Politics: Impeachment is on the Menu

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Deus ex machina: This week has changed everything. It emerged that a whistle-blower reported an “urgent concern”. In the course of his official duties, the informant had heard from multiple sources that the President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country to investigate a political rival, namely former Vice President Joe Biden. The “concern” also cites the involvement of the Attorney General Bill Barr and the President’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. The accusations centre around a phone conversation that took place on 25 July – a day after Mueller’s disappointing performance in Congress. The call was between President Trump and the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Trump said that the United States had been “very very good to the Ukraine” and that he would like “you to do us a favour”.

The favour concerned Biden and Democrat servers – Trump told Zelenskyy that Giuliani and Barr would call him. We don’t know about Barr, but we do know that Giuliani met an adviser to Zelenskyy, Andriy Yermak, on 2 August in Madrid. The other element to these revelations is that efforts were made to restrict access to the records of the call. The whistle-blower reported that White House officials had intervened to “lock down” all records of the phone call, the word-for- word transcript was removed from where such transcripts are typically stored and placed instead in a separate electronic system to hold information of an especially sensitive nature.

The other jaw-dropping testimony came from Acting Director of National Intelligence, who in his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee this week said that, though he had received the whistle-blower’s report and acknowledged its credibility, had considered it subject to executive privilege, so approached the White House and Attorney General for advice – despite the fact that they were the subjects of the “urgent concern”.

The House of Congress are now standing full square behind a launch of the impeachment process. The Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has shed her reservations. Asked if it could backfire, she answered that “it doesn’t matter, he has given us no choice”. The objective is that it is done and dusted before Thanksgiving, 28 November and well before Democratic primaries in February. The Democrats will try to keep the investigation narrow and focused on the Ukraine phone call, but intend to include the attempts to obstruct justice and other matters as part of an overarching narrative. One big question that could do further damage is that the whistle- blower’s “urgent concern” was based on many officials. Will there be a torrent of whistle-blowers in the coming weeks?