First, Chairman Adam Schiff and the Democrats’ counsel, Daniel Goldman, have attempted to frame a dichotomy between President Trump and what they call “official” US foreign policy. It’s a false framework. Official policy is not, as they suggest, made by the so-called policy community (comprised mainly of the NSC, the State Department and government agents from the intelligence community and the armed services). The president makes American foreign policy.
The function of the policy community is to give the president its best advice and the benefit of its considerable knowledge and experience. But in our representative republic, policy is made by the only official who actually answers to the voters whose lives and interests are at stake — the president.
The Democrats’ theory is that it is misconduct for the president to depart from the policy priorities of unelected bureaucrats. That gets things backward. The president sets policy; the policy community is supposed to carry out the president’s policy. It is certainly possible that a president’s policy may be misguided or even improperly self-interested — and in that sense, it could be wrong. But cannot be regarded as wrong simply because the policy community disagrees.
Second, Democrats highlight the president’s reference, in the July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky, to a conspiracy theory that Ukraine may have been complicit in the hacking of Democratic e-mail accounts. It is quite correct to contend, as they do, that there is no known support for this theory. It is also correct that US intelligence agencies and the Mueller investigation assessed that Russia was behind the hacking attacks.
From these correct premises, Democrats are drawing two false conclusions: (a) that there is no evidence of Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election besides the discredited theory that Ukraine was behind the hacking; and (b) if Russia interfered in the 2016 election, Ukraine cannot have done so.
This is disingenuous.
There is significant evidence that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election. Democrats want to suppress it because the interference was for the benefit of the Clinton campaign. For example, a Ukrainian court concluded in late 2018 that Ukrainian officials, including a parliamentarian and the anti-corruption police, interfered in the US election.
Ukrainian officials were responsible for leaks — in particular, a leak of a dubious ledger showing payments from the then-regime in Kyiv — that resulted in Paul Manafort’s being ousted from the Trump campaign. That incident became an important part of the Democrats’ discredited Trump-Russia collusion narrative.
Logically, moreover, there is no credible either-or understanding of Russian and Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election. It is perfectly reasonable to believe both that Russia meddled by hacking Democratic e-mail accounts, and that Ukraine meddled by seeking to find and publicize information that would hurt Trump and help Hillary Clinton.
Third, the Democrats took pains to elicit from this morning’s witnesses that there was no evidence of either (a) corrupt activity in Ukraine by former Vice President Joe Biden in connection with the notoriously corrupt energy firm, Burisma, that was lavishly paying his son; or (b) Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election.
They are plainly seeking to use this testimony (and similar testimony they have previously elicited) to argue that corruption allegations and claims of Ukrainian meddling have been disproved.
In point of fact, the witnesses who were asked to give this testimony later conceded they had no knowledge of the underlying facts.
In a judicial proceeding under evidentiary rules, witnesses would not be permitted to testify regarding matters as to which they have no personal knowledge and no basis in admissible evidence to render conclusions.
The fact that this testimony has been elicited in a congressional hearing that is adhering to no evidentiary rules does not make the testimony true, accurate or reliable.
To be clear, this is not to accuse the witnesses of lying. They simply should not be asked questions that they have no known basis to answer informatively.