Podcast: Trump on Trial
Posted on October 9, 2019Is the President winning or losing in the court of public opinion?
John Feehery: Trump on Trial. The Feehery Theory starts right now.
Announcer: The Feehery Theory podcast brought to you by EFB Advocacy.
John Feehery: The Democrats have started the impeachment ball rolling. John Easton, is this a smart strategy?
John Easton: It really depends on how this goes from here. Right now they're not all in. Nancy Pelosi is not all in on this. They have not had a vote on the House floor to move forward with impeachment, which really gives the whole investigation, the whole inquiry, more gravitas. And I think until they get to that point, I think there'll be flailing a lot more than what is good for them otherwise.
John Feehery: Adam Belmar, do you think that are actually going to have a vote to go on impeachment? I think they will, and I think it actually will hurt the Democrats, but maybe not. What do you think?
Adam Belmar: Yeah, I think they will. I think they're very serious about this. I think there's very serious grounds to proceed with this inquiry, and they may have gotten the cart before the horse, even with their reticence to move forward and then jumping in with both feet after the word of the call came out. They need a vote. They're going to take it.
John Feehery: John Easton, talking about the vote and talking about the Republicans and the president are saying, "We're not moving. We're not doing anything. We're not cooperating. We're not going to help. We're not going to do crap until you have this vote." So is that the right strategy for the Republicans?
John Easton: It is very, very Trumpian strategy. If you look at what he did yesterday, he sent this letter to Nancy Pelosi that did just that. And as Politico said, I thought this was a great line. It said, "Minimum cooperation. Maximum confrontation."
John Feehery: Yeah.
John Easton: And that's really what it is. And that is Donald Trump. And again, until you have a more formal process, a more orderly process then what you have is more of like a schoolyard scraps, say with with Congressman Schiff, who made the mistake of coordinating with the whistleblower before the whistleblowers complaint came out. That looked terrible. Guess who jumped all over that within one second. Donald Trump did, and he made Schiff the issue at that point. Donald Trump is able to do that, and that's just part of what his whole essence is, is just to destroy those who are trying to destroy him.
John Easton: So right now that's what we're seeing every day. We're seeing this hand to hand combat. If you get a vote, a more formal vote on impeachment. If you have a more formalized committee structure with subpoenas and the minority gets to subpoena and you've got White House lawyers involved, if this gets more formalized ,then I think things calm down a little bit, and the American people can start to see things for what they really are, and the facts come out a little bit easier.
John Feehery: It's really interesting battle between these two Titans really in many ways. The Congress, especially the House and the president. The Congress, the Democrats are saying that, "We have to protect this whistleblower," and everyone in the right says, "We don't know who the whistleblower is. Why do you have to protect him?" Now we find out, Adam Belmar, that the whistleblower actually wasn't just a partisan Democrat but had very, very close ties to a Democratic presidential campaign. We don't know which one because we don't know who the whistleblower is, but all these things are leaking out.
John Feehery: My personal opinion is this has been a deep state coup effort to take out President Trump because the deep state hates Trump. They hate what he does on the national security front. The CIA and the FBI never liked it that Trump was said at the beginning of his campaign, "But why should I trust these guys? They got us into Iraq," so and they hate him. It's clear that they hate him. It's clear that the deep state is all part of the surrounding that they want to leak against him. You worked in the white house. There is a deep state, isn't there?
Adam Belmar: The issues at hand around this inquiry I believe are real. They are not concocted by a deep state coup as you put it.
John Feehery: You disagree?
Adam Belmar: I disagree.
John Feehery: All right.
Adam Belmar: I'm not-
John Feehery: That's not the current Republican talking point.
Adam Belmar: I am just speaking for myself here as a Republican who served in a Republican White House that I believe in the institutions of our government and oversight and while there is an enormous effort to make this a process story, and process means slow down, and process means eye rolling and boring, it is exactly where we are now. And so people are sort of tired of it or they don't want to read or just the headline. President Trump has been very aggressive about what he thinks is appropriate in an election year in terms of soliciting help from foreign countries. He's tried to cloak it under the auspices of ferreting out corruption.
Adam Belmar: I don't buy it. I don't think the majority of Republicans buy it even as they defend the president and say that he doesn't deserve to be impeached. This is another example of horrid behavior by the White House, and I also think, John, that the transparency that was shown in releasing the transcript was, was certainly brilliant on the president's part.
John Feehery: It was a perfect call.
Adam Belmar: It was not a perfect call.
John Feehery: What?!
Adam Belmar: It was a very good decision to put it out there, lest it come out later in the process. I am very unhappy with the conduct of our president and his [crosstalk 00:05:42].
John Feehery: But that's not... You've been unhappy since he got elected?
Adam Belmar: So many people have been. That is true. I won't walk away from that. I support this president and his agenda, but I don't support his conduct and I don't support he using the leverage of the office and the American foreign policy for his own personal gain and investigating-
John Feehery: Don't you think it's in American, and John Easton, you can jump in here Don't you think it's in America's best interest that the people of the Ukraine clean up corruption, and wherever that goes. And Joe Biden, I mean, the Joe Biden-Hunter Biden connection is not made up. Joe Biden went to the Ukraine and said, "Knock off this prosecutor," and Hunter Biden was in the Ukraine making boatloads of money. That's all true. Those are the things that are true. I mean, Biden said, "I'm going to hold back this money," and Hunter Biden was making tons of money in Ukraine. That is true, right?
John Easton: Perhaps. And I think that that is one area where, again, we talk about Trump's strategy where he's been pretty successful and in muddying the waters on this, putting some of the attention on this on somebody else, right? On Joe Biden, on Hunter Biden. But I think what this comes down to is, and this obviously isn't for the three of us to decide or anybody but really the members of Congress down the street, and that is, is this an impeachable offense? And I think you have right now, if you have, you talk about process. Right now we're going through a ton of process. That's not going to get the Democrats over the hall, right? Talking about, "Oh, the White House isn't cooperating. The White House is withholding documents that we need."
John Easton: That's not going to get them there because Watergate, yes, Nixon had withheld information, but ultimately it was a cover-up. There was a crime. There was a break-in. I mean, the guy was toast, and he knew it, and it was found out, and it was over. I think we have everything in that transcript for the most part, right. The core of the argument is that he abused the power of his office. Okay. That's the Democrats' line. Okay. But there's got to be some definitive evidence of a crime, of a high crime and misdemeanor to obviously impeach. Now who decides that? Ultimately, the United States Senate decides that if the House of Representatives-
John Feehery: And the United States Senate is not going to convict this president.
John Easton: As of right now there it does not look like it. In fact, I don't know if there's been one Republican to say that they would vote against the president if it came to a vote, either in the House or the Senate.
John Feehery: And you don't need a simple majority. You need 67 votes under the Constitution to convict. There's no way they're going to get 67 votes. No way. And there's also, Adam Belmar, no way that President Trump is going to resign. I know that this is the hope of the left and of many Never Trumpers that he's going to resign. So they go through this process. The Democrats impeach, theoretically. They want to move this as quickly as possible, narrowly on the Ukraine. In the court of public opinion, is this going to be for Trump or is it going to be good for Trump?
Adam Belmar: No, this is bad. This is bad for Trump, and it's bad for America, and it's bad for our democracy. I want to point out to our viewers, and to you, John Feehery, that this is the 95th episode of The Feehery Theory. For over two years on a near weekly basis, we've been engaging in political analysis and discussion around the Trump White House and what's going on in Washington. Never once have you ever mentioned corruption or Biden's or Ukraine and never once to the president either. This is a decision to make it seem like it was a good idea to ask for help and impeaching the credibility of a political rival in a political campaign here, and it's working well for you. You seem to be enjoying it and many Republicans are. I just want to point out that you can't be the Johnny-come-lately to these things and then pretend the rest of us aren't going to remember that we never talked about this because it wasn't an issue.
John Feehery: It has been an issue and Peter Schweizer's book just came out, and then now we're learning about this and some pretty good research now about Hunter Biden and all his cabal. And, John Easton, I think about all the low level...
John Feehery: ... John Easton, I think about all the low-level corruption that happens with politicians all over the country. And I know this from being from Illinois, and I know this talking to my mother, who gets so frustrated by the political insiders taking care of themselves and their family, and this issue resonates beyond this particular issue. The question is, does it hurt Trump more, or does it hurt Biden more? And I think that polls show that Biden's not ... it's not hurting him with Democratic voters at all.
John Easton: Yeah. I think it hurts them both. And I think that what we've said on this podcast, certainly I have, about Joe Biden, I never thought he would make it to the nomination. And this certainly is a big obstacle that he did not expect. But I think that with regard to Trump, with regard to how this plays out, this was a stupid phone call. This was a stupid conversation that he had.
John Easton: I think that probably every president has made some sort of an initiative to say, "Hey, can you check up on ... I've heard a little bit about Joe Biden's son and Ukraine," and you turn to an aidE, and you might say, "Can you look into that? See if there's anything there?" I mean, that's certainly not illegal.
John Easton: I mean, it's just you're obviously thinking politically and you task somebody else to run it down to see if there's anything there. Right? But instead, this guy, that's not the way he operates. He just says it himself, the President United States. So it was a stupid comment, comments that he made on this phone call. But the Democrats so badly want an impeachable offense, that they're going with it. They're not all in yet, but they're going with it and they seem like they're going down the road.
John Easton: The problem is, is the destruction that an impeachment process takes is enormous. And what it takes the country through, what it takes both parties through. Nobody's really a winner. I think Donald Trump will remain in office if they do indeed go to a trial in the Senate. I think he stays, and then what are we left with? The whole thing is bad.
John Feehery: Well, I think it's a big distraction from a lot of other issues that are going on, and sometimes I think that might be fine. I think back to what happened, Adam Belmar, when the Republicans impeached Bill Clinton over having sex in the office with an underage intern and lying about it. I mean it's completely understandable why he'd lie about it.
John Feehery: It was also at the time Democrats and Republicans were appalled by the behavior and had any CEO in America done the same type of thing, especially in this day and age of #Metoo, they would be fired. But you can't really fire a President that easily. You can't fire a President as easily as you can fire a CEO.
John Feehery: Thinking about Bill Clinton, what happened to him, which was kind of ... they went through the impeachment process. They passed articles of impeachment and then it went to the Senate and they largely let them go. They said, "Well, we can't convict him on this," and it broke down in party lines. A lot of Republicans who are now in the Senate were in the house who voted for impeachment. There's some senators who voted for impeachment who are still in the Senate like Chuck Grassley. And so there's this kind of consistency thing.
John Feehery: But this is a different type of offense. The offense is the fact that he wants someone to look into corruption. I think the phone call was-
Adam Belmar: I'm laughing because-
John Feehery: I think the call-
Adam Belmar: That's not true. I mean, you're characterizing it as if-
John Feehery: You don't think there's any corruption with Joe Biden going on, [crosstalk 00:03:44]-
Adam Belmar: That's not what the subject of this phone call was.
John Feehery: The phone call ... You don't think it had nothing ... You think it had nothing to do with corruption? You think it had everything ... well, first of all, I think that there's a couple things. The first thing he mentioned is not Joe Biden. It was CrowdStrike. I think what he's most fixated on is this idea, conspiracy theory probably, that the Russian investigation actually started in the Ukraine.
John Feehery: I think that's fanciful and that's all nonsense. But that's what he's mostly fixated. He throw Joe Biden in at the end to say hey, "Can you look into this Biden stuff?" But actually the phone call was mostly about CrowdStrike, and the fact is that the phone call is that-
Adam Belmar: The phone call was not mostly about CrowdStrike. It was a backslapping congratulatory call that was-
John Feehery: Well, I mean that's [crosstalk 00:14:30]-
Adam Belmar: ... [inaudible 00:14:30].
John Feehery: But that was the first thing-
Adam Belmar: But it's evolved into-
John Feehery: ... you brought up.
Adam Belmar: It's evolved into what the Democrats see as a quid pro quo, okay? And if I were helping the Democrats with their messaging, I would say when you hear, "I want you to do as a favor though," it's a quid pro quo. Okay? That is the crux of the argument, but it's not the singularity of this conversation. As the speaker has said, it's the sequencing of holding up this aide, of employing shadow diplomacy on the part of non-governmental officials and Rudy Giuliani pulling back our US ambassador who wasn't down with the President's program.
Adam Belmar: Then following up immediately with State Department personnel to make it clear that if you want the money, and you want the javelin missiles, you have to do a
John Feehery: Which the Obama administration refused to give them.
Adam Belmar: Listen, we can talk about-
John Feehery: So that was the ...
Adam Belmar: I don't want to interrupt you because I respect you so much. I just want to say-
John Feehery: But the Obama administration withheld those missiles that you're talking about.
Adam Belmar: These are separate issues from the one we're discussing now.
John Feehery: Are they separate issues?
Adam Belmar: Well, if we can't talk about this one for a minute, it's hard to know when we can bring in the other ones. So with all due respect, I would just offer this. What happened here needs to be fully investigated. It is an appropriate subject for congressional oversight. There are many things that I find alarming about the President, the way he conducts foreign policy and his desire to find a way to harm his political rivals with the help of foreign governments.
Adam Belmar: This has been the subject of the Mueller report, the subject of at least some of his actions in those around in the 2016 campaign. And a revisiting of it now. I find this problematic. The the question of impeachment, I think you're right to say is one we all need to consider and put in context, and I think maybe the Democrats overreached a bit, how quickly they've jumped on it and how they're moving. But this is very, very serious stuff.
Adam Belmar: I think hypocrisy abounds in the Republican Senate at the moment and they will be shown to have to prove where they stand on these things for our country, if you think this is all a distraction, it's just a distraction from the latest distraction, which in itself was a distraction from another distraction.
John Feehery: Well, okay. Let's unpack that for just a second. I think it's actually a binary choice, right? I mean I think it's become down to the binary choice. Do you think this is impeachable?
Adam Belmar: I've already said yes.
John Feehery: And you think it is, and if you think it's impeachable, then it requires a conviction. You would vote for conviction too?
Adam Belmar: No. I have no way to answer that question. I don't think anyone does. No articles of impeachment have been made. No formal case has been brought. All we know-
John Feehery: So you think ... when you say impeachment-
Adam Belmar: ... is that the President's acting very, very poorly in using his office and the power of America to help himself. That's not America first. That's me first. And we've seen that in his whole career. We were worried, some people, that this might be the way he operates. I think when we pull back the curtain and see that that's the way it's happening, we need to ask more questions.
Adam Belmar: Congress needs oversight and quite frankly the President's trying to neuter them, and doing a pretty good job of it. But I don't support that at all.
John Easton: Well, and I think that the Democrats, one of their biggest problems is that, to go back to the earlier discussion, that he laid out the transcript of the call right away. I think that may have caught them by surprise a little bit. And what's happened since is you have several players around this phone call come out and say ... whether it's somebody else in the White House saying, "Yes, I was very troubled by that." And a second whistleblower or maybe somebody ... the gentleman from the State Department who resigned, who testified-
Adam Belmar: Volker.
John Easton: Yeah. Behind closed doors, which, that wasn't explosive testimony. They leaked some of the ... out of context, some things that maybe made it look bad. But if you read everything, it actually didn't look bad for the President. I think the problem is if you have several individuals saying, "Yes, troubled by this phone call, yes, I actually heard it firsthand." Well that's not additional information.
John Easton: And I think that if really what we're looking at is the transcript of the call, is that what he said on that call to a foreign leader, is that impeachable? And I think whether you think the guy ... it was terrible judgment, it was inappropriate, it was stupid. The Democrats are going to need more than that, I think, to bring this President down.
John Feehery: Well, this is the way I look at this, is the Democrats, ever since the election, had been looking for any excuse to move articles of impeachment. And Nancy Pelosi says she didn't want to move articles. I think that's nonsense. I think that she knows that she has to move articles of impeachment because that's what her base demands. Ever since the women's march, right after he got elected, they want this guy out. And they're looking for any excuse and the deep state ... this guy who works in the White House, but actively supported a current Democratic presidential candidate, he has a ... And they never actually heard the phone call.
John Feehery: Now, what Adam is saying is what he read in the transcript from his perspective is enough to not only impeach the President, but also convict the President. I think that the phone call is largely-
Adam Belmar: I didn't say that.
John Feehery: Well, you think we should move forward on other-
John Easton: Move forward on impeachment, he said.
John Feehery: Impeachment inquiries, what you were saying.
Adam Belmar: Yeah.
John Feehery: You said impeachment, but you said ... you mean, impeachment inquiry.
Adam Belmar: Well, ultimately when we get past-
John Feehery: But you mean impeachment inquiry.
John Easton: Ultimately when we get down to this idea of removing a duly elected president from office, I think that there are very few cases where that is a thing that we should be considering, and it is not where my mind or heart is at. I am very much grounded in the idea that oversight is sorely lacking by what is now a democratically controlled House of Representatives and that they must pursue this and while they might have their priorities out of whack with we're rushing to impeachment, this falls into the category of malfeasance in incompetence on the part of our president, if not self-serving, self-dealing, which seems too many to be self-evident.
John Feehery: So you believe that you can trust the Democrats' oversight.
John Easton: I think oversight is largely not a bipartisan effort, although it should be, but I do trust the Democrats to take their majority and try and follow up on what's going on. It is their job to do.
John Feehery: You think they'll give a fair acquitting of what's really going on? Or do you think that Adam Schiff, who is being-
John Easton: I'm comforted in the fact that anything will have to be voted on and then sent to the United States Senate, and even though hypocrisy abounds in the Senate among people who were there during the last impeachment, I have a feeling that Democrats and Republicans will be of much more sound judgment in adjudicating what is determined to be facts at that point. I trust the Senate.
John Easton: Yeah. I mean they have to get serious about this if they're going to do this, if they're going to go down this road. And I think as of right now, I just feel like they're very schizophrenic about this. One day they, they feel like charging the gates, and then the next day they're like, "Ah, let's hold off on this a little bit." I think Nancy Pelosi is scared to death about where this takes the party, and she should be, because it is the wilderness out there. You just do not know what's going to happen. But I do. I will say this, it was a really interesting article by Paula Cain in the Washington Post, who had talked to former Senate Minority Leader, Tom Daschle, when Trent Lott was Majority Leader of the Senate, and had separate conversations with both of them. And one thing Daschle said he was... I guess he was Majority Leader? Yeah, he was Majority Leader at the time.
John Feehery: He was Minority Leader. Yeah.
John Easton: The Minority Leader at the time. But he and Majority Leader, Trent Lott had a conversation, and they figured out how they were going to run this trial in the Senate. And it turned out they did a fantastic job. But I think what was really revealing to me is that that Senator Daschle said, and this is, again, Paula just talked to him. He said at the time there were several Democrats who did not know how they were going to vote on this. And I do still believe that United States senators take this very solemn responsibility very seriously.
John Easton: And I'm not saying that any Republicans are up in the air, but I am saying that between now and then, if it does go to trial, I'm very dubious this even goes into the Senate myself. But if it does go to the Senate and there's actually a trial, there's so much that's going to happen between now and then. And the Democrats, if they do a good job, as Adam says they might, then maybe there's something that comes out in, in the end about this that we do not know, that we do not expect, but they've got to do a better job than they're doing right now if they're going to succeed.
John Feehery: But impeachment is largely a political exercise.
John Easton: Agreed.
John Easton: Almost completely.
John Easton: Absolutely.
John Feehery: High crimes and misdemeanors are all in the eye of the beholder.
John Easton: Of just the House and the Senate in the United States.
John Feehery: Right.
John Easton: That's it. Nobody else.
John Feehery: I mean, and the irony is-
John Easton: It's kind of whatever they say it is.
John Easton: That's right.
John Feehery: And they bring in the Chief Justice to preside, and he's a judge, obviously, but this is not a court of public opinion more than it's court of actual, you know, they're not actually looking at the laws and saying he did this and that. So this is the exit question here. In the court of public opinion, over the next three months, who do you think wins in the court of public opinion? You think that the Drip, Drip Adam is going to make it more likely that the Republicans feel more pressure? Some Republicans. Let's think of senators like Susan Collins and the moderates where are really worried about this. Do you think the pressure is that they're to want to vote to convict, or do you think that the pressure will be so, so intense on the Republican side that they'll vote to acquit?
John Easton: I believe that everyone should keep their powder dry, especially in the Senate. And I believe that in the court of public opinion, we will continue to see more concern by the American public as they come to learn more about what's going on here. I hope, and I know for myself, I can't make a decision, not that I get a vote in a Senate trial, that people will try and be open-minded here and see the forest for the trees. We're in it. He brought us here. He's forcing the issue, and I think the court of public opinion will hew very much to whatever his personal poll numbers are.
John Feehery: You worked for a swing state senator in Oregon. That was actually during an impeachment.
John Easton: Mm-hmm (affirmative). It was.
John Feehery: And so you get this, I mean you get this, and I worked for the Speaker of the House as we were picking up the pieces after this. How do you think this is going to play out over the next couple of months? You think the Drip, Drip is going to help the president or hurt the president?
John Easton: I just don't think this, even with his combative nature, I don't think that this helps him really at all because he's not going to be able to do really anything else. And not that he is disciplined enough to do much of anything in terms of just, you know, today we're going to talk about transportation, and tomorrow we're going to talk about the tax bill. And he just doesn't operate that way. But right now, if you look at the polls, and you can only put so much stock into national polls, even of registered voters. I mean, what really matters is the state by state polls and how it's affecting the senators in each of those States. But it's falling largely along party lines right now. And 50% of the public is for impeachment, and 50% is against, and you can imagine, the Democrats and Republicans are just... It's like 80%, 16 on each side.
John Easton: And the interestingly, the independents are split on this question, and I think you're going to see that remain for quite a while unless there's much more out of this. So in the end, just like the Clinton impeachment, that became a partisan exercise. No Democrats voted for to impeach in the Senate, voted to impeach bill Clinton. I think that if, again, you're looking at October 9, 2019 what we know now, if we win right in right now into the Senate, no, no way. I don't even know if he gets a Republican vote for impeachment.
John Feehery: To Adam's point, I think we have to see how this plays out. I will say that the president needs to do a better job of communicating. He needs to be a little less rambunctious and a little bit more rational and not talking about civil wars, not talking about mobster tactics against the whistleblower. Just kind of take it down a notch.
John Easton: Good luck.
John Feehery: Dude, take it down a notch. Be cool.
John Easton: He's never done that.
John Feehery: I know. John Easton, what are you buying or selling today?
John Easton: I'm going to buy something that doesn't get enough attention. That's the Women's National Basketball Association, the WNBA. We're in the finals, and the Washington, the hometown here in this town, Anyway, the Washington mystics are playing the Connecticut Sun, and they are tied up and we have a game five just like the nationals and Dodgers, just like the Braves and Cardinals. Game Five coming, I think it's tomorrow. Go, mystics. Let's bring home a title to D.C.
John Feehery: Adam Belmar, what are you buying or selling today?
John Easton: John, I am buying pho noodle soup.
John Feehery: You love that stuff.
Adam Belmar: I love it. Okay. If you don't know about the Vietnamese cooking, this is their traditional soup. It is delicious. It's taken over a lot of the East Coast. People love it. I have a good friend who owns a restaurant called Pho Hai Duong, which is out in Annandale, Virginia. I saw him yesterday. We shared a bowl of his delicious soup together. It's great for families. It's great for everything that ails you. It is a comfort food that I didn't even know I needed until I found it, and now I can't live without it. Go get yourself some yummy pho noodle soup.
John Feehery: It's kind of like chicken noodle soup for...
Adam Belmar: It is, right?
John Feehery: ... Vietnamese people.
Adam Belmar: Exactly.
John Feehery: I got you. I am telling you what I'm going to sell. I'm going to sell fricking mosquitoes. There was a new survey out. Washington D.C. Is the worst city in the country for mosquitoes. We've got to do something about this epidemic. They are all of the... It is October, and yet they still swarm all over. This might be part of global warming. If this is all part of global warming, I want to do something about climate change because I hate mosquitoes. Sell, sell, sell. They're bad hombres. We got to get rid of them. And with that, let me say thank you for joining The Feehery Theory podcast brought to you by EFB Advocacy. EFB means...
John Easton: Excellent for business.
Adam Belmar: Excellent for business.
Adam Belmar: Yeah, baby.