Why I can’t get excited about impeaching Trump
This doomed effort won’t even make for good TV.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has begun an impeachment inquiry into President Trump for asking Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter. I get that there is a strong desire for many Americans to be rid of what they see as the national nightmare of Trump’s presidency. But I urge caution for several reasons.
First, this impeachment inquiry will not succeed in getting rid of Trump. To win, a supermajority of the Senate must vote for impeachment. This will not happen. Even if the inquiry clearly shows that Trump withheld military aid to pressure President Zelensky to give him dirt on Joe and Hunter, the inquiry will also expose the sleaziness of the Bidens.
After the successful overthrow of the elected Ukrainian government in 2014, Hunter Biden was paid $50,000 a month to sit on the board of Ukraine’s biggest gas producer, Burisma Holdings. While this shady deal might not provide a legal defense to Trump, an impeachment inquiry is political, not criminal, and the behavior of the Bidens will at least muddy the waters enough to assure that Trump will survive impeachment.
Second, the mere fact that our corporate-controlled Congress is willing to take up the impeachment inquiry guarantees that it will produce no major reforms to better the lives of most Americans. Keep in mind that our national politics is dominated by two political parties that are beholden to the interests of big-money donors. Sure, there are a few members of Congress who don’t rely on big donors, but they are the exception, and they do not control the agenda of their parties. Thus, rest assured that the big donors to Congress—big pharma, fossil fuel extractors, Wall Street, weapons manufacturers, agribusiness, big insurance, and for-profit health care—approve of its spending six months debating impeachment. Big business believes this impeachment inquiry will not threaten corporate profits or its ability to continue exerting control over government policy.
A dozen years ago, Speaker Pelosi rejected calls to begin an impeachment inquiry against President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for lying us into the war in Iraq. The evidence there was clear and unambiguous. Bush and Cheney told the American people that there was “no doubt” that Iraqi president Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. In fact, as the Bush team knew, the evidence of Saddam’s WMDs was highly dubious. It was based on the word of a paid informant named Curveball, and on a crudely forged invoice purporting to show Saddam buying uranium from Africa. Both Curveball and the invoice were exposed as frauds, but Bush and Cheney continued lying to sell the war.
Bush’s lies resulted in the deaths of at least a million innocent people, the destruction of a country, and the creation of ISIS. He and Cheney committed monstrous crimes, similar to crimes resulting in the execution of German generals at Nuremberg after World War II. Why then did Speaker Pelosi announce in 2006 that impeachment was “off the table” for Bush? Because the big corporate donors didn’t want impeachment hearings over the Iraq war. Rather, the arms manufacturers, fossil fuel extractors, and other war profiteers want our presidents to be free to lie us into wars without any negative repercussions for the president, such as criminal penalties or impeachment.
The third reason I can’t get excited about impeachment hearings is that they won’t even be good entertainment. Back in October 1998, when Congress launched impeachment hearings against Bill Clinton relating to sex with an intern—another issue that was not in any way threatening to corporate profits—there were at least sordid details about a cigar and a stained dress that made it worthwhile turning on the TV.
To be sure, there are sordid details to the Ukraine story that could be exposed. After the U.S.-backed coup that overthrew the sovereign government, not only did Hunter Biden get a seat on the gas company board, but agricultural giant Monsanto got a big contract in Ukraine. Just last month, Trump’s special envoy for Ukraine negotiations, Kurt Volker, was forced to resign after it came out that he was advocating sending lethal tank-busting Javelin missiles, manufactured by Raytheon Co., to Ukraine, while Volker also worked for a lobbying firm and a think tank with financial ties to Raytheon.
These revelations about Ukraine could help expose the deep-seated and longstanding corruption of U.S. foreign policy, which includes overthrowing elected governments to serve the interests of corporations that then support the campaigns of lawmakers and presidents, producing the endless cycle of wars that are bankrupting our nation and accelerating the destruction of the planet. But this part of the Ukraine story would be very threatening to corporate profits. So don’t expect to hear much about it during the coming months of impeachment inquiries.
Leonard C. Goodman is a Chicago criminal defense attorney and co-owner of the newly independent Reader.