Making sense of the impeachment inquiry


As the impeachment inquiry dominates headlines, The Means Report tackles the impeachment hearings that we’ve been seeing. Also, what about the presidential campaigns, how are those going? How might the impeachment hearings impact those? And DOCA, news on that coming down this past week. What does the future hold as far as the Supreme Court’s stance on that hot button issue?

Brad Means: Craig Albert is our guest. He is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Augusta University. He is the Director of Intelligence and Security Studies at AU. And I congratulate you on all of your responsibilities over at AU, and I thank you for taking time out of them for us.

Dr. Craig Albert: Thanks for having me.

Brad Means: As I told you on the way in, we should have had you several weeks ago because it’s really busy in Washington DC right now.

Dr. Craig Albert: It’s a fun time to be a political scientist.

Brad Means: It is. Here’s my take on impeachment. The House will vote to impeach President Trump, the Senate will let him off the hook. Am I missing something? And if I’m not, why are we doing all this?

Dr. Craig Albert: I concur 100% with that analysis. It looks like you have a political science degree.

Brad Means: Well thanks.

Dr. Craig Albert: I think more than impeachment this is an electoral policy strategy for both sides. I think President Trump actually wanted to be brought up on impeachment inquiry because it gives him ammunition to fire up his base. So if we remember in 2016, why Trump won the election is because he brought to the fold first-time voters that had not voted before, blue collar workers, maybe independent traditional blue collar working class individuals that don’t typically take the time out of their day to go vote because they’re too busy trying to make a living to, you know, feed their family and everything. He got them in these key Rust Belt states to come out and vote because he promised them something that seemed to be anti-Washington DC, something that would appeal to them. They’ve been disinterested in President Trump’s performance since 2016, and probably would not be going to the poles again for reelection. So this is a way of saying look they’re attacking me, you voted for me, they’re attacking you. So this is going to reignite and fire his base. So I think this is has been a ploy by President Trump to set the conditions for this since he’s been elected. For the Democrats, of course, it’s a strategy to get rid of President Trump. They’re trying to bring out all these testimonies, especially the public testimonies now by saying, look, maybe he hasn’t done anything illegal, but we’re going to show you that he acts unbefitting or unbecoming of a President. And if you don’t like everything that we’re going to demonstrate over the process of this impeachment inquiry, then you should vote for the Democratic candidate that gets put forward once November of next year gets here. This is for strategic positioning for the 2020 election.

Brad Means: What about the poll numbers though, Dr. Albert, that show that more Americans support impeachment than don’t? Should that concern President Trump and his base?

Dr. Craig Albert: I don’t think so. I mean, the polls pointed towards a Hillary landslide against Candidate Trump before the election so polls like this typically can’t really understand the human condition. They can’t measure what somebody really thinks. So when I trust some polls, and I agree with the scientific rigor that go into them, sometimes when it comes to contentious policies like this, the average person that gets polled isn’t telling you the truth. We’re not sure the test, the random sample testing is, who they’re sampling in these polls, so you don’t get the full picture. For instance, that forgotten voter, which is what Kelly Ann Conway calls the first-time Trump voter, usually does not get called to go into a poll. They don’t surveyed, they don’t take it. They’re too busy working. So we have to have some understanding of what these poll means and try to pay more attention to the human conditions underneath them rather than what the polls themselves state.

Brad Means: So show me what that looks like. If a Trump supporter gets a call from a pollster, are they going to consciously say I’m going to mislead this fella on the other end of the line, or I’m going to stay quiet during most of the phone call?

Dr. Craig Albert: I think they hang up.

Brad Means: You think thy just hang up?

Dr. Craig Albert: That’s right.

Brad Means: And then the results are seen at the polls. You mentioned that this might be a move by Trump, is a move by Trump, to reignite his base. Are we seeing that re-ignition, if you will, through these enthusiastic crowds that fill all of these arenas at his rallies?

Dr. Craig Albert: Not only that, but amongst Republicans that are bring polled, again take that with a grain of salt, where there was some faltering a few weeks ago for President Trump support, now they are skyrocketing again.

Brad Means: Uh-huh.

Dr. Craig Albert: And that can only be, I think, correlated with where the impeachment inquiry is going. Lets looks at this objectively speaking. It only took 19 minutes after the inauguration of President Trump for a Democratic Congregational Maker to say let’s start impeaching Donald Trump. So for Trump, he can say look, they were trying to impeach me before I even did a single act. And that is gonna be how he’s gonna campaign and show that this is a witch hunt. That’s the strategic mistake by the Democrats. Even if everything the Democrats are accusing President Trump of is true, and he’s committed high crimes and misdemeanors, that gives Republicans and independents, them saying that on day one, the Democrats saying let’s impeach him, gives everybody the chance to say we don’t believe this, it seems fishy.

Brad Means: President Trump says look everybody please read the transcript of that phone call between the president of the United States and the president of Ukraine. It was a perfect call. Dr. Albert, was it a perfect call? Is it innocent?

Dr. Craig Albert: That’s a good question. So I don’t see any, and this is Objectively political science speaking here.

Brad Means: Sure.

Dr. Craig Albert: I don’t see any quid pro quo. Trump did not say one thing was contingent upon another. Now, did President Trump, and you can read that, it’s on the White House’s website, so everybody out there can go and download it, look at it, it’s two pages, not a long read. So I think that the Democrats are trying to say it’s implied or intoned, and therefore President Trump could be guilty of trying to bribe or mislead a foreign leader to investigate Biden and Biden’s son, which could hurt their election in 2020. I’m not sure that’s what the transcripts show. What the hearings this past week show, the public hearings, is that there might be some bystanders or some witnesses that can put some more context to that phone call, and additional phone calls and meetings that might be able to provide a little more evidence for that quid pro quo. That hasn’t come out yet, but I think that’s what the Democrats want to show, is they have people that are first hand witnesses that seem to be able to give more evidence that Trump did engage in this type of activity.

Brad Means: Republicans seem determined to destroy the credibility of these witnesses that we’re seeing in these impeachment inquiry hearings. My thought on that though is that it doesn’t matter about their credibility because of what we talked about at the beginning of the show. Each side has its mind made up, is that correct?

Dr. Craig Albert: Yeah each side, this is as most of a partisanship spectacle that I’ve seen, and it’s really damaging to American Republicanism. Republicanism as representative government.

Brad Means: What does this do? Does it make people not want to run for president in the future? Or does it make the losing side say that’s cool, we’ll just impeach him or her?

Dr. Craig Albert: I think it’s dividing our country, first of all. And we are so ideologically opposed right now that it’s hard to have any kind of Democratic discourse, which is what the founding framer of our country wanted, was for good representative government through discourse. None of that is happening because we all have preconceived notions once our minds are set based on our party politics. We don’t speak to one another anymore. So I think this whole process is damaging. And unfortunately yes, well qualified, what most people would consider virtuous, educated individuals are not willing to quit their jobs and go into public service anymore because of the contentious policies or politics that exist today.

Brad Means: People aren’t gonna talk to each other, you’re right. This is gonna ruin, and I’m not trying to be silly, this is gonna ruin a lot of Thanksgivings in two weeks. And how long will it last? How long does each side want the impeachment process to last?

Dr. Craig Albert: And I think that’s critical to answer that. I don’t know the answer to that, but the longer it draws out the more disengaged the average voter is going to be.

Brad Means: No matter who you’re for.

Dr. Craig Albert: No matter who you’re for. So the Democrats I think wanna close the inquiry before Christmas recess. Whether or not they have an impeachment, the process is complicated. So evidence has to go from the intelligence committee, where everything is being held right now to the judiciary committee. The judiciary committee is the committee that takes the official vote of whether this article, any evidence of impeachment should be drawn up. And then those move to the House of Representatives. So it’s a long process. Then in the House of Representatives, there’s a simple majority vote to say yes these are the articles of impeachment and we are officially impeaching the president. Impeachment does not mean removal from office. I think that could play out in the next few months. The Senate holds the trial. This is what we call it, the trial. That’s where you decide whether you remove the president because of being impeached on each of those articles of impeachment. I think there’s virtually no chance that that passes whatsoever. So I think all of this is for nought because the Senate, which is Republican dominant, is not going to remove their president from office.

Brad Means: If they did, couldn’t he run right away again? Worst cast scenario for Republicans he gets full impeached and removed, can’t he immediately run again for president in 2020?

Dr. Craig Albert: You have stumped me.

Brad Means: Somebody said that today, and I shouldn’t have even asked because that’s the most outlandish thing I’ve ever heard.

Dr. Craig Albert: I don’t know what the constitutional policies are about that. So that’s a good question.

Brad Means: Somebody had asked me that really moments before we recorded, and I thought I’m never gonna ask Dr. Albert that, and I’m sorry I did ’cause it does sound odd. I need to check it out and find out what his possibilities would be. But it’s not gonna happen, the Senate’s not gonna remove him. You think this will still be going on, or at least some sort of shadow of it will still be lingering when we go to our caucuses and primaries in February?

Dr. Craig Albert: Absolutely. And I think this is going to be a drain to both sides. But I think both sides don’t recognize that, and so they’re gonna draw it out as much as possible. I actually think that it favors President Trump more than it does the Democrats, only because Trump can say that they have been trying to do this literally 19 minutes into his presidency.

Brad Means: When we come back, we’re gonna talk about some other headlines from recent weeks, including the DOCA situation, where the Supreme Court might stand when it comes to children of illegal immigrants in this country. Also what is going on in Syria now that the United States presence there is diminished. Political scientist Craig Albert our special guest on The Means Report.

Part 2

Brad Means: Dr. Craig Albert is the Director of Intelligence Security and Studies at Augusta University. He is also an associate professor, a political scientist, and he is our expert when it comes to all things political, and we’re glad he’s back with us. Dr. Albert, let me just continue with impeachment for just a moment or two longer. Is there anything wrong with asking another country to investigate a political rival? Forget the we’re gonna hold back your money, how about just hey man check into this for me?

Dr. Craig Albert: It’s highly unethical, and it could be unconstitutional if there is evidence to suggest that President Trump did this to try to hamper with the 2020 presidential elections. Not only could that be conceptualized or defined as treasonous, but it is certainly unethical and unbecoming of a president of the United States. So this is what Russia was trying to do was interfere in 2016 in our presidential elections. And you saw the types of problems and chaos that that caused. And that was just through social media manipulation, or what we call the weaponization of social media. If this is in fact the case that President Trump was playing quid pro quo, trying to get a potential opponent investigated in another country, that is definitely electioneering tampering and is, by my understanding of the constitution, would qualify as treasonous. That’s why it’s so important for the proper evidence to come out. If the Democrats have more evidence that President Trump specifically and intended to have Ukraine interfere with our elections, that brings this impeachment inquiry and this impeachment process, and the conditionality of Senate Republicans voting to remove the president to a different level. If there’s a smoking gun out there that can show this amply, even Senate Republicans will be forced to remove him from office.

Brad Means: Are Democrats frantically searching for that smoking gun as we speak? Because otherwise wouldn’t it have come out?

Dr. Craig Albert: I think so. They’re only selectively releasing information right now. So, and my initial reading of that is because they don’t have a smoking gun. But I’m not privy to the intelligence community, to the intelligence committee so I don’t know. They might have something that they tend to release. And we could find out later on in the impeachment inquiry public hearings what they have and more information. One must note that Ukrainian president said that he did not feel any quid pro quo and did not feel President Trump was doing anything at all. And President Trump keeps retweeting that and showing that, and showing the president of Ukraine saying this as well. So that gives a little doubt to that. But we don’t know what the Democrats have. But that certainly would be a removable offense.

Brad Means: Let me ask you about DOCA. So this is a program under President Obama that lets children of illegal immigrants stay here and get authorized to work here. That program might end, depending on the Supreme Court’s interpretation of whether President Trump has the right to end it. 600,000, maybe 700,000 dreamers or people who came here as kids would be impacted. Is this an election impacting issue? Is it as big as some people think it is when you’re talking about 700,000 folks who might get kicked out?

Dr. Craig Albert: I think the entire immigration debate is still in the air, and it could play to either side. For what’s going on in the Supreme Court right now, they’re trying to determine whether the executive order signed by President Obama that allowed for DOCA also then extends to President Trump so that he can rescind that executive order and allow this to go one way or another. So we’re not sure how the Supreme Court’s going to rule. Right now, just based on last week’s public hearings on the Supreme Court case, it seems as if nobody wants these individuals deported, that’s both the liberal justices, the conservative justices, and the Trump-appointed conservative justices on the Supreme Court. But there are some questions as to whether or not Congress should have handled this issue versus an executive action by President Obama. So it had some precedent setting conditions. I don’t think, because of the tough restrictions for DOCA recipients to be labeled DOCA recipients, no felony conviction, you have to have a high school education, or heading towards a high school diploma or a GED equivalent. So it sets down all the parameters for you. You have to be a pretty good potential citizen of the United States. So I think it would be a terrible ploy for President Trump or the Republicans to start deporting any DOCA recipients based on any decision whatsoever. I think if anything this would allow Congress to make a once and for all law, and I think that’s what needs to be done. The immigration system is definitely fractured if not broken. And this decision could help lead to a law.

Brad Means: Let’s take a look at the situation in Syria, something with which you are extremely familiar. We recently withdrew troops from Syria. No sooner had the United States done that then Turkey comes in and starts fighting in that country, fighting the Kurdish forces, if I’m understanding this correctly, that fought ISIS for us.

Dr. Craig Albert: Yeah.

Brad Means: And for the world. What are your thoughts on the reduction of troops there?

Dr. Craig Albert: I think this is a geopolitical strategic mistake by President Trump. And once again I’m just a political scientist, I don’t have the sensitive intelligence information that the president has, but the kUrds have been our allies now for 30 years. Our staunchest allies. Our strongest allies. They support almost every president that we have, regardless of partisan loyalty or anything. They support the United States because of what the United States has done for them since the first Persian Gulf War. They have fought for us, we have trained them, we have armed them. They supply us with intelligence. The death of ISIS leader Baghdadi was directly because of Kurdish intelligence gathering operations that they then handed over to United States special forces. By pulling out, and pretty much allowing the Turkish to invade and some would say commit war crimes against the Kurds, some are saying that the Turks are ethnically cleansing the Kurds, forcibly rounding them up and moving them out of the area so that Turkey can have what they say is a safe zone. To me, just from a foreign policy perspective, that’s a betrayal of our second closest ally in the Middle East. Israel’s the next closest ally. On top of that, both the state of Israel and the Kurds support each other and they both are egalitarian and Democratic seeking, at least more than the other states in the region. So if the United States is into supporting human rights and liberal policies on humanitarian issues world wide, pulling out and not supporting the Kurds takes away the fact that that’s what we support and that’s why we support the Kurds.

Brad Means: Well, Dr. Albert, we can’t stay there forever, or can we or should we? And I thought we beat ISIS.

Dr. Craig Albert: ISIS is significantly withdrawn. We did kill Baghdadi now, but their cyber caliphate is huge. They still have an online presence that’s recruiting. They have asked for lone wolves, lone extremists to retaliate against the United States for the death of Baghdadi. So they’re not going away, and in fact we see them resurging already, physically trying to gain back territory in Syria and Iraq since the death of Baghdadi, and since the United States has withdrawn their forces. We do have about 500 forces still there. We still have special forces operators in the area that are capable of taking out high value targets, capable of precision strikes and moving in quickly if we see anything that we need to take care of.

Brad Means: Well okay, then that may have answered by next question, which is might President Trump do a reversal and send troops back? You’re saying we’re still capable of helping out if needed.

Dr. Craig Albert: Absolutely.

Brad Means: Okay. Let’s take a look at some issues back here at home. Back to the whole presidential race thing. On the Democratic side, do you see one or two people rising to the top? Are you ready to say who you think might face the president?

Dr. Craig Albert: That’s a tough question.

Brad Means: And it’s early.

Dr. Craig Albert: It’s early and the deadline for the primaries and caucuses in several states still hasn’t approached yet, so people can still enter. And we saw already a couple new folks enter on the Democratic side. And now we’re back at 18 candidates for the Democratic primary. So it’s way too early to tell. I think some standouts right now are Elizabeth Warren, who’s polling much better than she was a few months ago. And Joe Biden has slipped a little bit, but I still think he’s the candidate to beat. And I still think he’s the most electable on the Democratic side. I also think he’s the closest chance of a Democrat beating President Trump because Biden knows how to play Trump’s game.

Brad Means: Mm-hmm. We’ve talked about the importance of the economy on this broadcast. Even right after President Trump got elected we mentioned that as long as the economy stayed strong so would he. Is that still the case? And can our great economy right this second sustain?

Dr. Craig Albert: I’m not sure that typical Americans are feeling the impact of the great, great economy. And so the stock market exchange, all those types of bonds and government issue money, those are doing well. Companies are doing well. Apple’s doing well. As for my pocketbook, I’m not seeing that much difference between President Obama and President Trump. And Trump promised that you would see that once he won the election. So that might turn some of those independents that voted for him precisely for an increase in their paycheck away from him. They might not vote period. They might stay home because their individual pockets haven’t grown much.

Brad Means: Does Mike Pence stay as Vice President? And if President Trump asked him not to, would it just be typical Donald Trump to do that?

Dr. Craig Albert: That is a move that one could expect Trump to make. I think Pence is on the ticket to stay.

Brad Means: You think he is.

Dr. Craig Albert: I do.

Brad Means: And Nikki Haley, to her credit, said the same thing. She said look, that ship has sailed, he’s the guy.

Dr. Craig Albert: Absolutely. I think more strategic positioning for Pence, Haley 2024 campaign is what we could see.

Brad Means: We only have about a minute left, if that. What would you say to the undecided voter? What should he or she look out for in these last few months before we have to go vote that might sway us to either side? What should be on our radar?

Dr. Craig Albert: Just do your homework. Study every candidate very, very studiously, no matter what your political leanings are. Look out to the others. Look to see who’s more truth telling. Look to see who has more evidence of the position. Look who’s really into the interests of the United States as whole. That’s what the founding framers wanted presidents to be. They wanted to look out for the general interests of the country. They didn’t wanna favor one party or the other, one state or another, one type of person over the other, the majority over the minority, or the minority over the majority. They were looking for who could serve the interest of the country as a whole best. And that’s what voters should be looking for. Doing their homework on who they think is most capable of doing that. And that’s what I tell all my students. I never tell them for whom to vote. I never tell them for whom I voted. I tell them study, study, study. Make sure you have evidence and reasons as to why the person you want to vote for will be best for the United states as an entity in its whole.

Brad Means: Dr. Craig Albert, a lot to cover today, and I appreciate you doing it as always.

Dr. Craig Albert: Thanks for having me.

Brad Means: Thank you. Please come back a ton between now and next November.

Dr. Craig Albert: I’m ready.

Brad Means: All right good deal. We are too.

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The Means Report first aired in January of 2009 offering coverage that you cannot get from a daily newscast. Forget about quick soundbytes -- we deliver an in-depth perspective on the biggest stories. If they are making news on the local or national level, you will find them on the set of The Means Report. Hosted by WJBF NewsChannel 6 anchor, Brad Means, The Means Report covers the topics impacting your life, your town, your state, and your future.

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