On Thursday, Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney admitted in a press conference that Donald Trump did indeed offer a quid pro quo to Ukraine: federal monetary aid (using American taxpayer dollars) in exchange for support in smearing his political foes.
Mulvaney didn’t hide it. “We do that all the time in politics,” he said. “Elections have consequences.”
And how should we feel about that? According to Mulvaney, we need to “get over it.”
Operation “Normalization” is Now in Full Swing
Clearly, the White House now sees the futility in denying the nature of the July conversation between Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky, especially following the damning testimony of EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland on Thursday. Sondland divulged that the President directed him to defer to Trump’s personal attorney and private citizen – Rudy Giuliani – when it came to Ukraine.
Bottom line: the White House plan is to normalize the idea that these types of exchanges are a regular part of the political process. Totes normal. Nothing to see here.
Trump has been incredibly successful using this strategy throughout presidency: abusing his power publicly and matter-of-factly to numb the public’s perception about his actions. To raise doubt and muddy the water, making it seem as though there are different ways to interpret what are in fact clear abuses of presidential power. His attacks on the press and Democrats are a crucial element of this strategy.
The difference in the case of the Ukraine scandal was that this abuse of power was uncovered before he was able to publicly flaunt it, so it got more traction in the press. It felt like more of an old-school scandal, hidden tapes and all. Now that denial isn’t on the table anymore, the Trump camp will pivot hard to normalization.
But this is not normal. This is NOT normal. THIS IS NOT NORMAL.
What Trump did in this call with Ukraine was a straight-up, textbook abuse of power – one that amounts to a high crime, constitutionally speaking, and worthy of removal from office.
The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.United States Constitution, Article II, Section 4
What Can We Do?
Activists everywhere need to do everything they can to reject the White House’s normalization of this event. Pressure, in particular, needs to be directed at the United States Senate.
GOP Senators need to hear one question from constituents and the press, every minute of every day until the Senate impeachment trial:
“Senator: if a president solicits a foreign government to investigate a political rival for entirely political purposes, is that an abuse of presidential power?”
Wait for the answer. If they equivocate or spout talking points, ask for a yes or no. Get them on record.
Because the White House position on this is clearly now that his actions are not an abuse of power. Will the GOP lemmings in the Senate follow him off the cliff? Let’s hope they don’t. Because setting the precedent that this activity is normal will damage American democracy for good.