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Starr Mocked Over ‘Ridiculous’ Impeachment Argument

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Bringing Ken Starr on to President Donald Trump’s impeachment defense team seemed like a terrible idea from the start, and on Monday afternoon, the former independent counsel showed why.

As the former independent counsel who pushed for a slew of impeachment charges against former President Bill Clinton, Starr is in the odd position of having vigorously and publicly advocated for removing a chief executive under much less serious accusations that Trump now faces. So inevitably, his defense was going to draw accusations of hypocrisy.

Yet somehow, he didn’t seem to foresee this and try to mitigate the damage.

“The Senate is being called to sit as the high court of impeachment all too frequently,” he said. “Indeed, we are living in what can aptly be described as the Age of Impeachment.”

If it’s true that we live in the “Age of Impeachment,” then it’s clear that Starr is a big part of the reason why. As independent counsel, he lobbied ferociously for Clinton’s impeachment. And though there’s plenty of reason to believe that Clinton acted wrongly — he lied under oath and he had an affair with a young White House intern — his actions were far less relevant to his performance as president. The articles of impeachment Trump is faced with on abusing his power and obstructing Congress, on the other hand, go to the heart of presidential authority and the balance of constitutional powers.

And in fact, the Democratic Party was reluctant to impeach Trump and appeared prepared to let his conduct as described by former Special Counsel Robert Mueller report go unaddressed. Its reluctance was probably due, in part, to the fact that Starr’s own overly aggressive push for impeachment was seen as a political failure for Republicans.

But Starr didn’t stop there with his hypocrisy.

“A presidential impeachment is tantamount to domestic war,” he said. “It’s filled with acrimony and it divides the country like nothing else.”

He said he understood that by living through the Clinton impeachment “in a deep and personal way,” but he didn’t acknowledge his own central role in stoking that acrimony.

“I’m sorry, this is just too much to be smacked in the face with such chutzpah,” said Fordham Law Professor Jef Shugerman of Starr’s comments. “He’s 3 minutes into it with zero self-awareness. He is blaming the Independent Counsel Statute for it. What a pathetic man.”

“Straight faced #KenStarr requests Congress to practice ‘oversight’ of the president by a president who’s declared himself above the law and thumbed his nose at checks & balances is rich,” tweeted MSNBC contributor Maria Teresa Kumar.

Some even decided to add a laugh track to Starr’s speech:

“First of all, impeachment has not even remotely been normalized,” said former federal prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega. “Second, could the Republicans not find ANYONE ELSE to give this ridiculous history lecture?”

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

Lindsey Graham’s Most Compelling Arguments — For Impeachment

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), one of Donald Trump’s closest allies and loyal defenders, has regularly belittled or dismissed evidence that Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate a political rival and assertions that Trump has acted to obstruct congressional investigations into the issue.

But in 1999, when Graham was one of the House managers for the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, he regularly made public statements in support of an investigation of Clinton.

1) Graham implored senators to “please allow the facts to do the talking,” and told them, “Don’t decide the case before the case’s end.”

2) Graham said that a “high crime” didn’t have to be a criminal act: “What’s a high crime? How about if an important person hurts somebody of low means? It’s not very scholarly. But I think it’s the truth. I think that’s what they meant by high crimes. Doesn’t even have to be a crime.”

3) Graham said that lying justified impeaching President Clinton: “He is the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the land. He encouraged people to lie for him. He lied. I think he obstructed justice.”

4) Graham slammed Richard Nixon for ignoring a subpoena: “The day Richard Nixon failed to answer that subpoena is the day he was subject to impeachment because he took the power from Congress over the impeachment process away from Congress, and he became the judge and jury.”

5) Graham called for hearings where principals involved in the case could be heard. “The depositions, I think, will determine whether or not we go forward with hearings. I think it’s a very smart thing to do, to depose these people and find out what they’ve got to say and not drag this thing out unnecessarily. And it’s going to end by the end of the year.”

6) Graham called for live witnesses to appear: “There may be some conflict that has to be resolved by presenting live witnesses … That’s what happens every day in court and I think the Senate can stand that.”

7) Graham said impeachment would be negatively impacted if witnesses weren’t called: “The whole point that we’re trying to make is that in every trial that there’s ever been in the Senate, regarding impeachment, witnesses were called.” He added, “You’re basically changing impeachment” if witnesses aren’t called.

8) Graham argued that not calling witnesses in the Senate “would be bad” for impeachment law: “That would be bad for impeachment law. That would be against precedent, and I hope that doesn’t happen here.”

9) Graham said excluding witnesses and leaving the case to lawyers would “bore everybody to death” and avoid getting to the truth: “You can have three days of lawyers talking to each other on both sides, 16 hours of question, and basically bore everybody to death, talk everybody to death; but when you have a witness who was there, who was engaged in it, who was in the middle of it telling you about what they were doing and why, that’s a totally different case, and it’s the difference between getting the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

Now, with Trump, Graham has reversed his positions and even opposed holding a Senate impeachment trial at all. He opposes calling witnesses, promised to side with Trump before hearing evidence, and has repeatedly argued that Trump did nothing wrong. It’s like his days as a leader during the Clinton impeachment didn’t exist at all.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

In Defense Of Iowa

We have reached that time in every presidential nominating year when distinguished, national opinion leaders beat up on Iowa and that admirable state’s influential role in determining the two major parties’ eventual presidential nominees and, therefore, the next president. The USA Today editorial board indicts Iowa for being “one of the least ethnically diverse states in the country” and its status as the first-in-the-nation presidential test every four years as ” un-American,” while Paul Waldman writes in The Washington Post that the Iowa caucuses “are a crime against democracy.”

It is time someone stood up for Iowa and Iowans. It’s true that Iowa is neither very representative of the entire nation nor very average. Scholarly studies have ranked Iowa as tied for first place in percentage of the adult population who are high school graduates. Iowans are fourth highest in access to health care (more “representative” Florida and Texas rank 46th and 47th respectively in citizens’ access to health care); first in broadband access; and third highest in public libraries per capita. True, the Hawkeye State leads the nation in production of corn, soybeans and pork, but Iowans are at the top of the nation in literacy, and the state has the U.S.’s 14th lowest murder rate.

But Iowa remains a small, rural state in the middle of the country. How representative can its voters be of the nation at large? The answer: amazingly so. In 1992, Democrat Bill Clinton won 43 percent of the national vote and the White House; in Iowa, Clinton won 43 percent of the vote. In 1996, winner Clinton carried 49 percent of the national vote and 50 percent of the Iowa vote. In 2000, Democrat Al Gore won the national vote by one-half of 1 percent and Iowa by one-third of one percent. Republican George W Bush won reelection in 2004 with 51 percent of the national vote and 50 percent in Iowa. Democrat Barack Obama, in 2008, got 53 percent of the national vote and 54 percent of Iowans. In 2012, Obama was reelected nationally by a margin of four percent and in Iowa by five percent. In 2016, the exception: Donald Trump, who lost the national vote by two percent to Hillary Clinton, carried Iowa by a solid ten percent.

Yes, Iowa’s 2008 Democratic caucuses were 93 percent white, and those mid-American Caucasians made history by giving legitimacy and momentum to a freshman senator from Illinois, Barack Obama. In Iowa, the African American underdog won an upset victory over the heavily favored former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and was propelled to the top of the national polls.

In fact, the rest of us owe Iowa our thanks. Iowans faithfully and earnestly fulfill their civil responsibilities by showing up at campaign town halls and listening and questioning the men and women who seek the White House. They take their responsibility seriously and then, on a cold winter night, hundreds of thousands of Iowans leave their homes and go to the local church hall, firehouse or school gym and spend a couple of hours declaring and defending their presidential preference openly in front of neighbors and friends. In the caucus, firefighters join shoulder-to-shoulder with nurses, teachers, retirees, students and small businesswomen in truly vibrant democracy. Here in Iowa, because Iowans give them a full and fair chance, the underfinanced, underdog candidate has a real chance. It was in Iowa that Jimmy Carter broke through and where George H.W. Bush’s upset win would lead to his being chosen vice president.

Thank you, Iowa, for serving the nation so well.

To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

A Fair And Balanced Impeachment Trial

When Mitch McConnell declares that the impeachment of President Donald Trump should follow the same rules and procedures as the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton, that must sound reasonable to many Americans. As the Senate majority leader puts it in his folksiest drawl, “Fair is fair.”

Leave aside the fact that McConnell — who swore an oath on Thursday before Chief Justice John Roberts to do “impartial justice” in that trial — has already told us that he isn’t an impartial juror. Let’s also try to forget for the moment that he regularly bends his own supposed principles and practices for partisan advantage.

If he were to really believe that Trump ought to be tried according to the same standards as Clinton, what would he and the Senate Republicans do?

First they would require this president to undergo several hours of questioning under oath, as Clinton did before the grand jury convened by independent counsel Kenneth Starr. Surely, McConnell — and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and a dozen of their colleagues — will recollect that Clinton spent four hours answering the questions of prosecutors and grand jurors regarding the Monica Lewinsky affair. (He had given six earlier interviews to prosecutors in other investigations.) Recorded on video, which the Republicans later released to the public, Clinton’s testimony was excerpted and played during the impeachment trial by the House managers.

Second, McConnell would demand that the president surrender all relevant documents on the Ukraine matter to Congress, along with the implicated aides and associates whom he has so far forbidden from testifying — including Vice President Mike Pence; acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney; former national security adviser John Bolton; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; and sundry officials from the Office of Management and Budget, the Pentagon, the National Security Council and the State Department.

Only then would the current process begin to reflect the Clinton precedent cited by McConnell. That’s because in contrast to Trump, Clinton never tried to prevent his aides from testifying in any of the investigations mounted against him and answered every document request. Owing to Clinton’s cooperation, the Office of Independent Counsel compiled and delivered a multi-volume report on the Lewinsky affair to the House Judiciary Committee, which was used by House managers to guide their prosecution of Clinton in the Senate.

Back then, as one of the House managers, Graham argued strenuously for the Senate to call three witnesses including Lewinksy, who testified on videotape behind closed doors. Like Clinton’s grand jury testimony, those videotapes were available for use in the trial, and the House managers played dozens of excerpts of Lewinsky’s testimony on the Senate floor.

Now McConnell, Graham and other Trump toadies in the Senate notoriously object to calling any witnesses in the upcoming trial. Their clear preference would be to dismiss the impeachment articles without any trial. But the Republicans know they can’t get away with any such blatant cover-up, especially with new evidence continuing to erupt into almost every day’s news cycle. (Events of the past few weeks have proved again the sagacity of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who outplays her adversaries at every turn.)

So those are the parameters of a fair impeachment trial, if “fair” means anything remotely similar to the trial of William Jefferson Clinton. The conditions precedent to fairness don’t exist at present, but there is nothing stopping the Senate from ensuring a balanced and honest process, except the dishonesty and partisan bias of its leadership.

Oh, and there’s one more thing: Right now, the Republican leadership is reportedly mulling heavy restrictions on media coverage of the Senate trial, provoking protests from reporters. They also have yet to consent to televised coverage via C-Span’s cameras. During Clinton’s trial, there were no impediments on the press — and the trial itself can be seen in C-Span archives to this day.

That same standard of openness must prevail now, unless McConnell wants to be exposed as a fraud from the first whack of the gavel.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Photo Credit: Matt Johnson