Wednesday, October 23, 2019

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s announcement that she is opening an official impeachment inquiry against U.S. President Donald Trump struck many Israelis as yet another sign that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Trump are in the same boat. 

Pelosi’s move followed the leak of a whistleblower complaint to the U.S. intelligence community’s inspector general. The complainant alleged that during a telephone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in July, Trump sought the Ukrainian leader’s assistance in advancing his 2020 re-election prospects. 

During the call, Trump asked Zelensky to speak with U.S. Attorney General William Barr about the private cybersecurity company Crowdstrike. Crowdstrike is the private contractor that was hired by the Democratic National Committee to investigate the hack of the DNC’s computer server and concluded that the DNC’s server was hacked by entities related to the Russian government. 

In his conversation with Zelensky, Trump said, “Our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike…the [DNC] server, they say Ukraine has it. …I would like to have the attorney general call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it.”

Trump also talked with Zelensky about former Vice President Joe Biden, now a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate. During his tenure in office, Biden was responsible for U.S. ties with Ukraine. As investigative journalist Peter Schweitzer reported, in April 2014, Biden’s son Hunter was appointed to the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company. Over the next 16 months, Burisma paid Hunter Biden $3.1 million. 

Speaking of Biden’s intervention with the Ukrainian prosecution, Trump said, “...whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution, so if you can look into it…”

Democrats claim that Trump’s discussion with Zelensky constitutes an illegal solicitation of foreign assistance for his 2020 reelection campaign. Republicans counter that Trump was reasonably trying to understand what happened to the DNC server in 2016. 

Leaving aside the weight of the opposing claims, the fact is that there is nothing unique about Trump’s actions.

Similarly, the criminal probes against Netanyahu relate to actions he took to secure positive media coverage that are similar, if not identical, to routine political behavior. 

In Case 2000, Netanyahu is accused of having breached the public faith when he met with Yediot Ahronot publisher Arnon Mozes in an effort to secure positive media coverage. In Case 4000, prosecutors allege Netanyahu accepted a bribe in the form of positive media coverage on the Walla news portal from Walla owner Shaul Elovich. 

As Netanyahu prepares for his pre-indictment hearing, the prosecution has leaked its intent to indict Netanyahu by mid-November. In other words, they have no intention to consider Netanyahu’s defense claims. The outcome is preordained.

For many Israelis, Pelosi’s decision to begin an impeachment investigation parallels moves by Mandelblit and State Attorney Shai Nitzan to fast-track the probes against Netanyahu. But the opposite is the case. Pelosi’s impeachment bid is a sign that America’s legal system and indeed its democracy is far healthier than Israel’s.

For nearly two years, Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his partisan investigators spent millions of dollars on a massive and barely veiled bid to find a legal excuse to oust Trump. But in the end they failed. Until Mueller submitted his report, Pelosi used his ongoing probe to fend off pressure from the increasingly powerful radical members of her Democratic caucus to initiate impeachment proceedings against Trump. Since then, Pelosi argued, rightly, that impeachment proceedings require a huge political investment and hold little chance for success. 

Unfortunately for Pelosi, the Democratic base—including the media and the empowered radical faction of her Democratic caucus—have become deaf to reason. According to a Politico poll, whereas 70% of Democrats support impeachment, only 37% of the public does. 

It is hard to know how the impeachment proceedings will play out, but a likely scenario is that the proceedings will damage Democrats more than they will damage Trump.

Like Pelosi and her colleagues, Blue and White leaders Benny Gantz, and Lapid and their colleagues on the left claim that the very fact that Netanyahu is under investigation renders him illegitimate. They refuse to form a unity government with Likud unless Netanyahu is first ousted as Likud leader.

Pelosi’s decision to open impeachment proceedings against Trump despite the great political risk involved going into an election year indicates that the radical faction has swallowed the Democratic Party. But more importantly, her move is a testament to the abiding power and fortitude of American democracy. The difference between the situation in Israel, where prosecutors happily abuse their legal power for transparently political aims, and the United States, where politically motivated prosecutors backed away from the brink and compelled politicians to take over their political investigations, is the difference between a flailing democracy and a resilient one.

By Caroline Glick/JNS.org 

 

 

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