Thursday 21 November 2019

Impeachment hearings… why no discussion of the “quo” Trump got for the “quid”?

Amb to the EU, but also covered Ukraine. A jolly fellow
Last night I watched hours of the United States Ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland testifying in the Trump impeachment enquiry, before the House Judiciary Committee. 
The key issue is whether Trump expected a quid pro quo (or a “bribe” as the Democrats now call it) from Ukraine in return for a White House visit, and (later) for $400 million in military equipment.
Sondland’s answer during his written and read-out testimony was “yes”.
Though later he admitted, in the Q and A, that he’d had a phone call with Trump, asked T directly what he wanted in relation to Ukraine, to which T had answered “I don’t want anything. No quid pro quo. Nothing. Just get [the Ukrainian president] Zelinski to do the right thing”.
Nevertheless Sondland had concluded  ”yes” there was a quid pro quo, from discussions with Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer and from his own inferences. (“2+2=4”, as they all called it throughout the night).
He was quizzed by Jim Jordan (R) as to why he’d left out this rather germane phone call and said it was just an oversight (laughing, saying “believe me”).
So at the least it’s arguable: quid or no quid pro quo.
But let’s stipulate for a moment that there was expectation of a quid pro quo.
Why the meltdown and why the impeachment? Why not a big fat “so what?”
Here’s the thing.
In life, everything is quid pro quo. Amongst individuals it’s “I scratch your back, you scratch mine.“
In international relations it’s known as “reciprocity”. We expect trade deals to be fair to both sides = quids for quos. Most international aid is tied, “we give you this aid and you buy stuff from us”. Quid pro aid money.
It matters what the “quo” is, not that it exists.
Returning to Trump Ukraine. If Trump had said, “ok I’ll release the $US 400mill and you kick back $40 mill to my offshore account”, that is clearly illegal. And of course Trump would not have made such a quid pro quo public.
In our stipulated, actual quid pro quo, Trump wanted investigation into Ukrainian involvement in the 2016 election including the hacking of DNC servers and investigation into the company Burisma. Later, in the July 25 phone call, he added investigation into the Bidens, especially son Hunter’s dealings with Burisma. Trump wanted commitment to carry out these investigations to be made public by the Ukrainian President. Two things:
1.  Would not such investigations be of interest to the American public? After all there were serious questions around Hillary’s Steele dossier, its Ukrainian connections and Ukrainian interference in that election.  After all, Mueller had just spent two years investigating similar issues around the Russians. Why suddenly so touchy on Ukraine? And as for the Bidens? Even pro-Biden folks must wonder: what on earth was Hunter doing getting $US50,000 per month, from an outfit that had already been under suspicion by the Obama administration? Surely there’s a public interest to clear that up? It doesn’t have to be Trump’s purely personal and partisan interest.
That public interest was the reason, one presumes, that …
2. Trump demanded Ukrainian investigations be made public. He would not have made a request for kickback public. He made the investigations public because they are indeed of interest to the American people.

It’s for those reasons I say: surely the type of quo requested for the quid is hugely relevant.
Yet no one on either side has raised this.
That’s what I really don’t get. Perhaps I’m being too naive. Perhaps the calculus is: Trump said there was no QPQ, so we have to defend that line. Don’t give an inch.
But still …
[Another stipulation: for the umpteenth time: I’m no Trump fanboy. But I don’t have TDS.  I’m trying for Althousian “cruel neutrality”].