GUEST WORDS--The U.S. Constitution provides, in Article II, Section 4, three grounds for the impeachment of a president: (1) Treason; (2) Bribery, and (3) other High Crimes and Misdemeanors.
To date, potential articles of impeachment for “abuse of office” or “abuse of power” have been Congress’ primary focus during the impeachment inquiry into Trump’s July 25th phone call with President Zelensky and the conditions that he set for the release of the desperately-needed U.S. military aid to Ukraine. These likely charges in the impeachment articles fall under the general category of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”
However, what Congress may be missing is that, for the first time in our nation’s history, there is substantial evidence for impeachment of a sitting president for Treason. Article III, Section 3, Clause 1 defines Treason as defined as the betrayal of one’s country by the giving of “aid and comfort” to the enemy. Russia is, without question, an enemy of the U.S. It planned and executed a massive cyberattack and disinformation campaign against the U.S. during the 2016 presidential campaign that was hugely successful, catapulting a pro-Russian and anti-democratic “Siberian Candidate” into the White House. Since then, Trump has consistently engaged in a course of conduct designed to give substantial “aid and comfort” to Russia, at the disastrous expense of fundamental U.S. interests. If Putin had drawn up a “fantasy agenda” for a fictitious U.S. president to carry out on Russia’s behalf, it would have precisely coincided with what Trump has actually done to take a wrecking ball to American foreign policy and its alliances.
Trump has repeatedly criticized our closest allies for petty and imagined slights, while uncritically praising Putin and a long list of autocratic and brutal “strongmen” around the globe who are committed to perpetuating their own power at any cost. He has questioned America’s continued commitment to NATO, the strongest and most effective alliance in modern history, which is largely responsible for blocking Soviet post-World War II expansionism and keeping the world safe from a nuclear winter. He has sided with Putin and questioned the U.S. intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Russia was behind the foreign interference with the 2016 election. He has turned a blind eye to Russia’s continued de facto annexation of Crimea and its attempts to carve off additional Ukrainian real estate so that pro-Russian satellite states can be established along Russia’s western frontier with Ukraine. He withheld the Javelin missile systems and other military hardware that Ukraine needed to hold back the Russians from further encroaching on additional Ukraine territory in its quest of either breaking up that country entirely or returning it to the Russian orbit.
Ukraine is now an independent European democracy, which is fighting for its political and national survival. It cannot survive as a pro-Western democracy without massive U.S. support and assistance. To be sure, Ukraine has suffered from endemic corruption since it gained its independence in 1991. However, since the pro-Russian administration of President Viktor Yanukovich was toppled in the “Maidan” uprisings in late 2013 and early 2014, Ukraine’s subsequent administrations have made efforts – with only limited success – to root out the continued political and economic corruption that continues to threaten its fledgling democracy and economic development. The current administration under the leadership of President Zelensky had redoubled its efforts to root out corruption, and his appointment of a professional and independent Prosecutor General, Ruslan Riaboshapka, and strong backing of Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau, are extremely positive signs that Ukraine may finally be on the right track. Even with all its remaining flaws, Ukraine stands as a pro-Western bulwark against Russian expansionism, and there can be no question that a strong Ukraine is an important component of U.S. foreign policy in Eastern Europe and has been for almost two decades.
The U.S. State Department’s own website explicitly states: “The United States attaches great importance to the success of Ukraine as a free and democratic state with a flourishing market economy. U.S. policy is centered on supporting Ukraine in the face of continued Russian aggression as it advances reforms to strengthen democratic institutions, fight corruption, and promote conditions for economic growth and competition.” https://www.state.gov/u-s-relations-with-ukraine/
Despite this, Trump has continually treated Ukraine with a coolness or outright hostility that is completely out of step with U.S. foreign policy and U.S. interests in the region. There is no reasonable explanation for Trump’s willingness to play Russian roulette with Ukraine by holding up the delivery of appropriated U.S. foreign military aid to Ukraine, other than that Trump has no real interest in whether Ukraine survives or not, as long as he can gain some personal political advantage from that country as it slowly unravels. After all, Ukraine is locked in an armed struggle with Russia, and what better way to give “aid and comfort” to America’s arch-enemy than to withhold aid and support to that country.
It is being reported that Catherine Croft, a State Department expert on Ukraine matters, testified on Wednesday that it was widely known that Trump described Ukraine in a negative and pessimistic light, referring to it as “a corrupt county,” implying that it was perhaps beyond the point of saving. Trump’s continued belittlement of the country does not pay recognition to the thousands of brave Ukrainians who have fought and died to keep Russian forces from further advancing into their country. And despite the White House’s wavering support, the cries of “no capitulation” still echo throughout the Ukraine. Trump, meanwhile, has repeatedly told President Zelensky that he should “talk” to Putin, that he should “work something out,” as if the “dispute” did not start with Russia’s naked aggression and a redrawing of Europe’s map for the first time since World War II based on military force.
Croft also confirmed the prior testimony of other witnesses and public reporting that Rudy Giuliani and other members of the President’s shadow Department of State engaged in a concerted campaign to fire Marie Yovanovich, the staunchly anti-Russian and pro-Ukrainian U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, who stood in the way of Trump’s efforts to bend Ukraine to his political will and force the Ukrainian government to debase itself by publicly promising to conduct a bogus investigation into hidden DNC servers in Ukraine and “corruption” by members of the Biden family. Christopher Anderson, another career Foreign Service officer, also testified in Congress on Wednesday that he and other U.S. officials tried to carry out established U.S. policy strongly supporting Ukraine, only to have the White House undercut those efforts, including Trump’s disgraceful decision in 2018 not to strongly denounce and take appropriate action in coordination with the Ukraine government to respond to the unprovoked attack and seizure by Russian forces of Ukrainian military vessels in the Sea of Azov.
The House of Representative has an obligation to include within the scope of its impeachment inquiry whether President Trump has committed treason by providing aid and comfort to Russia, to the severe detriment to fundamental U.S. interests. The American people deserve no less.
(Kenneth Foard McCallion is a former federal prosecutor, an Adjunct Professor at Fairfield University on the subject of “Impeachment and the 25th Amendment,” and author of “Treason & Betrayal: The Rise and Fall of Individual 1.”)