A Complete Analysis Of Trump’s 150th Unpresidented Week As POTUS

While President Trump was being laughed off the world stage, his defenders failed to form a credible defense as impeachment moved to the next stage.
President Donald J. Trump waves after disembarking Marine One at Joint Base Andrews, Md. Monday, December 2, 2019, and walks to board Air Force One for his trip to London. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

President Donald J. Trump waves after disembarking Marine One at Joint Base Andrews, Md. Monday, December 2, 2019, and walks to board Air Force One for his trip to London. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Trump’s first major typo after winning the election was spelling Unprecedented incorrectly. He infamously tweeted “Unpresidented.” This typo is emblematic of his administration: An impulsive, frantically thrown together group of characters with virtually no oversight. After Trump was sworn in, I started writing the weekly “Unpresidented” column, analyzing every day of his presidency. This is week 150.

It is all but certain President Trump will be the 3rd President in United States history to be impeached in the House of Representatives. President Nixon would’ve been included on this infamous list if he didn’t resign before the articles made it to the full House vote. President Trump won’t grant us that same reprieve.

This week, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) made a historic announcement. Pelosi said that House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) would be moving forward with drafting articles of impeachment against President Trump. The evidence that President Trump extorted Ukraine to pressure them to interfere in the 2020 election, and subsequently obstructed Congress, is overwhelming. The House Judiciary hearing this week highlighted why this conduct is impeachable and outlined how this is exactly the kind of conduct the Founding Fathers feared.

While there has been a media narrative that Democrats have failed to convince Republicans to support impeachment, the real story is that Republicans haven’t been able to shift polling away from impeachment. The Republican defense against impeachment, which has always been based on falsehoods and conspiracy theories, fell further apart this week. The Russia-crated conspiracy theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election has been debunked at every level, and so has the allegations against Hunter Biden. These defenses failed to move Independents away from supporting impeachment and it actually increased among women.

The new argument this week was that the conduct of President Trump wasn’t impeachable, but House Judiciary law professors Pamela Karlan, Noah Feldman, and Michael Gerhardt clearly indicated that was the case. The one Republican-called witness, Professor Jonathan Turley contradicted himself and his argument that there wasn’t enough evidence fell flat.

Meanwhile, President Trump was at the NATO summit in London being mocked by world leaders. After spending the first years of Trump’s presidency trying to curry favor with him through flattery, it appears leaders of NATO have realized trying to reason with President Trump is a lost cause. From French President Emmanuel Macron’s press conference where he schooled Trump on the threat of ISIS to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s mockery of Trump, it was an embarrassing summit for the United States.

President Trump’s strange capitulation to Saudia Arabia also continued this week after a Saudi Air Force officer opened fire on his classmates, killing three people at Naval Air Station Pensacola. With echoes of his reaction to the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, Trump’s first instinct was to parrot the narrative of King Salman rather than wait for details of the killer’s motive.

Let’s dive into another Unpresidented week.

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Trump’s Authoritarian Fixer

Day 1,047: Monday, December 2

President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr – February 14, 2019 (Department of Justice)

President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr – February 14, 2019 (Department of Justice)

Monday’s top stories:

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The House Impeachment Report

Day 1,048: Tuesday, December 3

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif, walks out to speak with reporters after a meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, March 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif, walks out to speak with reporters after a meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, March 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

On Monday, House Republicans released a report that served as a full-throated defense of President Trump’s Ukraine extortion plot. Today, House Democrats released their findings in the impeachment inquiry into that plot, and it included incredibly damning new details.

After 100 hours of depositions from 17 witnesses and 30 hours of public testimony from 12 of those witnesses, a draft of the House’s impeachment report is here. Although there were additional witnesses the White House has kept from testifying, House Democrats have decided they have enough evidence to move forward with the impeachment of President Trump. The report will make its way to the House Judiciary Committee for further review, where articles of impeachment will reportedly be crafted and sent to the full House for a vote before Christmas. The report makes clear Democrats are circling “Abuse of Power” and “Obstruction” as articles of impeachment. Whether they will include bribery is still up for debate.

The report outlines, in robust detail, how President Trump attempted to extort foreign election interference from the Ukrainian government in the form of investigations into his political targets. In furtherance of this scheme, President Trump deployed multiple allies, in and outside his administration, to pressure Ukraine to launch the investigations into the Bidens and the Russia-created Ukraine meddling conspiracy theory. At the core of this extortion campaign was the fact the Trump Administration withheld military aid and a White House meeting from Ukraine, and it was explicitly made clear to Ukraine that they needed to launch the probes in order to receive either.

After President Trump was made aware of the existence of the whistleblower complaint regarding his July 25 phone call with President Zelensky, and the House launched their investigation, Trump released the aid on September 11. Ukraine has still not obtained a White House meeting with President Trump.

The report also came to this conclusion (which we’ve covered before):

President Trump’s closest subordinates and advisors within the Executive Branch, including Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Energy J. Richard Perry, and other senior White House and Executive Branch officials had knowledge of, in some cases facilitated and furthered the President’s scheme, and withheld information about the scheme from the Congress and the American public.

But one of the most damning details involved House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Devin Nunes (R-CA). Over the course of the report, it becomes clear that Nunes was even more complicit in the extortion plot than many originally thought. The new revelations paint the way he conducted himself in the impeachment hearings in a significantly more damning light in hindsight. Nunes’s conduct was clearly a desperate attempt to cover up a scheme that he himself was potentially involved in and at the very least aware of.

There were multiple questionable calls involving Devin Nunes, Rudy Giuliani, indicted Giuliani associate Lev Parnas, a member of Nunes’s staff Derek Harvey, and former member of Nunes’s staff Kashyap “Kash” Patel. This first record is particularly damning because it showcases that Nunes may have been involved in crafting the false narrative of Ukraine meddling that Solomon published in The Hill. Also, why was Nunes communicating with Lev Parnas, who waged a smear campaign against then-Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and also claimed Trump himself sent him on a “mission” to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens?

Page 46:

Over the course of the four days following the April 7 article, phone records show contacts between Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Parnas, Representative Devin Nunes, and Mr. Solomon. Specifically, Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Parnas were in contact with one another, as well as with Mr. Solomon. Phone records also show contacts on April 10 between Mr. Giuliani and Rep. Nunes, consisting of three short calls in rapid succession, followed by a text message, and ending with a nearly three minute call.

Page 56:

On the morning of May 8, Mr. Giuliani called the White House Switchboard and connected for six minutes and 26 seconds with someone at the White House. That same day, Mr. Giuliani also connected with Mr. Solomon for almost six minutes, with Mr. Parnas, and with Derek Harvey, a member of Representative Nunes’ staff on the Intelligence Committee.

Page 58:

Call records also show that around midday on May 10, Mr. Giuliani began trading aborted calls with Kashyap “Kash” Patel, an official at the National Security Council who previously served on Ranking Member Devin Nunes’ staff on the Intelligence Committee. Mr. Patel successfully connected with Mr. Giuliani less than an hour after Mr. Giuliani’s call with Ambassador Volker. Beginning at 3:23 p.m., Eastern Time, Mr. Patel and Mr. Giuliani spoke for over 25 minutes. Five minutes after Mr. Patel and Mr. Giuliani disconnected, an unidentified “-1” number connected with Mr. Giuliani for over 17 minutes. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Giuliani spoke with Mr. Parnas for approximately 12 minutes.

Here’s a bird’s eye view of the call records:

There were also call logs between the Office and Budget Management (OMB) and Rudy Giuliani, who was running point on the extortion plot, the day Yovanovitch was removed from her post.

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) spoke about the fact Nunes appears to be implicated in the scheme in a press conference today.

“It is, I think, deeply concerning that at a time when the president of the U.S. was using the power of his office to dig up dirt on a political rival that there may be evidence that there were members of Congress complicit in that activity.”

Devin Nunes is not handling this well. Nunes is suing CNN for publishing Parnas’s claims that Nunes went to Vienna last December to meet with former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Victor Shokin and that Nunes spoke about the need for probes into the Bidens and the Ukraine meddling conspiracy theory.

After calling for Nunes’s recusal, Parnas’s lawyer responded to the impeachment report and this lawsuit:

Yesterday, House Republicans released a fact-averse report defending President Trump’s extortion plot. Today, the House released a report directly implicating Devin Nunes with hard evidence/phone records. At the very least, Nunes had knowledge of the scheme. The lead byline on the GOP report was Nunes. It was a defense of himself.

In other news…

The First House Judiciary Impeachment Hearing

Day 1,049: Wednesday, December 4

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) (AP)

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) (AP)

Wednesday’s top stories:

Pelosi Announces Incoming Articles Of Impeachment

Day 1,050: Thursday, December 5

President Donald Trump delivers a statement on Jerusalem in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump delivers a statement on Jerusalem in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

“Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence… the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government.” – President George Washington in his 1796 Farewell Address

The Founding Fathers did not declare independence from a monarch and fight a revolutionary war to create a country that would eventually elect a president who would seek to declare himself king and sell out to the highest foreign bidder. The Founders particularly feared a future president bending to foreign influence for personal gain. This is precisely why the impeachment clause was created, and why it’s being used against President Trump.

Today, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced that House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) will proceed with drafting articles of impeachment for President Trump. Pelosi said that Trump abused his power by pressuring Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 election by withholding aid and a White House meeting. In her remarks today, Pelosi continued:

“Our democracy is what is at stake. The president leaves us no choice but to act because he is trying to corrupt, once again, the election for his own benefit. The president has engaged in abuse of power undermining our national security and jeopardizing the integrity of our elections. His actions are in defiance of the vision of our founders and the oath of office that he takes to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

That story was told over the course of weeks of public impeachment hearings, and in the House Impeachment report released this week. The report established a pattern, from welcoming Russia’s election interference in 2016 to trying to extort it from Ukraine ahead of 2020. As we see outlined in the report, and in the hearing this week, this is exactly the conduct the Founding Fathers feared.

The debates among the Founders about the importance of protecting America’s election integrity and preventing a president from becoming a foreign asset are no secret. They thought deeply about this risk, and it’s why they crafted the impeachment and emoluments clause (which Trump likely violates by profiting from the presidency). This was the common theme among three of the law professors who testified in the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment hearing. They all agreed that the impeachment clause was crafted for a President that has done exactly what President Trump has done.

I covered this in my recent analysis for The Independent:

Professor Feldman summarized his thoughts on Trump’s conduct succinctly in his opening statement. After stating that the Founding Fathers feared a president who might abuse his power for personal gain, Feldman continued: “On the basis of the testimony and evidence before the House, President Trump has committed impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors by corruptly abusing the office of the presidency.”

Professor Gerhardt’s testimony made the key point that Trump’s obstruction of Congress is impeachable and that an act does not have to be a federal crime to be impeachable. Gerhardt stated: “If what we’re talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable. This is precisely the misconduct that the framers created a constitution, including impeachment, to protect against.”

Karlan, Feldman, and Gerhardt all agreed that what Trump did was impeachable bribery. Karlan made sure to make a distinction between bribery in the impeachment clause and the bribery statute that wasn’t created until decades later. All three also agreed that it doesn’t matter that Trump eventually released the military aid. They argued that if the president even attempts to abuse his office, that is an impeachable offense.

While Democrats and their witnesses cited the Founding Fathers who feared foreign influence, Republicans took a different route. In July, President Trump presented a distorted version of the conservative unitary executive theory when he said: “Then I have an Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.” Attorney General William Barr is also a believer of this theory. Of course, the Constitution does not allow Trump to do whatever he wants. While you’ve heard Republicans quoting Hamilton throughout this impeachment process, you won’t hear them quote Federalist 65 which contradicts Trump and Barr’s interpretation of his theory.

As Professor Bradley Hays wrote in The Washington Post, Hamilton actually intended the unitary executive to increase accountability by centralizing the power of the executive. Hays also notes that Hamilton explicitly states that the unitary executive does not place the President above the law:

In Federalist 65, he clearly states that a president impeached for misconduct is also “liable to prosecution and punishment in the ordinary course of law.” In other words, the presidency was not designed to be free from prosecutorial inquiry.

There has been a lot of cherry-picking of what the Founding Fathers believed from Republicans. Make no mistake, Donald Trump is exactly the corrupt President they crafted the Constitution to protect Americans from.

In other news…

White House Refuses To Participate, Again

Day 1,051: Friday, December 6

President Donald J. Trump talks to members of the press on the South Lawn of the White House Saturday, November 2, 2019, prior to boarding Marine One to begin his trip to New York City. (Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)

President Donald J. Trump talks to members of the press on the South Lawn of the White House Saturday, November 2, 2019, prior to boarding Marine One to begin his trip to New York City. (Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)

Friday’s top stories:

Unpresidented // Donald Trump / Europe / Impeachment / NATO