Quid pro quo . . . it’s the new “by the book.”
You remember “by the book,” right? No, not “buy the book,” which I’ve been trying to get people to do since “Ball of Collusion” was published a few weeks back. I’m talking about by the book. That was the memorable phrase Obama National Security Adviser Susan Rice emphasized in her notorious CYA memo.
Remember? The memo took the form of an email. She wrote it while clearing out of her White House office while Donald Trump was being inaugurated. It purported to summarize a meeting more than two weeks earlier, when President Obama held an Oval Office pow-wow on next steps in the Trump-Russia investigation.
Fully aware that what they were orchestrating was highly irregular (the continuation of a probe targeting the new president even as he entered office), Rice took pains to note that Obama had insisted that everything be done “by the book.” It was a flashing neon sign that “the book” was being burned. There is no “book” — no set of legit procedures and norms — that endorses the exploitation of executive investigative powers in the service of partisan politics.
The President’s best Ukraine defense has always been that any quid pro quo demand was not close to an impeachable offense.
That’s why the Justice Department is pursuing criminal and inspector-general probes of the matter. While we wait on those, Democrats are not idling. With the Mueller collusion caper having flamed out, they have moved on to an “impeachment inquiry” in the House, focused on President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.
Much of our country opposes impeachment (especially in Trump-friendly districts Democrats need to win to keep control of the lower chamber), so Democrats have refused to conduct a vote to endorse their inquiry. That shows what thin gruel it is. Their theory, though, is analogous to Obama’s “by the book” practices: They allege that Trump exploited executive power for partisan political purposes.