Just fine, thank you,” and blithely continue their unquestioning support for an unctuous con man who sadly continues to lead this nation into a moral abyss, cheering every lie, insult and attack on the Constitution.

There now can be little doubt that President Donald J. Trump, aka President Extremely Stable Genius, aka President Great and Unmatched Wisdom, forced the new president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky into publicly declaring his nation was initiating an investigation into the activities of former Vice President Joseph Biden, one of several Democrats seeking their party’s presidential nomination to oppose Trump in 2020.

Trump, according to testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, apparently withheld $400 million in congressionally-approved aid unless Zelensky, facing a fierce threat from neighboring Russia, a well-known belligerent, complied with this “favor.” He sweetened the pot by agreeing to a meeting in the Oval Office.

The plot was fully exposed on Thursday when Gordan Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to NATO, told the committee the president would only agree to a meeting with Zelensky if he launched an investigation into Biden and his son, Hunter, who served on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company.

“I know that members of this committee have frequently framed these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a ‘quid pro quo?’” Sondland said. “With regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.”

Sondland, echoing other officials who offered testimony before him, also said he believes Trump held back the $400 million in security assistance for Ukraine, appropriated as a hedge against Russian incursion.

“In the absence of any credible explanation for the hold, I came to the conclusion that the aid, like the White House visit, was jeopardized,” Sondland said. “My belief was that if Ukraine did something to demonstrate a serious intention then the hold on military aid would be lifted.”

Now, in normal times, under normal circumstances, such reprehensible conduct would result in impeachment and, ultimately, expulsion of the man who holds down the most important position on the globe. Any president who shanghais foreign policy for his own benefit by essentially blackmailing a weaker nation into undertaking a phony investigation into a political foe is precisely the sort of wanton act the nation’s founders had in mind when they established the impeachment process.

Thus, the question becomes if you’re not going to dump Trump for violating any and all standards of conduct, both foreign and domestic, what can he possibly do to earn the heave-ho?

Well, it’s beginning to look like Trump was quite prescient when he declared during his successful 2016 campaign, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” That bold statement apparently can be extended to the Republican members of the Senate, who have exhibited absolutely no enthusiasm for convicting and removing a president who has transformed the White House into a mob hangout.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch “Root-‘n-Branch” McConnell, who has eagerly accepted the task of cleaning up after whatever mess, no matter how disgusting, Trump has made for him, is on record as saying it is “inconceivable” that the Republican-controlled chamber will come up with the votes necessary to hand ol’ Extremely Stable Genius his walking papers.

“I can’t imagine a scenario under which President Trump would be removed from office with 67 votes in the Senate,” McConnell said during a stop in Louisville on Monday.

McConnell, you’ll recall, has a history with impeachment, voting to convict President Bill Clinton in 1999 for lying under oath about a sexual affair with a White House intern. That effort fell short of the requisite number of votes to remove Clinton from office.

By any standard, Clinton’s gross and dishonest behavior falls significantly short of Trump’s overt conduct, done for political gain and raising understandable questions about the intentions of the United States in the eyes of the rest of the world.

But McConnell is seeking re-election in a Trump-crazy state in 2020 – The Donald carried the commonwealth by almost 33 points against Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016 and remains popular throughout – and has offered assurances that President Great and Unmatched Wisdom will continue to drive the nation off the rails if he has anything to say about it.

“The way that impeachment stops is a Senate majority with me as majority leader,” McConnell said in a web ad. Ol’ Root-‘n-Branch also introduced a resolution with Sen. Lindsey Graham criticizing the House’s impeachment proceedings.

Back in September, with much of the evidence against Trump already public, McConnell scoffed that it was “laughable to think this is anywhere close to an impeachable offense.”

“If this is the ‘launching point’ for House Democrats’ impeachment process, they’ve already overplayed their hand,” he said.

McConnell was whistling a different tune in 1999. In a transcript of a closed-door hearing held on Feb. 12, 1999, obtained and published by CNN, McConnell accused Clinton of blazing a “path of lies and lawlessness” to retain the presidency.

“He took an oath to faithfully execute the laws of this nation, and he violated that oath,” McConnell said. “He pledged to be the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, and he violated that pledge. He took an oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and he willfully and repeatedly violated that oath.”

“I think that the United States Senate has a clear choice,” McConnell said at the time. “Do we want to retain President Clinton in office, or do we want to retain our honor, our principle, and our moral authority? “For me, and for many members in my impeachment-fatigued party, I choose honor.”

“I choose honor.” That must be the most ludicrously laughable string of words ol’ Mitch has ever uttered. Who knew our boy was such a comedian? It’s like Belle Brezing offering a lecture on the benefits of chastity. Obviously, as he has demonstrated throughout his godawful tenure as Senate majority leader, ol’ Mitch doesn’t have a clue about anything having to do with honor, principle or moral authority. The only thing he knows is placing party above country.

In McConnell’s view, Trump has “done nothing wrong.” Clinton lied about a tryst. That was impeachable. Trump withheld funds approved by Congress and refused to meet the president of Ukraine unless he publicly declared that the nation was undertaking a bogus investigation into a political rival. He then lied about it, and almost everything else under the sun, constantly. That’s not impeachable.

Honor. That word should never be allowed to slip out of the pursed lips of Addison Mitchell McConnell.

The NKyTribune’s Washington columnist Bill Straub served 11 years as the Frankfort Bureau chief for The Kentucky Post. He also is the former White House/political correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service. A member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, he currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, and writes frequently about the federal government and politics. Email him at williamgstraub@gmail.com.


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8 Comments

  1. Ellyn says:

    Where’s the “honor” , “conduct” ??? HAHAHAHAHA You’re the one that uses 7th grader insults and below the waist jabs against other adults that don’t fit your communist political ideology.
    Typical liberal hypocrite. Nearly everything a liberal says or does is usually hypocritical to a T.

  2. Marv Dunn says:

    I’m just a bit sorry that the House chose only to use the Ukraine situation to bring the impeachment charges against the President. He should be impeached for just lying. I think the House, nevertheless, will impeach him. The question is: Can Moscow Mitch hold the Senate Republicans together long enough to convict?

  3. Drew Fremler says:

    I know communists like yourself Bill Straub, love to see politicians get super wealthy and average americans get more poor,
    BUT the only reason this fake impeachment is happening is because Donald Trump is exposing how politicians have been money laundering our taxpayer dollars called “Foreign Aide” and “Military Aid” back to themselves thru family, friends, and corporate donations. Ukraine is only the beginning. JOE BIDEN’S SON MAKING $50K PER MONTH AT A UKRAINE JOB HE HAD ZERO PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE IN. COME ON. GIVE THAT SOME AIR TIME WHY DONT YOU.
    That is how and why big name politicians buy those 2-3 $10mil homes and sit comfortably in the 1% of America. Bernie Sanders is a 1%er. He owns like 3 homes and they cheat on taxes. That’s your poster boy. Give him a ounce of more power and he’ll have 5 more homes and a life of luxury while preaching that the upper middle class that lives on the edge of financial disaster providing for their families and taking on huge debt while pumping the economy along, should forgo that extra money they have to take their kids to Disney land every other year. Get real.
    Trump has a solid chance at re-election. but in either event he loses or gets in and doesn’t have to worry about getting re-elected, I pray he exposes all of it. Flip the system upside down and take the ENTIRE curtain off the swamp so the public can see.

  4. Roger Auge II says:

    What disgusting, mindless, attacks on Bill Straub. Straub correctly writes of dishonor on the rethuglican side. Swallow it rethugs.

    • Freddy dressman says:

      Roger, your Facebook posts clearly show your professionalism, ya communist hack. I’ll pay for your plane ticket to North Korea or Venezuela, that fits ur idea of paradise. All power to the government! Works out great every single time!

  5. Philemon Charles says:

    We can certainly agree on a lack of honor in Washington D.C.

    Sondland said there was a quid pro quo and everyone knew about it. Yet when faced with even mild questioning, Sondland’s story fell apart, the climax of which was when asked by Rep. Turner if anybody on earth had told him that aid was being withheld. His answer was no.

    Every other witness offered presumptions and assumptions and opinions. And it was assumptions and presumptions and opinions that started this entire impeachment proceeding. But there hasn’t been a shred of direct evidence that Trump ordered a withholding of aid in exchange for anything.

    If assumptions and opinions and presumptions are the standard for incontrovertible evidence, then we should all watch out.

    Here are some other quotes from the time of Clinton’s impeachment:

    “Even if the President should be impeached, history is going to question whether or not this was just a partisan lynching or whether or not it was something that in fact met the standard, the very high bar, that was set by the founders as to what constituted an impeachable offense,” – Joe Biden, 1998

    Is this the standard for that very high bar? A bunch of assumptions and opinions from self-professed opponents of the president’s foreign policy?

    “Today the Republican majority is not judging the president with fairness but impeaching him with a vengeance. In the investigation of the president, fundamental principles which Americans hold dear—privacy, fairness, checks and balances—have been seriously violated.” -Nancy Pelosi, 1998

    Vengeance? Check. And what “checks and balances” are enshrined by closed-door hearings in the basement with selective leaks to the media?

    If you’re going to hold McConnell to the 1998 standard, you have to hold the Democrats to that same standard. If you’ve concluded that McConnell had no honor then in impeaching a president because they were unhappy that he won an election, then you must admit that Pelosi, Schiff and co. today have no honor for the same reason.

    Even if we were to admit that the president conditioned aid on the meeting or the speech or the investigations, it seems strange that the aid was released without any of those things happening. Did he do it because “he got caught?”

    Even if he did, can you prove it with evidence beyond a reasonable doubt? Based on this week’s testimony, no. The only actual evidence that Sondland could provide, that wasn’t a presumption, was the conversations that he had with the president. Those conversations include him asking the president, “What do you want from Ukraine?” and the president’s response, “I want nothing from Ukraine.”

  6. Adam Watts says:

    Mr. Straub’s letter is correct about honor. We see a lack of honor with Sen. McConnel when he turns a blind eye now to much, much worse abuses of power and dishonesty then we saw with Pres. Clinton. I read these comments and it is clear we do not have an educated and informed electorate in this State. To call Mr. Straub a communist, is ignorant. In fact, his voice would be silenced in a Communist country because in true Communist countries, the voice of the people and any dissent is silenced. A Communist would say things like “The Press is the Enemy” and would do things like take away press passes from people he disagrees with.

    Phil, your assertion that there isn’t a shred of direct evidence that the money was withheld in exchange for aid is not correct. Mick Mulvaney made it very clear in his direct statements that money was withheld. “We do this all the time. Get over it.” That is direct evidence. The President also said on the transcript, “I need you to do me a favor.” That is direct evidence. When you combine it with the testimony of everyone else’s “opinion” the money was withheld at the direction of the POTUS, for the personal benefit of POTUS, you have a high crime.

    As for the honorable part, the people that spoke out (Lt Col Vindman, Amb. Sundland, Amb Taylor, and Amb Kent) these were people appointed by Trump. In the most striking example, Sundland gave the President $1,000,000 and then testified AGAINST him. Think about that…That is what honor is, putting others before yourself. Sundland essentially flushed $1,000,000+ away, because he did the right thing. We need more patriots like Sundland.

  7. Steve says:

    Clinton lied about a tryst ? Is that why he was found guilty on 8 felonies, lost his law license, and had to pay Paula Jones. Where is all the outrage of the sexual assaults from the former predator in Chief ? As far as Trump, I thought the Dems were concerned about Quid Pro Quo ? Who is on tape stating , “Fire the prosecutor investigating my son or your not getting the Billion Dollars of US taxpayer money ! You got 6 hours “. How is the Clinton foundation doing these days since your heroes cant peddle their power ? Nice donation from Putin for selling then our Uranium Hillary.. You liberals are something else !

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