“I just want to find 11,780 votes which is one more than we have. Because we won the state ... And there’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, um, that you’ve recalculated.”
“I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. ... that whole nonsense ended with a very poor performance by a man named Robert Mueller, an incompetent performance, but they say a lot of it started with Ukraine.”
— July 25 phone call between President Trump and Ukranian President Zelensky. White House summary.
Trump had frozen millions of dollars of military aid to Ukraine, which led to his impeachment. It was, Trump said at the time, “a perfect phone call.”
The extraordinary demand that a Republican official should “find” 11,780 votes to throw the election to Trump after multiple conclusive recounts, tossed court cases and certification of the state’s electoral votes was, if not totally corrupt, an ethical stain that should define the Trump presidency and all those who have or will lend their names and offices to the Cruz-Hawley sideshow that will unfold in Congress on Jan. 6.
Let’s be clear: This is an attempted coup against the republic.
Newly elected Rep. Burgess Owens has announced his intention to go along with this corrupt power-grab, and Sen. Mike Lee has maintained radio silence thus far. Other Utah Republicans of note have been largely missing from the dialogue.
The Trump years have seen the Republican Party transform itself into members of Congress who abandoned any claim to stand for any recognizable principle or policy except for more tax cuts and right-wing judges, and whatever else Trump demands. What’s so demoralizing about this is the discrepancy between what these people know and say about him privately and how they vote and behave publicly. What we have here is a yawning leadership deficit.
At least one Utah senator, Mitt Romney, gets it. In opposing any congressional move to overturn the election results, he’s been a laudable GOP leadership beacon in an otherwise dense fog.
Unfortunately, we don’t have a Lincoln around at the moment, but we do have what Aaron Sorkin wrote in the 1995 film, “The American President.” Fictional presidential counselor, Lewis Rothschild, barked, “People want leadership, Mr. President, and in the absence of genuine leadership they’ll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone ... They’re so thirsty for it that they’ll crawl through the desert toward a mirage ... and when they discover there’s no water, they’ll drink the sand.”
President Shepherd responds, “People don’t drink the sand because they’re thirsty — they drink the sand because they don’t know the difference.”
If there are any real Republican leaders, now would be a strategic time to reveal your secret identities. Your souls, as New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman puts it, “are not worth $174,000 a year and free parking at Reagan National Airport.”
One of the nation’s most revered Army officers was Gen. Jack Vessey, a combat-tested former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (he had also held every enlisted rank in the Army). It was 2006, and a large group of retired flag officers were struggling with America’s descent into torture. Finally, Vessey called for order and waved a beat-up copy of “The Armed Forces Officer,” an old (and current) manual on leadership.
“This is the gold standard,” he thundered, “and we’ve got to get back to the gold standard!”
And then he quoted from memory: “The United States abides by the laws of war. Its armed forces, in its dealings with all other peoples, are expected to comply with the laws of war, in spirit and to the letter. The main safeguard against lawlessness and hooliganism in any armed body is the integrity of its officers. But when an officer winks at any depredation by his men, it is no different than if he had committed the act.”
So will it be on Jan. 6. If any member of the House or the Senate winks at the coup attempt by Trump and his congressional enablers to subvert the incontrovertible will of the American people as expressed through the constitutional processes of a free and fair election, they will have violated their sworn oaths and they never be again should be entrusted with elective office.
David Irvine is a Salt Lake City attorney, a lifelong Republican and a retired U.S. Army brigadier general.