Sens. Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham got taken to school by Adam Schiff when they asked a hypothetical question equating Obama and Trump.
Cruz and Graham asked, “In Mr. Schiff’s hypothetical if President Obama had evidence that Mitt Romney’s son was being paid $1 million per year by a corrupt Russian company and Mitt Romney had acted to benefit that company, would Obama have authority to ask that that potential corruption be investigated?”
First of all, the hypothetical is a bit off because it presumes that in that hypothetical that President Obama was acting corruptly or there was evidence he was acting corruptly with respect to his son. But nonetheless, let’s take your hypothetical on its terms.
Would it have been impeachable if Barack Obama had tried to get Medvedev to do an investigation of Mitt Romney whether it was justified or unjustified? The reality is for a president to withhold military aid from an ally or in the hypothetical to withhold it to benefit an adversary, to target their political opponent is wrong and corrupt. Period. End of story.
And if you allow a president to rationalize that conduct, rationalize jeopardy it is nation’s security for his benefit because he believes his opponent should be investigated by a foreign power that is impeachable. If you have a legitimate reason to think that any U.S. Person has committed an offense there are legitimate ways to have an investigation conducted. There are legitimate ways to have the justice department conduct an investigation. I would suggest to you that for a president to turn to his Justice Department and say, I want you to investigate my political rival taints whatever investigation they do. Presidents should not be in the business of asking even their own Justice Department to investigate their rivals.
Video clip of Schiff:
— Sarah Reese Jones (@PoliticusSarah) January 29, 2020
The Justice Department ought to have some Independence from the political desires of the president and one of the deeply troubling circumstances of the current presidency is you do have a president of the United States speaking quite openly, urging his Justice Department to investigate his perceived enemies. That should not take place either. But under no circumstances do you go outside of your own legitimate law enforcement process to ask a foreign power to investigate your rival whether you think there’s cause or you don’t think there’s cause. And you certainly don’t invite that foreign power to try to influence an election to your benefit. It’s remarkable to me that we even have to have this conversation.
I can’t imagine any circumstance where that’s justified. And I can’t imagine any circumstance where we would want to say the President Of The United States can target his rival, can solicit elicit foreign help in an election, can help him cheat and that’s okay. Because that will dramatically lower the bar for what we have a right to expect in the president of the United States and that is they’re acting in our interest.
And the more accurate parallel, senator, would be if Barack Obama said I don’t even need you, Russia, to do the investigation. I just want you to announce it. Because that betrays the fact there was no legitimate basis because the president didn’t even need the investigation done. He just wanted it announced. And there is no legitimate explanation for that except he wanted their help in cheating the next election.
Graham and Cruz were trying to box Schiff in with a question that implied that Trump’s impeachment is partisan. Instead, they got too cute by half and ended up completely getting wrecked by Schiff, and get a very pointed civics lesson on why no president should be given a free pass to blackmail a foreign government into helping him cheat in an election.
Even the hypotheticals are crashing and burning for Trump’s biggest defenders.
For more discussion about this story join our Rachel Maddow and MSNBC group.
Mr. Easley is the managing editor. He is also a White House Press Pool and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association