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Impeachment Update: Why Does This Matter?

Yesterday, the U.S. House finally brought their impeachment proceedings into full public view. And now that hearings have begun, we’re wondering whether the American public will finally notice what’s (and who’s) been hiding in plain sight all along. 

Contrary to what you’ve heard elsewhere, this matters. And contrary to popular belief that this is all just “Washington palace intrigue”, this impeachment story reaches very close to home and far too close to comfort.

WARNING: This story addresses some very sensitive topics, including domestic and sexual violence, and coarse adult language. Reader discretion is advised.
So what the hell happened yesterday?

During the first day of House impeachment hearings, two career diplomats publicly confirmed the growing pile of reports on President Donald Trump’s reliance on personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to run “shadow foreign policy” centered on their own personal gain instead of the nation’s best interest. Yet despite State Department deputy assistant secretary George Kent and acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor admitting that their politically appointed bosses were directing them and other career diplomats to defer to Giuliani’s judgment and help him “get dirt” on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, Republicans dismissed Kent’s and Taylor’s testimony as “hearsay” while cracking jokes about Kevin Bacon, Will Ferrell, and rock band REO Speedwagon.

This points to what’s apparently Republicans’ larger strategy to help Trump survive impeachment: Gaslighting. Respected career diplomats and national security officials are merely politically motivated “Never Trumpers”. Serious security breaches are greeted with 1990’s sitcom-esque laugh tracks. Incriminating evidence is blithely dismissed as “hearsay” and/or “FAKE NEWS!” Outright lies are rebranded as “alternative facts”, and somber criminal investigations are declared “witch hunts”.

Think about it: Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a decorated combat veteran, has had his patriotism and service to the country questioned while Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who’s still facing questions over his role in the cover-up of the sexual abuse of Ohio State University wrestlers, has been heralded as “strong” and “tough” with his trolling from the dais.

Why should we care about any of this?
Photo by Andrew Davey

As we and others pointed out last week, this Trump-Russia-Ukraine-TurkeySyria-(insert another country plagued by corruption and/or autocracy here) scandal actually hits very close to home. In fact, a network of Rudy Giuliani’s close “business associates” laundered Russian money into a shell corporation that they used to donate to Republican PAC’s and candidates across the nation last year, including then gubernatorial candidate Adam Laxalt (R) and then Attorney General candidate Wes Duncan (R) right here in Nevada. 

But wait, there’s more: Giuliani “business associates” Igor Fruman, Lev Parnas, Andrey Kukushkin, and David Correia attempted to start a Nevada marijuana business. When they realized they missed the legal deadline to submit their paperwork, they attempted to “change the rules” by funneling $10,000 donations each to Laxalt and Duncan. Giuliani’s “associates” may have ultimately failed to elect their candidates or get their pot business off the ground, but they did succeed in two other areas: They gained access to Trump and convinced him to sack the diplomats challenging their “business” in Russia and Ukraine, and their failed attempt to get into Nevada’s lucrative marijuana industry has shone a powerful light on the State of Nevada’s apparent failure to stop other bad actors who’ve succeeded.

Photo by Andrew Davey

Last week, Nevada Department of Administration Director Deonne Contine abruptly resigned amidst the steadily growing pile of headlines highlighting the marijuana industry’s “growing pains”. Though Contine served as Department of Administration Director under Governor Steve Sisolak (D), she previously served as Department of Taxation Director under Governor Brian Sandoval (R), while the state was rushing to implement the freshly voter-approved Question 2 initiative to legalize recreational marijuana.

Like the “revolving door” we often hear about, Contine left Sandoval’s administration and the very department in charge of regulating marijuana businesses to join the company that operates the Sierra Wellness marijuana dispensary in Reno, only to later join Sisolak’s administration, albeit in a role less directly tied to marijuana oversight. Sisolak has recently promised to step up the state’s efforts to quell concerns about corruption and political favoritism reigning over the regulatory system, though he’ll also have to answer questions over why he couldn’t do that as Chair of the Clark County Commission when Clark County seemed to allow one very “juiced up” lobbyist to take charge of the process here.

But wait, what about her?

As we discussed last week, we’ve also been seeing bad actors manipulate the very real and very legitimate outrage over Jeffrey Epstein and his long list of crimes into this overheated conspiracy craze. Never mind the women Epstein abused and the men Epstein used for protection, let’s obsess over these cool “Epstein Didn’t Kill Himself” memes. No, let’s not.

Instead, let’s hone in on why E. Jean Carroll feared coming forward with her own account of Donald Trump sexually assaulting her until this year: She figured her story would ultimately help him gain power. And just like Carroll, several of the women abused by Epstein feared coming forward because they figured no one would believe them over the “respected billionaire with many friends in high places”.

During yesterday’s impeachment hearing, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Arizona) decided to use the “somber moment” to tweet his own twist on the “Epstein Didn’t Kill Himself” meme. Gosar later told Phoenix New Times this was some kind of sophisticated shitposting, and apparently this is quite the habit for Gosar. Again, remember that real women were harmed by the likes of Trump, Epstein, and other serial predators. Yet now that E. Jean Carroll, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, and other victims and survivors are finally seeking their day in court, Gosar and other powerful men still want to use them as cheap punchlines. 

Why do we treat this as “normal”?
Photo by Andrew Davey

So what’s the point of all this? First, let’s get to the point of impeachment: We’ve seen ample evidence of abuse of power and other high crimes. Yet until late September, we only saw a few voices in the wilderness of Capitol Hill call for appropriate handling of these high crimes, while Republicans were overwhelmingly circling the wagons for Trump and several Democratic leaders were bizarrely trying to make “self-impeachment” and “impeach at the ballot box” a thing. (Breaking News: We can’t do that.)

Even now, it’s striking to see House Democratic leaders hone in on “Ukraine-gate” for their impeachment inquiry when Trump’s provided far more material for them to use. Meanwhile, Republicans are trying to spin this as “Democrats have nothing.” And as all this happens, victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence continue to be ignored, immigrant communities continue to face attacks, “national emergency” continues to become “the new normal”, and corruption at all levels of government continues to be blithely expected.

Photo by Andrew Davey

Keep in mind that much of this lies far beyond Trump, that much of this happened before Trump took office, and that all of this will remain should Trump leave office in 2021. And yet, it’s far too easy for us to treat these societal crises of abuse and corruption as “normal”. 

 As the House continues its impeachment hearings, we must continue to ask ourselves this: Why do we accept any of this as “normal”? Why are we so willing to explain away impeachable offenses as “just politics”, treat public-private partnerships of corruption as “business as usual”, and reduce horrific acts of abuse to funny memes? News Flash: None of this should be “normal”, and none of us should have to do mental gymnastics to justify criminal activities.

And finally, in case you or a loved one needs them, some resources
Photo by Andrew Davey

If you or someone you know is facing a major life crisis and struggling with thoughts of suicide, help is available. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is always there at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). So is the Crisis Text Line, where you can start a conversation with a volunteer counselor by texting “START” to 741741. (I can attest from personal experience that it helps.) And for LGBTQ+ youth in need of immediate help, the Trevor Project has a 24/7 hotline at 1-866-488-7386 and a text option (text “START” to 678678) available.

If you know anyone who’s currently experiencing domestic and/or sexual violence, the Nevada Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence has a list of resources available across the state. And if you want to do more to help, check out the Nevada Coalition’s action page for ideas on getting more involved.

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