By Mya Shone
(reprinted from October 2019 issue of The Organizer newspaper)
“I would like you to do us a favor though.” These ten words uttered by Donald Trump are the centerpiece of a July 25 telephone call with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, the essence of which was described by House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff, D-CA, as “a classic organized crime shakedown.”
With blatant disregard for U.S. law governing elections, Trump solicited the Ukrainian president to pursue an investigation that he anticipated would help with his re-election campaign in two ways: to discredit Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s conclusions and indictments concerning Russian interference in the 2016 election with the hacking of the Democratic National Committee server; and to portray Joseph R. Biden, Jr., Trump’s potential political rival, as mired in corruption when Biden was vice president.
In what appears to be extortion, Trump blocked $391 million in military and other assistance that Congress had allocated. “No question about that,” Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney blurted out on Oct. 17 at a televised press briefing. Addressing Trump’s instructions about how to handle supposed “corruption related to the DNC server,” Mulvaney confirmed, “that’s why we held up the money.”
“It was a perfect call”; I “did nothing wrong,” Trump has extolled. Among those attempting to back up the capo di tutti capi, Mulvaney provided the rationale, “we do that all the time with foreign policy.”
Not so, reports the Washington Post on Oct. 10: “At least four national security officials were so alarmed by the Trump administration’s attempts to pressure Ukraine for political purposes that they raised concerns with a White House lawyer both before and immediately after President Trump’s July 25 call.”
Likewise, both before and after the July 25 call, longtime career diplomats within the State Department expressed their apprehension with Trump’s goal and what they were expected to deliver.
Bill Taylor – the charges d’affaires in Ukraine after Trump removed Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch – wrote a letter on Sept. 9 to Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, about the impact of the quid pro quo demanded in Trump’s telephone call with Zelensky, “As I said on the phone,” Taylor wrote, “I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”
Roadmap for Impeachment Inquiry
While Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph Guiliani broadcast widely about his efforts in the Ukraine on behalf of the president and asserted that he had State Department cooperation, the operation details and “shakedown” by Trump himself, as well as the subsequent cover-up, may not have seen the light of day but for a whistleblower — since reported to be a CIA analyst. On Aug. 12, the whistleblower submitted a detailed report of “urgent concern” to the Intelligence Services Inspector General which the White House immediately set about to suppress.
“In the course of my official duties,” the whistleblower began, “I have received information from multiple U.S. government officials that the president of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election.”
The whistleblower also exposed an elaborate cover-up in which “senior White House officials intervened to ‘lock down’ records of the July 25 phone call,” and White House lawyers “directed” staff to remove the official transcript from a widely shared computer network in order to bury it within a highly restricted system used to “handle classified information of an especially sensitive nature,” i.e., covert actions.
The complaint provided a roadmap for the impeachment inquiry.
It also brought Trump’s notorious furor and vitriol to new heights. On Sept. 26, while the House Committee on Intelligence was holding its first impeachment inquiry hearing, Trump was addressing the members of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations and their families. Instead of honoring the work of the Mission, he used the occasion to lash out at all who had been involved in the Intelligence Agency whistleblower complaint and imperiled their lives by proclaiming that they were “close to a spy” [he has since called them “spies”] as he lamented that the U.S. no longer executes them. “You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? … With spies and treason, …?”
The impeachment process is a “hoax,” “a Democrat Scam,” an attempted “coup,” Trump and his supporters decry. Despite the inevitable charge of obstruction, White House counsel Pat A. Cipollone sent a letter on Oct. 8, to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, presenting the White House position that the process was “invalid” and that “the Executive Branch cannot be expected to participate in it.”
“The Dominos Are Starting to Fall”
The response across the country was swift and furious. The Washington Post editorial board declared on Oct. 9: “The president is asserting autocratic authority to ignore the people’s elected representatives and the Constitution that governs them. This is a new stage in an already dangerous presidency.”
So far, the proceedings have not been thwarted as they had been during the House attempt to conduct hearings on the two-year Mueller investigation and its conclusions. A steady stream of current and former government officials is coming forward, either at their request or under the protection of a subpoena, to give detailed evidence during marathon depositions.
Concurrently, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey S. Berman, a Trump appointee, opened, with the full cooperation of the FBI, an investigation parallel to the House impeachment inquiry. Two Guiliani associates, indicted on campaign finance and conspiracy charges central to the Ukraine scandal, were arrested as they attempted to flee the country. Guiliani’s financial records are being investigated, and former Republican Rep. Pete Sessions received a grand jury subpoena for documents. “The dominos are starting to fall,” remarked Joyce Vance, a former federal prosecutor and MSNBC commentator.
It is inevitable that the House inquiry will wend its way onto the House floor with a stinging multi-count impeachment indictment. At this point, however, it seems improbable that the Senate, with a Republican majority reliant upon Trump’s still-loyal base to remain in office, will muster the two-thirds vote to remove Trump even though a nationwide poll showed that after only two weeks, already a majority of voters – 51% – were of the opinion that Trump should be both “impeached and removed from office.” (Fox News poll, Oct. 10)
What Does This All Mean?
There is a deep and growing crisis within the top echelons of the U.S. ruling class — a crisis that expresses the political impasse of a system based on the private ownership of the means of production. Clearly, major sectors of the U.S. ruling class are deeply worried that Trump is destabilizing capitalist rule in the United States as well as the stature of U.S. imperialism throughout the world. That is the meaning of their warning about an “already dangerous presidency.”
The differences are not over the nature of Trump’s crimes in the Ukrainian affair. Disinformation, infiltration of organizations, manipulation of elections, and assassination have been standard operating procedure within the United States and globally of the administrations of both the Democratic and Republican parties.
The differences are about how best to control the State apparatus and preserve the hegemony of U.S. imperialism at a time when a capitalist system in crisis requires ever more speculation, war expenditure, and exploitation. The differences are about how best to maintain control of a system in its death agony.
This is what underlies the impeachment inquiry opened Sept. 24 by Democrats in the House of Representatives.
At the same time, we can never forget that the Senate, as well as the electoral college that put Trump into office, do not reflect the popular will but are holdovers of the slavocracy. That is why, as the crisis deepens in the capitalist system, it is the power of our struggle in our workplaces and in our communities that will make the difference.
As this significant struggle to defend basic democratic rights unfolds, we must never lose sight of the fact that the Democratic Party legislates for the interests of the ruling class and that our interests cannot be met without a mass-based independent working-class political party rooted in the unions and all oppressed communities.