President Trump, Donald Trump, United States discussed on Intercepted with Jeremy Scahill

Automatic TRANSCRIPT

Impeachment hill or at least presidential impeachment is hell throughout modern. US history. There's been a rather insidious this plot involving both Democratic and Republican administrations to expand the powers of the executive branch. It's based on a view of government and separation one of powers inspired by the theory of the unitary executive the notion that in my reading ultimately views the executive branch as a sort of dictatorship ownership or monarchy when it comes to what is loosely called National Security Policy People like Dick Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld were radical executive power extremists so to is the current attorney. General William Bar Dick. Cheney believed that Iran Contra was not a scandal but actually a model for how National Security Policy should function. Congress in this view is just a funding mechanism. It has no no business getting involved with the details. Much less. Exerting Oversight Tower Commission made a number of recommendations of series of findings of but also I think in one of its most significant sections argued rather persuasively in my opinion against the notion that somehow I'm how these events require us now to legislate new restrictions on presidential power and authority when Barack Obama Campaign for president. He openly Finley telegraphed that he wanted to alter this path he wanted to be the most transparent administration in history. The biggest problems that we're facing right now have to do with George Bush trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress at all. And that's what I intend to reverse reverse when I'm president of the United States of America but from Obama's refusal to hold anyone accountable for CIA torture to his expansion of drone strikes aches and dirty wars to his use of secret kill lists any dubious parallel justice system that by the way regularly sentenced people to death without charge or trial L. including US citizens Obama actually expanded executive power. And he did it with widespread support from liberals something that Dick Cheney must have been been privately pretty psyched about even as he pretended to despise Obama and then we get to trump. There is a temptation to portray trump's activities as simply iran-contra for really really dumb people and there certainly are many examples to offer up to support this line of thinking but what I want to focus Assan. Today is the long term impact of what Donald Trump's lawyers arguing in his Senate trial and also the impact of the case that the Democrats have made against him for the Senate to remove duly elected president. On vague non-constitutional grounds such as abusive power obstruction of Congress would create a dangerous precedent. What Alan Dershowitz did in his prime time address on the floor of the? US Senate on Monday. Night was to advocate for one of the most dangerous and far-reaching justifications for the abuse of power by a president that has ever been offered in this country's history in fact back at the heart of Dershowitz his theory was the idea that you cannot remove a president for abuse of power. You cannot remove a president for obstructing the lawful rights of Congress. Even if we all agree that the president did those things Dershowitz and Ken Starr both invoked iran-contra tre apparently to suggest that it was the right decision not to attempt to remove Reagan for abuse of power or even that there were grounds to do so. The proper remedy in the eyes of trump's lawyers for these crimes is to just verbally attacked the president on the campaign trail case closed. That's how abuse the power should be used his campaign rhetoric. It should be in statements issued by one political party against the other. That's the nature of the term abuse of power. Our is a political weapon and it should be level against political opponents. Let the public decide. I have a lot of issues with how the Democrats have chosen in to go after trump in this impeachment effort especially the Cold War. Redux that Adam Schiff is subjecting. All of us to with his warnings that the the Russians are coming so we'd better fight them over there. I moreover as one witness put it during our impeachment inquiry the United States Age Ukraine and her people people so that we can fight Russia over there and we don't have to fight Russia here at the same time that this throwback to the Cold War is happening there. There is an abundance of evidence that what trump did regarding Ukraine involving the Biden that it is an abuse of power. It's an abuse of power of the Office of the presidency. Okay Bye weaponising your official position as president to attack political opponents domestically by using a bribe foreign government as a weapon. I also think that it's undeniable that Hunter Biden improperly benefited from his father's position as vice president and this is a scandal that unfortunately is more or less business as usual in US politics at the same time if what former national security adviser John Bolton road food in his forthcoming book about his time in the White House. If it's being accurately reported by the New York Times then we absolutely need to hear from John. Bolton a potential Henshaw Bombshell New York Times tonight reporting that according to an unpublished draft manuscript from former national security adviser John Bolton upcoming running buck and alleges that president trump tied aid to Ukraine to the investigation into the Biden's by the way. I never thought I would say I wonder what John Bolton mm says about literally anything but here we are. We should hear it particularly if he has evidence of trump using the office of the presidency to wage domestic domestic political battles or to prop up dictators and by the way we should also be looking at what attorney general bar knew what he said and to whom he said it and when he said it to cut through all of this and to look at how this actually impacts the power of the executive branch I think. That's a worthwhile endeavor so I'm joined join now by Spencer. Ackerman he senior national security correspondent for the daily beast. He's former. US national security editor at The Guardian us. He was also part of the He Pulitzer Prize winning team. That reported on Edward snowden surveillance revelations Spencer Ackerman Welcome back to intercepted. Thanks for having Jeremy. Let's start with what's going going on with the impeachment. Trial Donald Trump. And what's your assessment of what we've seen in terms of power and the thrust of the argument that the trump lawyers including Dershowitz are making very conspicuous in Dershowitz. His argument is the conflation between what a president does in his official capacity and what a president does as a private goal. And that distinction. Is I think central for assessing what brought trump to the point of impeachment. Peach Mint trump was not conditioning aid to Ukraine. That Congress had already appropriated for the point of some other aspect beck of what American policy needed to accomplish right. He's conditioning aid to Ukraine on private goals on things that help him in a pure. We domestic political context things that I think we can pretty easily distinguish at least intellectually from the presidency from official acts. And that's really where Dershowitz argument in my opinion lurches toward complete absurdity. What limited circumstances must exist in order to impeach any president ever? There's really nothing between the person inhabiting the office. And anything that might benefit that person particularly particularly and the office itself. I think that one of the things that's bothered me about the Democrats narrow argument in this impeachment process is the way that particularly equally. Adam Schiff is using this cold war imagery an argument that they're making Ukraine's political position in the world vis-a-vis Russia and the necessity for them to have these lethal weapons so central to it. When it's irrelevant what is relevant? Here's what you were just mentioning before. Did trump trump engage in an attempt to force a foreign power as a condition of receiving. They're already authorized aid to participate eight in a smear or attack campaign against one of the president's political rivals for the life of me. I don't understand why the Democrats want to make this Cold War politicking about and trump was holding up. This lethal aid. That poor little Ukraine needed. It's irrelevant to the crime. They're alleging no. It's only relevant. If you view foreign in policy is some kind of narian struggle one of the things. That ship said that I think didn't get remotely the attention that it deserved in his opening argument last last week was that America has an abiding interest in stemming Russian expansionism and resisting any nations efforts to remake the map of Europe by Dente military force even as we have tens of thousands of troops stationed there moreover as one witness put during our impeachment inquiry. The United didn't states age Ukraine and her people so that we can fight rush over there and we don't have to fight Russia Russia's not going to invade the United States they even said during Vietnam. We're fighting in Saigon. So we don't have to fight and San Francisco. We certainly heard a lot during the war on terror and particularly the Iraq war and I think there are lots of people who recognize the constitutional precipice that trump and this bribery scheme pose. Who want nothing to do with the idea of Russia as an eternal American enemy let alone a conflict with Russia that can spiral out of control even if it just remains a geopolitical struggle? Yeah I mean it seems like just such an own goal to have doubled and tripled down on this. This notion that we're in a new cold war rather than just looking at the facts are bad enough as they can be proven of what this guy's doing and I really think the Democrats have just completely blown their opportunity to show a spine impart because they've relied on the crutch of new Cold War politics and rhetoric. Partisan partisan commitment is a hell of drug and it seems not long from now. The United States will need to renegotiate a nuclear arms control treaty with the Russians. If you WANNA have any hope of stopping an accidental nuclear detonation you have to negotiate with Russia. You don't have to like Russia. You don't have to acclimate to Russian geopolitics. But what you have to do is get your diplomats Matt's across the table from one another in comp with the way of limiting both deployed and nondeployed nuclear weapons is a dangerous place to be. It's not dangerous just from from the fact that you saw Russian intrusion in American election in twenty sixteen and who knows what's going to happen going forward but if there is an existential danger from Russia it's an arms control danger and it has to be dealt with diplomatically because there's no other way of doing and rhetoric that I think often without really meaning or or thinking that they have meant it that the Democratic Party has adopted that goal gets set back and that's to no one's benefit. Let's talk about what some of what has been reported in this manuscript from John Bolton according to the New York Times reporting in in the Manuscript Bolton writes about his conversations with Attorney General William Bar where bar was worried that trump in his relationships with Xi Jinping of China of Turkish President Air John. He worried that because there were ongoing. Justice Department investigations it seemed that trump was actively actively undermining them bar saying he was quote worried that trump had created the appearance that he had undue influence over. What would typically be independent inquiries from the Justice Department so that seems to me from everything we know about bill bar pure reputational protection right that if it seems that trump impious worried that the Justice Department Specter General? Didn't go as far as he would've wanted you know obviously the Justice Department criticized the FBI. I but also said that. The Russian investigation crossfire. Hurricane into trump in Russia in two thousand sixteen was woefully predicated. That it wouldn't have gone as far as has what's necessary to appease trump bar is surely very cognizant that the reason why he has the attorney general ship in the first place is because trump grew furious at of all people jeff sessions for not being sufficiently toadfish to trump. And now bar has a John. Durham who I'm sure a you and I remember as the person who wet torture off the hook the special prosecutor who is investigating the CIA torture program and basically whitewashed the whole thing and covered it up that's correct and also framed it in such a way that none.

Coming up next