An image
President Trump campaigns for Mike Braun in the 2018 U.S. Senate race.
INDIANAPOLIS -  Since House Democrats impeached President Trump on a mostly party line vote late last month, I’ve been pretty outspoken that his future should be determined by the voters at the ballot box in November. A historic first censure of a president should become a viable option.

Having stated that, we appear to be in for a Senate impeachment trial, though Speaker Nancy Pelosi is refusing to send the two articles to the Senate until Majority Leader Mitch McConnell allows witnesses. Specifically, Democrats maintain that White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, former White House counsel Don McGahn, former nation security adviser John Bolton, and several Office of Management and Budget officials should testify. President Trump wants Joe and Hunter Biden to swear an oath and talk before these Senate jurors.

Since polarized Washington has foisted this debacle on to the American people, then it's only fitting to have a real trial, with real witnesses. If Trump wants us to believe there was no transgression, he should allow senior aides to testify.

Indiana's two Republican Senate jurors, Todd Young and Mike Braun, are expected to acquit President Trump on the two articles that allege he abused his power by seeking a "quid pro quo" in upholding $390 million of congressionally-approved military aid to Ukraine in exchange for political dirt on the Bidens that would aid and abet the Trump reelection campaign (which Bolton likened to a “drug deal”), as well as ignoring Congress in its constitutionally-stated role as a check and balance on the executive branch.

In essence, the President of the United States was attempting to extort a nation under attack from Russia (sustaining 13,000 deaths in the process as well as territorial loss), in exchange for domestic political advantage. Our Founding Fathers put the impeachment process in the Constitution over fears of just such foreign intervention in our electoral process.

Young told Indiana Public Media  that in this impeachment trial, he will “Do my job, review the factual record, apply it against what I regard is the appropriate standard of high crimes and misdemeanor."

Young also said in a verbal wink and a nod, “My anticipation based on only anecdotal evidence from what I’ve heard publicly and read publicly is that there will indeed be a correlation between one’s party affiliation on one hand and the votes that are cast on the other hand." 

Braun, who owes his 2018 upset victory over Sen. Joe Donnelly to Trump for his MAGA rallies in Elkhart, Evansville and Southport, appears more predisposed, telling Fox59, “It is a political process. There’s probably not one senator that would be seated as a juror in a regular trial because you bring that political predisposition point of view into it. I don’t think though, there was anything tangible in the sense that there was no quid pro quo.”

But last November in sensational congressional testimony, Ambassador Gordon Sondland, who donated $1 million to the Trump campaign and received a presidential appointment as envoy to the European Union, had this to say under oath: “I know that members of this committee have frequently framed these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a 'quid pro quo?' As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.” 

And in an Oct. 17 White House briefing, Mulvaney was asked by reporters if there was that "quid pro quo," with Mulvaney replying, “We do that all the time. Absolutely. Did he also mention to me the corruption related to the DNC server? No question about it. But that’s it. That’s why we held up the money … I have news for everybody: Get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy.”

America's Founding Fathers were wary of such foreign influence. Federalist No. 68 (usually attributed to Alexander Hamilton) said, "The desire [of] foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our counsels" was a source of corruption and "one of the most deadly adversaries of republican government."

In his 1796 farewell address, President George Washington issued this warning: "Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence ... the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government."

Thus, America has a contemporary dilemma. President Trump's own loyalists and appointees have confirmed under oath and on video such attempts of foreign influence. That's why Sens. Young and Braun should back the establishment of a true trial, with prosecution and defense witnesses. 

For Sen. Braun not to see a "quid pro quo" when it has been confirmed under oath and on video is a "C'mon, man" moment. We saw it. Open your eyes, Senator.

The timing of all this is noteworthy. The July 25 phone call with Ukraine President Zelensky that kicked off this sordid mess came a day after President Trump appeared to have escaped criminal culpability from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia influence probe. The reason for that is Mueller's citation of a Department of Justice rule that a sitting president cannot be indicted.

President Trump not only did not learn a lesson there, he could barely wait 24 hours to repeat it. The question for Sens. Young and Braun would be this: If such a lesson went unheeded this past summer, why wouldn't there be a reasonable expectation that this president wouldn't resort to a similar tactic in the future?

The columnist is publisher of Howey Politics Indiana at Find Howey on Facebook and Twitter @hwypol.

  • Brian Howey: The grind of scandal will take its toll
    INDIANAPOLIS — A week ago Monday I began writing the “Double dog impeachment dare” story that headlined the Sept. 19 edition of HPI as a cautionary primer for why going down that rabbit hole would be dangerous for our nation because the consequences are often unintended and the ramifications impossible to gauge. 

    By the time I published it a week ago, the emerging scandal of the DNI whistleblower’s urgent complaint involving President Trump and Ukraine President Zelensky had blown up like a mushroom cloud, as fast as Hurricane Rita did in 2005.

    It is a disconcerting circumstance. And I am disturbed by what appears to be another round of scandal and hyper media, allegations and denial, talking heads churning out conspiracies and illogical defenses.

    Our nation faces huge challenges. Our entitlements are on an assured crisis course, probably by the end of the next presidency. We are now running trillion dollar deficits with a good economy. We have no idea how bad that will get in a recession, or a severe recession. We have climate scenarios that are daunting in an immigration/refugee and humantarian sense, and we must begin preparing now. We don’t have a grasp on how artificial intelligence is going to impact the workforce as a whole, and the vital middle class specifically.

    Scandals, probes and hearings are grinding us down at a time when we should be preparing our great nation for the generations of our children and grandchildren.

    If you’ve read the previous nine pages involving Mike Pence and Dan Coats, there are some important tell tales that are cautionary.

    Dan Coats became emotional at the end of his Economic Club speech when he urged us to appreciate the great nation we have and prepare ourselves to hand it off in the “sweep of history” to our children. I’ve heard a lot of great speeches, but that one was truly moving.

    Coats reminded us of the importance of the truth. 

    Or getting captured in a slogan (“build that wall”), which can be 20 feet high and topped by a 21-foot ladder or 21-foot deep tunnel.

    Coats tells us that technology is accelerating at an unimaginable pace. Dictators like President Xi or Kim Jong Un have an advantage: They can make split decisions, while our presidents and Congress must go through processes. This could put us at an incredible disadvantage  without wise leaders who work with each other, have a viable trust, and don’t get swallowed into the rabbit holes.

    In Tom LoBianco’s profile of Mike Pence, a man I once had a working relationship with, we learn that his boss, President Trump, cannot be trusted. His word means nothing, as we learned on the July 12-15, 2016, sequence that brought Pence onto the GOP ticket. We learn that Mike and Karen Pence rely on Biblical scripture to reconcile their exchange of principle for power.

    Vice President Pence has cut off an array of relationships out of fear of stoking the paranoia of his boss, and that will not serve him well in the long run.

    In President Trump, we find a leader who dodged what he calls a “witch hunt” after he sought, as a private citizen, help to power from a foreign adversary. The Republicans in our congressional delegation claim he was exonerated, but the only reason Trump wasn’t indicted was because of a Deparment of Justice rule stating that a sitting president cannot face charges.

    Even more disturbing is what we’re learning now, which is the day after the Russian collusion threat seemed to pass on July 24, he engaged in the same behavior. This time as president, appearing to extort dirt from a foreign leader in exchange for congressionally approved military aid. It is an astonishing development.

    As Trump opponents try to paint him as a wannabe authoritarian, we’re finding a handful of states cancelling presidential primaries so that Trump’s Republican challengers — William Weld, Mark Sanford and Joe Walsh — can’t get on a ballot. That not only reveals a lack of confidence in the political potency of the incumbent, but it reinforces what Trump himself called a “rigged system.”

    This past week, I’ve pressed several members of our delegation to weigh in on just one component of the Ukraine story, since at this time we don’t have the DNI inspector general’s report, haven’t heard from the acting DNI Joseph Maguire, the whistleblower, or Dan Coats, other than what he said Tuesday, which was greatly constrained due to the classified nature of his knowledge.

    It’s a simple question: Is it OK for American political candidates to seek anything of value from foreign sources? There has been no response. So let me help them out with what should be P101: No, it’s not OK. Or as U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse said, “It’s really, really bad.”

    There are laws that prohibit campaign funding to come from foreign sources, as well as anything of value. There is a sprawling history of presidential races where foreign powers don’t endorse our nominees.  

    The last time foreign money came into an American presidential race, with President Clinton in 1996, there was widespread criticism and offenders faced legal consequences.

    Our challenges and dilemmas grow and multiply, while our courage and logic pool dissipates like a shallow puddle in a heat wave. 

    So much for my cautionary primers. 

  • INDIANAPOLIS – It took nine months after South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg kicked off his long-shot Democratic presidential campaign before he landed his first spate of Indiana endorsements. Ten Hoosier mayors – Tom McDermott of Hammond, Dave Kitchell of Logansport, Brent Bascom of Rising Sun, Gay Ann Harney of Rockport, Ron Meer of Michigan City, John Hamilton of Bloomington, Gabriel Greer of Peru, Greg Goodnight of Kokomo, Ted Ellis of Bluffton and Hugh Wirth of Oakland City – were part of a group of more than 50 mayors to endorse this upstart presidential campaign. Beyond his fellow mayors, Buttigieg hasn’t picked up much support from the Democratic Indiana political establishment. U.S. Reps. Pete Visclosky and André Carson aren’t on board, nor is former senator Joe Donnelly, who attended Buttigieg’s campaign kickoff last April. Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett was also there, but didn’t endorse this past week, presumably concentrating on his own reelection bid.

  • Merriam-Webster: Aberrant (n) 1: a group, individual, or structure that is not normal or typical: an aberrant group, individual, or structure; 2: a person whose behavior departs substantially from the standard. Synonyms:(Adjective)  aberrated, abnormal, anomalous, atypical, especial, exceeding, exceptional, extraordinaire, extraordinary, freak, odd, peculiar ....


    NASHVILLE, Ind. - On July 27, 2016, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump made his infamous "Russia, if you're listening ..." appeal for dirt on Hillary Clinton. It commenced a two-year jigsaw puzzle type investigation that became President Trump's nightmare. It all seemed to end last July 24, when Special Counsel Robert Mueller testified before Congress that he could not indict Trump for obstruction of justice because of a Department of Justice rule that a sitting president can't be charged. Mueller distinctly said, “The President was not exculpated for the acts that he allegedly committed.”  July 25 should have been a new day, a new era for President Trump, the proverbial sigh of relief. The House could impeach, but there was no way the 55-seat Senate Republican majority would convict. So what does President Trump do?  According to a rough transcript released by the White House, the president essentially attempted to extort dirt on potential rival Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, from the rookie President Zelensky of Ukraine, a former comedian. It is the same Ukraine that gave up its nuclear weapons under the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, went through a revolution in 2014, then saw Russian President Putin annex the Crimea before launching a low-grade war on the eastern part of the country that has since claimed 13,000 lives. This summer, President Trump inexplicably held up close to $400 million in U.S. military aid from this new president, pulled Vice President Pence away from attending Zelensky's inauguration last May, and then subtly put the screws on him on July 25.
  • CARMEL – Police stop a driver westbound on 96th Street in Hamilton County. They find less than an ounce of marijuana and this driver in arrested, complete with a stay in the county jail, facing thousands of dollars of legal bills, court costs, fines and a criminal record. Police stop an eastbound driver on 96th Street in Marion County. They find a doobie on the console. He is not arrested, faces no charges, legal bills, court costs or fines. That is the evolving state of marijuana prohibition in Indiana. It's like swiss cheese, with a big hole in the middle and others likely to form in college and border cities. Acting prosecutor Marion County Ryan Mears, then an unelected official, abruptly announced that his office will no longer prosecute marijuana possession cases of under one ounce, which was quickly reinforced by Sheriff Kerry Forestal. Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Chief Bryan Roach said his force would still make marijuana arrests. But after Mears dismissed nearly 150 possession cases, it's only a matter of time before the arrests stop. The cops I know aren't big fans of doing the paperwork, only to watch an offender go free.

  • Brian Howey: Wrap your mind around the notion of 'President Pence'

    NASHVILLE, Ind. - There have been three presidents with vivid Indiana ties.  William Henry Harrison won the battle of Tippecanoe and served as a territorial governor. Abraham Lincoln moved to Spencer County as a boy within days of statehood in 1816 and became a man on the prairie, as poet Carl Sandberg writing that he gained his gait, demeanor and sense of spiritual place, particularly after he journeyed from the Ohio River to New Orleans and witnessed his first impressions of slavery.

    Benjamin Harrison, grandson of the aforementioned ninth president, was born in Ohio, moved to Indianapolis in 1854, and after serving as a general in the Civil War, used a law career to enter the U.S. Senate before reaching the White House 1888. 

    There have been six Hoosiers who have served as vice president - Schuyler Colfax, Thomas Hendricks, Charles Fairbanks, Thomas R. Marshall, Dan Quayle and Mike Pence - the literal heartbeat away. Of this group, Marshall came closest to ascending to the presidency after President Woodrow Wilson suffered two strokes a century ago, though the First Lady hid the president's condition from the former Indiana governor.

    I recount this history so you might begin to wrap your mind around the prospect of "President Michael R. Pence." Conventional wisdom would have been that this might not occur until 2025. But on Tuesday of this past week, Ambassador William B. Taylor. Jr., a West Point graduate, war veteran and career diplomat selected by President Trump last June as chargé d'affaires for Ukraine, gave bombshell testimony before three House committees.

    In essence, Taylor confirmed what President Trump had been denying, though his acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney blatantly confirmed a week ago, the so-called "quid pro quo" between $400 million in stalled U.S. military aid to Ukraine in exchange for political dirt on Hunter Biden, son of former Vice President Joe Biden and a Long Beach, Ind., homeowner.

    In an explosive 15-page opening statement, Taylor described communications with European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland: "During that phone call, Ambassador Sondland told me that President Trump had told him that he wants President Zelenskyy to state publicly that Ukraine will investigate Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. election," Taylor explained. "Ambassador Sondland also told me that he now recognized that he had made a mistake by earlier telling the Ukrainian officials to whom he spoke that a White House meeting with President Zelenskyy was dependent on a public announcement of investigations — in fact, Ambassador Sondland said, 'everything' was dependent on such an announcement, including security assistance. He said that President Trump wanted President Zelenskyy 'in a public box' by making a public statement about ordering such investigations."

    Trump would respond to Taylor's testimony on Twitter, calling him a "never Trumper Republican" and "human scum."

    Why did this apparent extortion matter? Because the Ukraine is a vulnerable U.S. ally, attempting to fend off an invasion and occupation by Russian President Putin. It’s waged a war that has cost 13,000 lives. 

    Last June, Trump told ABC's George Stephanopoulos that he was open to foreign assistance in his reelection campaign, to which Federal Election Commission Chairman Ellen Weintraub responded: “Let me make something 100% clear to the American public and anyone running for public office: It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election.“ 

    So why should we ponder the sooner than later prospect of "President Pence?" Because impeachment has been established in the U.S. Constitution, but it is a political mechanism to remove a public servant who has committed "high crimes and misdemeanors." That is deliberately vague, to be determined by the House for impeachment, and then the Senate for a trial, with Chief Justice John Roberts (ironically a Long Beach native) presiding.

    Public opinion has everything to do with this. When the U.S Supreme Court ordered the release of the so-called "smoking gun" tape during President Nixon's Watergate scandal in 1974, his public support in the polls collapsed, and so did his Republican backing in the U.S. Senate. Nixon resigned within hours.

    Polling in support of the Trump impeachment inquiry and removal is far ahead of where it was for Presidents Nixon in 1974 and Bill Clinton in 1999.  Trump's approval has been mired in the low 40% range for most of his presidency, and on Wednesday a Quinnipiac Poll revealed 55% approve the impeachment inquiry. 

    When the Daily Caller gauged the 55 Republican senators, only seven said they wouldn't vote to convict Trump. Republican Sens. Mitt Romney and Lindsey Graham told Axios they will weigh impeachment if a crime was committed.

    U.S. Sens. Todd Young and Mike Braun were not among that group of seven. Both have been ardent supporters of Trump, and both are laying low. Young co-sponsored a resolution against the impeachment inquiry with Sen. Lindsey Graham this past week. But the Hoosier senators are different than there 53 GOP colleagues, in that if Trump were to resign or be convicted, they would have a Hoosier president in Mike Pence.

    Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan wrote this past week, the situation is “fluid.” President Trump still has his core supporters, but many others inclined to support him are exhausted by the constant, self-inflicted drama. At some point, President Mike Pence might seem like a safe harbor for Republicans.

    The columnist is publisher of Howey Politics Indiana at Find Howey on Facebook and Twitter @hwypol.
  •  INDIANAPOLIS - Three years ago, Curtis Hill was a Republican rising star, capturing the nomination for attorney general in a spirited convention floor fight, then leading the ticket that November in votes. He became a rare African-American Republican, working in a building where the rest of his party of white. Hill gave a racial component to Republican politics that had seen females win the constitutional offices, save governor, when Holcomb edged out U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks for the nomination following Gov. Mike Pence leaving his nomination to join Donald Trump’s presidential ticket. But this past week, Hill was fighting for his political career and his law license. His reputation has taken a beating. He faced a Supreme Court disciplinary hearing over allegations of sexual harassment and groping at a 2018 sine die party. The ensuing headlines were a politician’s nightmare. There was a parade of 26 witnesses, including Democrat State Rep. Mara Candaleria Reardon, four Republican legislative staffers, and an Elkhart County employee of Hill’s when he was prosecutor there, who testified under oath that her boss sought sex, saying, “We need to ---- because it would be hot.” Hill was described as a “creeper” who was “grabbing butt” and sliding his hands down Reardon’s backless dress. The “Me too” era passed the Indiana Statehouse over the past couple of years with no official taking a fall. That Hill’s alleged conduct came after movie moguls, media anchors and U.S. senators had been swept from power was an indicator of being tone deaf.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – The spook’s eyes at the Londonskaya Hotel bar burned holes in me. Every time I glanced in his direction, they were trained on me. I had entered Odessa, Ukraine as part of the last hurrah of Sen. Richard Lugar’s old Republican internationalist order in this pre-partitioned nation. 

    It was 2007. Vladimir Putin held only shadow power in the old Soviet remnants. His fractured standing belied a reeling nation, the former Soviet Union, in steep demographic decline. High rates of alcoholism, suicide and plunging birth rates defined this former empire. Donald Trump was a gadfly, wannabe presidential aspirant who owned a couple of Gary riverboat casinos and a New York real estate empire.

    It would have been impossible to foresee how this churn of events would play out a dozen years later in Moscow, Kiev, Washington and even Indianapolis. The old Republican internationalist order that once thrived in Indiana has ended, begging the question in the emergent era of the Trump cult of personality, so what if it has?

    The Indiana aspect of this story can be told through the hyper-supplicant Pences, with the vice president accepting full ownership of that cult; and Indiana’s two Republican senators, Mike Braun, who owes his station to Trump, and Todd Young, a former Lugar staffer who, had he taken a different career path, might have found himself briefing the Senate in a manner similar to Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman. Last week Vindman, former Ukrainian ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, and State Department Ukrainian expert Dr. Fiona Hill testified before Congress of a disinformation campaign echoing Putin’s Kremlin that it was the Ukrainians, not the Russians, who meddled in the 2016 US elections. The Republican senators received a briefing on the Ukrainian fiction as multiple sources discredited the story. In the wake of the sensational impeachment testimony which appears not to have swayed public opinion, the question for Hoosier voters remains, does it matter? Do people care? I don’t think they do. Hoosier voters appear to be giving President Trump the benefit of the doubt, preferring to decide his future at the ballot box next year. Two recent polls in Indiana, the Old National/Ball State and Bowen Center poll, put Trump’s approval at 52%, while a Morning Consult poll had Trump’s Indiana approval at 50%.

  • INDIANAPOLIS - Last Sept. 19 in my publication Howey Politics Indiana, I wrote the cover story "Double Dog Impeachment Dare."  It came just as the whistleblower had surfaced, flagging President Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukraine President Zelensky. There were 146 Democrats (including Indiana's Andre Carson) and one former Republican backing the impeachment of Trump at that time. I acknowledged a sinking feeling about this Ukraine story. Just a day before his “perfect” July 25 phone call with Zelensky , Trump seemed to have dodged the Robert Mueller threat. But last June 16, Trump was asked by ABC's George Stephanopoulos if he would accept foreign intel heading into his 2020 reelection. "I think you might want to listen, there isn't anything wrong with listening," Trump answered. "If somebody called from a country, Norway, ‘we have information on your opponent' – oh, I think I'd want to hear it."  Federal Election Commission Chair Ellen Weintraub quickly released a statement on Twitter to make it "100% clear to the American public" that accepting such an offer is illegal. "This is not a novel concept," Weintraub said. "Electoral intervention from foreign governments has been unacceptable since the beginnings of our nation."

Howey Politics (Column Widget)

"Select a day to show the events for that day below the heading "This week's events"
Title and navigation
Title and navigation
Move back 3 monthsMove back 1 month

January 2020

Move forward 1 monthMove forward 3 months

January 2020