Congressional Republicans are scrambling to figure out how to proceed with their full-throated support of President Trump in the wake of Wednesday’s public impeachment hearings, in which Ambassador William B. Taylor, Jr. and George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary at the State Department, testified for hours in front of members of the House Intelligence Committee. Taylor’s testimony was particularly damning, and not just because it included new revelations about a phone call between Trump and EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland that makes it appear that Trump was really only interested in investigating political rival Joe Biden.
While we have yet to hear from Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) on his opinion of Wednesday’s hearings, Congressman/State Republican Party Chairman Ken Buck (R-Greeley) talked to Justin Wingerter of The Denver Post and gave his thoughts on what took place yesterday. We’ll get to Buck’s incredible nonsense in a moment, but first we should present some background information.
Buck had previously been a fan of what has come to be called “The Sideshow Bob Defense,” owing to the nefarious character from the long running TV show “The Simpsons.” In essence, this theory is based on the idea that Trump did not actually commit a crime because his extortion attempt with Ukraine was unsuccessful. This is, of course, completely absurd; attempting to commit a crime is still a crime. Ineptitude is not a defense.
“Convicted of a crime I didn’t even commit. Hah! Attempted murder? Now honestly, what is that? Do they give a Nobel Prize for attempted chemistry? Do they?”
As we wrote last month, Buck’s usage of “The Sideshow Bob Defense” was patently ridiculous:
As for whether or not Trump committed a crime even if the quid pro quo is universally acknowledged, that’s not up to Ken Buck to decide. Federal law says clearly that seeking assistance from a foreign government in an American election is a crime. Again, if anyone out there should be expected to know this without being told, it’s a former prosecutor. At the end of September, Buck even said “I don’t think this is necessarily even wrong” in reference to what federal law clearly defines as a criminal act. Today, Buck sidesteps the question by saying only that it’s not an “impeachable offense,” but his credibility to make that judgment is already spent after he argued that what is clearly a crime is in fact not.
Buck never misses a chance to remind a reporter that he is a “former prosecutor,” though it appears that the former Weld County District Attorney either didn’t really know what he was doing at the time or forgot everything he once knew about the law…which leads us back to his comments to The Denver Post today:
“Whether it’s appropriate or not, the voters can decide. It’s not impeachable,” the congressman said in a phone interview Thursday morning, a day after public hearings in the impeachment inquiry began…
…Buck compared the allegations against Trump — that he withheld nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine because the Eastern European ally would not investigate the son of Joe Biden, a possible Trump opponent — to conditions the U.S. government routinely places on foreign aid, while reiterating that he does not believe Trump withhold the money in order to force an investigation into the Bidens.
“For example, we put tariffs on Mexico and say to Mexico, ‘Help us stop the flow of illegal immigrants into the United States’ and Mexico agreed to do that and has been doing that and the president withdrew the tariffs. That’s a quid pro quo. It’s not illegal. In and of itself, a quid pro quo does not violate the law,” Buck said. Over the summer, Trump threatened to place tariffs on all Mexican goods, but backed off after an agreement was reached on immigration enforcement.
This is objectively wrong. Period.
It is irrelevant whether or not Buck thinks President Trump’s request of Ukraine is illegal. We don’t need Buck’s opinion here because the law itself is clear.
Now take a gander at how the Greeley Congressman would raise the bar on Presidential misconduct:
The congressman declined to say whether he believes it’s appropriate for a president to ask such a favor, calling that a hypothetical scenario. A quid pro quo, as Democrats allege Trump engaged in, would only be an impeachable offense if it rises to the level of a crime, said Buck, a former prosecutor.
“In other words, if I’m the president of the United States and I say to (Russian President) Vladimir Putin, ‘If you go and kill these three political opponents of mine, I will give you aid, or I will stop giving Ukraine aid,’ yes, that’s a crime,” the congressman said.
It’s noteworthy in itself that Buck declines to say whether he believes President Trump’s actions to be appropriate, but the real problem here is Buck’s faulty response to Trump’s actions as a “hypothetical scenario.” Trump did talk to the President of Ukraine and he did ask him to “do us a favor, though” and start an investigation into the Bidens. There’s nothing hypothetical about any of this.
Furthermore, according to “Buck logic,” Trump would have to ask another country TO MURDER SOMEONE for this sort of request to rise to an impeachable offense.
Most adults understand that this scenario would still include separate crimes — for murder and for bribery. Then again, most adults also don’t believe that people are purchasing AR-15 rifles in order to obliterate raccoons.
You might remember that Buck damn near sunk President Trump during the testimony of former special prosecutor Robert Mueller when he repeatedly asked if Trump could be charged with a crime and kept getting the same affirmative answer. Buck later attempted to defend his blunder by saying that “only very soft people” are worried about Trump’s actions. In other words, it’s not necessarily a good thing for Trump that Ken Buck is trying to publicly defend him.
Buck tells The Denver Post that he will “will go where the evidence takes me in this case.” If Buck was making an honest attempt to understand the evidence, this might be reassuring.