• Whistleblower complaint fueling criticism, defense of president |
• Local GOP chair: ‘Feeble attempt’ to remove Trump |
• Kuns: Democratic process is critical

The U.S. House of Representatives is poised to launch an impeachment inquiry over President Donald Trump’s July communications with Ukraine.

As information continues to emerge, local leaders of the Montrose County Republican and Democratic parties offered their perspectives in a Thursday Q & A (below).

Montrose County Republican Chairman Ray Langston said that because the allegations are false, proceeding with impeachment inquiries will backfire on the Democrats, energize Trump’s supporters and help assure his reelection in a landslide.

Montrose County Democratic Chairman Kevin Kuns, who stressed he could not speak for all the county’s registered Democrats, said the complaint deserves to be investigated and the process of doing is about protecting democracy.

Highlights of whistleblower’s letter

An August whistleblower complaint — reportedly made by a CIA official — was released Thursday, along with a letter from the Office of the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community.

The complaint states the whistleblower was not a direct witness to most of the events described, but that the complainant found accounts of the events “credible” and consistent with each other, as well as consistent with information already publicly reported.

The complaint, addressed to Sen. Richard Burr, chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, and Rep. Adam Schiff,  chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, refers to information from multiple government officials “that the president of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country to investigate one of the president’s main domestic political rivals.”

It also states Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and U.S. Attorney Bill Barr “appear to be involved as well.”

The complaint in general alleges that, based on reports from White House officials with direct knowledge of a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the president “sought to pressure (Zelenskyy) to take actions to help the president’s 2020 reelection bid,” including: initiating or continuing investigations into former vice president — and current presidential candidate — Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter, who sat on the board of Burisma Gas in Ukraine; assistance in uncovering that allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election originated in Ukraine, “with a specific request that the Ukrainian leader locate and turn over servers used by the Democratic National Committee…” and that Zelenskyy meet or speak with Giuliani or Barr.

The letter in footnotes states it is “unclear” whether an investigation into either Biden exists and that the whistleblower does not know why Trump associates the servers with the Ukraine.

Under “circumstances leading up to the July 25 presidential phone call,” the whistleblower cited initial allegations by Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko, which alleged Joe Biden had pressured the former Ukrainian president to quash a purported probe into Hunter Biden’s activities.

Per the complaint, Lutsenko later told Bloomberg media that the Bidens were not subject to any current Ukrainian investigations and he had no evidence against them.

The complaint further claims officials acted to conceal information, by placing transcripts of the call, “especially the official, word-for-word transcript,” into a system usually used to store especially sensitive classified information.

The above description is not intended to be exhaustive. The full complaint and the Inspector General letter can be read at intelligence.house.gov. The site also contains a video of Thursday’s open hearing with the Acting Director of National Intelligence on the complaint; this can be found at the bottom of the site.

Trump has decried the latest reports and denounced the move toward an impeachment inquiry as a “witch hunt” and “presidential harassment.”

The president is alleged to have linked aid to Ukraine to investigating Joe Biden, his political rival. The White House has said there was no reference in the July 25 call to any quid pro quo between the two countries. On Wednesday, it released a fivepage memorandum of the call.

The memo can be found at https:// www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/ 2019/09/Unclassified09.2019.pdf .

As of last report, House Democrats from Colorado backed an impeachment inquiry.

U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, who represents Montrose and the rest of the 3rd District, said an investigation should be completed before the House moves forward on impeachment proceedings.

“I supported releasing the relevant documents to the American people and I remain committed to reviewing the facts of any ongoing investigation, including what happened before and after the U.S.-Ukrainian military aid transfer, any possible conflicts of interest with former U.S. officials, and of course ensuring that future U.S. elections are free from any foreign influence,” Tipton said in a statement.

“Impeachment calls made before an investigation has concluded are premature.”

Local party officials react

Q. Do you favor an impeachment inquiry and why or why not?

• Langston: “They can’t beat Trump in the upcoming election. All this is, is their feeble attempt to try to disparage him. He has done nothing to be impeached for. They have been investigating that man since before he took office. They knew they were in trouble. I blame a lot of this on the media, because the media was not honest with people.”

Langston said the media failed to inform voters about Hillary Clinton’s issues and weaknesses as a candidate and instead, kept projecting her as the winner in 2016. Based on his personal knowledge of the Clintons, he believes they are “criminals,” he also said.

“To me, this is just another circus about Trump.  I know he’s not a perfect man, but I believe he is the perfect man for the job. I wish the media would start reporting the news and stop taking positions on it.” The media, he later said, are devoted to the Left’s agenda.

Langston also said the letter is “total nonsense.”

“You’ve got somebody making a statement about something that they were not privy to both sides of the conversation. How can they know the total content of the conversation?  The transcript Trump released shows it was not a quid pro quo.”

• Kuns: After cautioning he is not speaking for all local Democrats, he responded to the question: “I think most of the people in Montrose, Democrats for sure, are strong advocates for the rule of law and innocent until proven guilty. I also think, however, that nobody ever thinks they’re above the law and I think that especially pertains to whomever is occupying the White House. There are very concerning things that have come up in the last three days.”

Grounds for impeachment include treason, bribery, high crimes and misdemeanors, but also the use of office for personal gain, he said.

“It’s become very apparent there are serious concerns about national security and compromising the voting integrity of our system in the United States.”

Kuns said impeachment is never good for the country, but there are grounds that need to be looked at.

“Our democracy is doing what it’s supposed to be doing as it pertains to this impeachment inquiry.”

Q. What are the factors you think weaken the argument for impeachment?

• Langston: “There is no argument for impeachment. He has done nothing wrong. It is a waste of time, because the Senate will never vote to remove that man from office.”

He noted that after failed attempts to convict President Bill Clinton during impeachment proceedings, Republicans were soundly defeated in the next election — and Democrats now run that same risk.

• Kuns: Kuns said that in order to even make a statement on the question asked, he would have had to have been in the room when the phone call took place.

“For me to feel like I know more, sitting in Montrose, that I know more than the House… I would need to have more information than what’s come out in the last three days to make that kind of a comment.”

Q. What factors do you think strengthen the argument for impeachment?

• Langston: “There is none. I have seen absolutely no evidence that man has done anything to be impeached for. I have seen a lot of accusations. I have never seen proof.”

Two years of investigation have not yielded proof of lawbreaking, he said — but the investigations have angered the president’s supporters. “They’re going to solidify the people who are still going to vote for him,” he said, and the efforts will backfire.

“Trump’s going to win reelection in a landslide. It’s going to be almost on par with what happened with Reagan, when he won all but one state.”

• Kuns: “If you saw what the House committee released, it’s pretty damning. It’s not ‘he-said, she-said.’ This turns out to be somebody who worked for the CIA. This is a very credible source. This is not ‘fake news.’

“What really gets me is, the man who occupies the White House comes up and (allegedly) says, I did it; so what?  That makes me really concerned. Some of this coming out the last three days is not a witch hunt or something being made up because it’s Trump.”

According to published reports, Trump said he had talked to Ukraine about a corruption probe into Biden, but said there was “never any quid pro quo” and he did not pressure Ukraine.

Kuns also reiterated the importance of the presumption of innocence and said he is gathering more information.

But, he added: “When it comes out of the horse’s mouth, good Lord. I guess somebody does think they’re above the law.”

Other issues

Kuns said he does not agree that impeachment inquiries are the national Democrats’ sole focus, or that they will do much to sway undecided voters in Trump’s favor.

The president, he said, has spent three years dividing the country via Tweets and Kuns is more worried about continuing divisions.

“He’s laughing in the face of checks and balances. If the inquiry proves to be a witch hunt, I think a lot of Americans will say we did our due diligence and we need to move on. But that process needs to be worked out.”

The House has passed bipartisan bills concerning immigration, yet Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will not bring them to a vote, he said.

“If you really look at it, if our whole voting system has been corrupted, what is more important than to make sure that is fixed or that it is not true? That is the heart of our democracy,” Kuns said.

Langston, however, indicated Democrats are ignoring important issues in their pursuits against Trump and reiterated impeachment inquiries will backfire. Democrats should focus on fixing the border and polls show people are more concerned about illegal immigration, he said.

“That’s the No. 1 issue. That’s really the reason why Trump won and it’s the reason he’s going to win again,” Langston said, adding that he supports legal immigration.

Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter @kathMDP.

Montrose Daily Press | September 27, 2019
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