Within the impeachment debate, a Trump refrain has been “where was the crime?” After all, what damage was really done? Volodymyr Zelansky got his White House visit and Ukraine got its aid and javelin rockets. Clearly, this is a Hoax, a Sham, a Witch Hunt!
But what if the President and his agents were not so inept? I’m a fan of the alternate history genre (think “Fatherland,” by Robert Harris), so let me spin an alternate outcome here.
Suppose the plan to damage Biden was more clandestine; professionally planned and executed, the call was never made or successfully buried, and Trump had more loyal forces installed in the State Department and in the ambassadorial ranks. What if the whistle blower never materialized? What if Trump didn’t make the stupid decision to resurrect the debunked 2016 Ukrainian election interference plot and add it to the soup. Or what if the quid-pro-quo was delivered quietly and without a trail by a trusted confidant.
Could we have then seen a credible new Ukrainian president, who had run on an anti-corruption platform, hold a convincing news conference on CNN, strategically timed before the Iowa caucus. Zelansky soberly announces as part of his broad corruption investigation, a serious inquiry into Hunter Biden, Burisma Holdings, and by association, former Vice-President Joe Biden. No one ever discovers any fingerprints of the Trump administration’s shakedown of Ukraine.
Biden, already stumbling in Iowa, comes in a distant fifth place, with no clear winner. Leading up to Super Tuesday, Russia and fringe-right groups spin a brilliant digital campaign that keeps the Burisma issue alive. Warren and Sanders join in the questioning in order to bolster their chances; and the Trump administration’s blunders and missteps move to page two.
The Democratic Convention opens in Milwaukee on July 13th with no presumptive nominee, chaos ensues; however, Biden is finally confirmed on the third round of balloting. Very little time is spent on Republican policy failures in the first term.
On January 20, 2021 Donald Trump strides to the podium for his second inaugural address. In the campaign, Biden continued to be dogged by Ukraine and a proposed Senate investigation that never actually took place. He won the popular vote but lost in the electoral college.
It turns out that Trump was very much like Ray Winkler in Woody Allen’s hit “Small Time Crooks.” But what if he were a bit cleverer and more sinister? Trump could also have been the Keyser Soze character in Bryan Singer’s “The Usual Suspects.”
High crimes and misdemeanors are still high crimes and misdeneanors regardless of the outcome. They should not be judged by the success or failure of the illicit act. An alternate history in this recent incident with the Ukraine could have been quite grave to our democracy and our nation - and we might never have discovered it.
This is precisely why impeachment was the appropriate course of action.