In January 1972, John Dean, White House Counsel to President Richard Nixon, met with Attorney General John Mitchell and others to hear a plan proposed by G. Gordon Liddy for intelligence-gathering for Nixon’s re-election campaign. After the plan met with resistance, Liddy scaled it back and Mitchell approved a scheme that called for a break-in of Democratic Headquarters in the Watergate complex in Washington.
In his book, “Blind Ambition,” Dean describes how, in March of 1973, Nixon asked him to write a report with everything he knew about the Watergate matter. However, when Dean realized that he was connected to the plan, he correctly concluded that he was being set-up to be the scapegoat for the president.
Watching the Watergate hearings on television, I thought the entire plot by Nixon was a joke. Why would he do it? He was well ahead in the polls and on his way to an easy victory.
That was before John Dean testified before a Senate committee.
Under a grant of immunity, over the course of two or three days, Dean knew exactly what occurred. His testimony was the beginning of the end of Richard Nixon.
While there is no “John Dean” in the current House Impeachment hearings of President Trump, the testimony of Ukrainian Ambassador William Taylor, and George Kent, the State Department’s top official on Ukraine policy, painted a clear picture of a president who was more interested in investigating his political rivals than any corruption occurring in Ukraine and he was willing to hold up critical financial and military aid to get what he wanted.
“Over the course of 2018-2019,” Kent said in his opening statement, “I became increasingly aware of an effort by Rudy Giuliani [Trump’s personal attorney] and others, including his associates… to run a campaign to smear Ambassador Yovanovitch and other officials at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv. …
“In mid-August, it became clear to me that Giuliani’s efforts to gin up politically motivated investigations were now infecting U.S. engagement with Ukraine, leveraging President Zelensky’s desire for a White House meeting.”
When Taylor began putting the pieces together, he texted E.U. Ambassador and Trump appointee Gordon Sondland: “As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign,”
However, during his testimony, Taylor revealed even more disturbing news previously unknown to the committee and public.
“Last Friday,” Taylor said, “a member of my staff told me of events that occurred on July 26. While Ambassador Volker and I visited the front, this member of my staff accompanied Ambassador Sondland. Ambassador Sondland met with Mr. Yermak.
“Following that meeting, in the presence of my staff at a restaurant, Ambassador Sondland called President Trump and told him of his meetings in Kyiv. The member of my staff could hear President Trump on the phone, asking Ambassador Sondland about ‘the investigations.’ Ambassador Sondland told President Trump that the Ukrainians were ready to move forward.
“Following the call with President Trump, the member of my staff asked Ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought about Ukraine. Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which Giuliani was pressing for. At the time I gave my deposition on October 22, I was not aware of this information. I am including it here for completeness.”
Despite this latest and clearly incriminating information directly tying Trump to a scheme to push Ukraine to investigate former vice-president Biden, Republicans on the committee responded in what has sadly become routine, led by their chief muscle-man Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio.
“Ambassador,” Jordan began in the staccato pace he’s known for, “you didn’t listen in on President Trump’s call and President Zelensky’s call?”
“I did not.” Taylor responded.
“You never talked with Chief of Staff Mulvaney?”
“I never did.” Taylor said.
“You never met the president?”
“That’s correct.” Taylor replied.
“You you’re their star witness,” Jordan said, smiling down the table at the Democrats on the committee.
Both Taylor and Kent made it clear, at the beginning of their testimony, that they were not taking sides in the hearings. They came with no agenda other than to inform the committee and the public of a disturbing pattern of behavior by Sondland, and Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani who were putting together an irregular channel to pressure the Ukrainian president to publicly announce an investigation into vice-president Biden and his son, Hunter.
How all this eventually plays out is anyone’s guess.
Do I think Trump should be impeached by the House?
If President Clinton’s impeachable offense was lying about an affair, and prompting someone else to lie on his behalf, then Trump has more than exceeded that threshold. If the House chooses not to impeach regardless of the outcome in the Senate, then lying, cheating and self-dealing, will be acceptable for all future presidents.
Do Republicans offer any profiles in courage? We can hope.