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By many measures, the last few weeks have been the worst of the Trump administration.
Ever since the breaking of the story of the president’s call to the president of Ukraine — wherein Donald Trump asked Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate possible corruption on the part of Joe Biden and his son, with the prospect of military aid on the line — the media has been obsessed with the story.
Some pundits and Democrats are even going so far as to say the president will actually be impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives. He would then be fatally wounded for re-election next year, they say, even if the GOP-controlled Senate ultimately acquits him.
Nonsense, say top Republicans in Hawaii, including the local party chair.
“It’s not going to be any surprise that I and many other Republicans believe that this phony Ukraine scandal is a political move to discredit (Trump) and the things he is running on,” including a strong economy, said Shirlene Ostrov.
Ostrov believes Trump’s chances of being re-elected are “very good” and that the House inquiry is the result of a “media circus” trying to control the narrative just 13 months before Election Day.
That was essentially the message I heard after talking with a half-dozen or so top island Republicans Monday. They see nothing wrong with a U.S. president asking a foreign country to investigate a domestic political rival.
The real news, Republicans say, is that America has not been told about Biden and his son Hunter, who worked for a Ukrainian gas company reportedly for as much as $50,000 a month.
“I believe that the president has a constitutional mandate to ensure that corruption and things are investigated properly,” said Ostrov, adding, “If we have evidence that Vice President Biden asked for a quid pro quo — ‘fire the prosecutor who investigated my son’ — then that is bad.”
Kimo Sutton, who helped with Trump’s campaign in Hawaii in 2016 and is actively supporting him again in 2020, also focused on the former vice president.
“Biden said on video that he told the Ukrainians to get rid of the prosecutor,” he said.
Sutton said the press is not covering that story “except on a few channels” and internet outlets “who have a little more conservative slant.”
The Breitbart website Monday, to name just one outlet, led with headlines like these: “Ukraine Hoax,” “Poll: 57% Support Probe of Biden and Son For Ukraine and China Actions,” “Impeachment Backfire!” “Internal Polling Shows GOP Holds Edge Over Vulnerable Dems In Swing Districts” and “Democrat Congressmen Don’t Really Want To Vote On This.”
It is clear that at least the island conservatives I spoke to Monday, think the Dems and the “lame-stream” media are out to get Trump because they think they can’t beat him in an election.
Just listen to Sam Slom, the longtime Libertarian-friendly Republican state senator who is seeking his old seat next year.
“I was always taught in school and in law school that before you prosecute anything you get the evidence first,” he said. “They are doing it ass-backwards, getting to impeachment first. Anyone who doesn’t think the whole thing isn’t political is surely mistaken.”
Slom thinks support for impeachment is soft even among Democrats. And he says he’s seeing more local folks sporting those red Make America Great Again hats.
“They don’t feel threatened, and in fact they are getting more positive remarks,” he said. “They don’t see an impeachable offense in all this talk of the Ukraine phone call. Democrats keep grasping but they are not finding a smoking gun.”
As I said, I made my calls Monday, the same day that the media reported that the House subpoenaed the White House and the Pentagon for Ukraine records, congressional Republicans remained mostly mute on the Ukraine call (and China, whose help Trump has also sought in his quest to root out corruption) and another GOP senator came forth to say it’s not appropriate to ask foreign governments to investigate Biden.
Meanwhile, Biden’s star is falling as Elizabeth Warren’s is on the rise. And the Trump campaign raised far more money in the third fundraising quarter than Biden, Warren and Bernie Sanders.
Impeachment, it seems, is helping Trump among Republicans. One of the emails sent by his campaign last week seeking donations said: “The American People deserve to know the TRUTH about Joe and Hunter Biden, and it’s up to Patriots like YOU to hold them accountable.”
And then on Monday Trump did as he always does: He changed the subject by announcing that the U.S. was pulling out of northern Syria. That managed to piss off both Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi, who never agree on anything except continuing resolutions to keep the government open.
Will Donald Trump once again pull a soiled rabbit out of a MAGA hat? No wonder so many prominent Hawaii conservatives are standing by their man.
“My thoughts are, especially from a grassroots perspective, that it is a waste of time,” Brett Kulbis, Honolulu County Republican Party chairman, said about impeachment. “We’ve got more important things happening in the country that they should be focused on in Washington — problems at the border, an opioid epidemic, all sorts of things going on. And I think this is just a disaster. It’s fake outrage.”
Kulbis added that he is disappointed that Hawaii’s congressional delegation supports the impeachment inquiry.
This is not the first time that impeachment of Trump has been raised, of course.
“Impeachment was mentioned as the solution to the Trump presidency since the 2016 election,” said Rep. Gene Ward, the Hawaii House minority leader. “From what I have seen thus far, I do not believe the president has committed a high crime or misdemeanor.”
Ward said he hoped the Congress would keep the nation’s well-being in mind as it pursues its inquiry, and that he agreed with Pelosi that impeachment would need to be bipartisan in order to have legitimacy.
“However to me, the best impeachment trial will be held on November 3, 2020, and will be determined by the people of the United States,” he said via email.
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