Alice Stewart is a CNN political commentator, a resident fellow at the Kennedy Institute of Politics at Harvard University and former communications director for Ted Cruz for President. The views expressed in this commentary belong to the author. View more opinion at CNN.
(CNN)The whistleblower complaint is certainly worthy of investigation, but is an inappropriate phone call an impeachable offense? Is there evidence of a quid pro quo? Is there a case to be made that President Trump engaged in a “betrayal of his oath of office”? Or is this a rush to judgment at a time we need to slow down and look at the facts?
Alice StewartIt’s not a heavy lift to find Republicans who have, at some point, looked at President Trump’s actions and said, “I would not have done that” or “I would not have said it that way.” I count myself among them. With that as a starting point, it’s important to consider the credibility of the whistleblower complaint, the calculation of the Democrats and the collateral damage that will likely result from the impeachment proceedings.Credibility of complaint: Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire testified Thursday that the whistleblower did the right thing and the complaint was “credible” and “important.”That’s true, from the standpoint that the complaint follows the appropriate protocol and reporting procedures. The official complaint is a clearly calculated document, more likely prepared by an attorney than the work of a rank-and-file member of the intelligence community. Read MoreThe problem is that the complaint is based on second-hand knowledge, hearsay and various news reports. The whistleblower himself plainly says, “I was not a direct witness to most of the events described.” Instead, the complaint is filled with statements that start with “I was told” or “I learned.” Most egregious is the final line of the footnotes, when the whistleblower acknowledges: “As of early August, I heard from US officials that some Ukrainian officials were aware that US aid might be in jeopardy, but I do not know how or when they learned of it.”4 reasons conservatives should back impeaching TrumpI’m not an attorney, but I do know that would be unlikely to stand up in a court of law. Yet it is the basis of the impeachment inquiry.The cornerstone of the complaint is the phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The complaint does not match the rough transcript released by the White House. The whistleblower claimed Trump “sought to pressure the Ukrainian leader to take actions to help the President’s 2020 reelection bid”. But the rough transcript indicates President Trump asked for a “favor” in investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. He also mentioned allegations against Joe Biden’s son, and said “if you can look into it.” Most importantly, it does not show a quid pro quo arrangement. Calculation of Democrats:It’s no secret that House Democrats are intent on ousting President Trump. Just hours after she was sworn in, freshman Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Minnesota) didn’t mince her words when she declared that she and her colleagues would “impeach the mother—-er.”In 1998, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi accused Republicans of being “paralyzed with hatred of President Clinton” and said, “Today the Republican majority is not judging the President with fairness, but impeaching him with a vengeance.” The same can be said of Democrats’ hatred of President Trump today. To survive impeachment, Trump has to shut upDemocrats need to avoid setting expectations for their voters that they can’t meet. That was already the case with the Mueller Report. Those on the left spent two years drumming up inaccurate predictions, only to have the special counsel’s office say the investigation did not find President Trump’s campaign conspired with Russia in the 2016 election.House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff will become “the boy who cried wolf” if nothing materializes from the whistleblower complaint. A recent NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll finds Americans are split on whether they approve of an impeachment inquiry. The move is politically risky and could have serious repercussions on the 2020 election. Collateral damage:Former Vice President Joe Biden may get left behind as collateral damage. President Trump has accused the current 2020 Democratic frontrunner of pressuring Ukraine to dismiss a prosecutor who had launched an investigation into a natural gas company where Hunter Biden had a role on the board. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden, but the impeachment inquiry means the former vice president’s 2020 campaign will continue to be mired in this controversy.The Democratic Party doesn’t seem to mind. The public rush to judgment puts Biden on the defensive over Ukraine, which could be a liability on the campaign trail. His fall would likely lead to the rise of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) who represents the left-leaning face of the party. This play would likely hurt Democrats and end up helping President Trump in the general election.Get our weekly newsletter
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President Trump is not above the law, but he’s not below it either. There may be impeachable offenses, but there may not. Justice is blind; it’s time to put partisanship aside and seek the truth.