A Look Back At The Impeachment And Conviction Of Barack Obama
Credit: Perrspectives
January 29, 2020

As President Trump's legal team wrapped up its impeachment defense on Tuesday, all eyes turned to the issue of witnesses. But whether or not the mounting revelations surrounding former National Security Adviser John Bolton's upcoming book are sufficient to spur Republican defections in the Senate, there is little doubt Donald Trump will be acquitted by the GOP majority.

The contrast with the impeachment and conviction of Barack Obama could not be more stark. After all, yesterday's developments came exactly 8 years after the Senate firmly under the control of Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) voted to remove President Obama by an overwhelming 89-11 margin. As it turned out, Obama's obvious abuse of power in the "ChutzpahGate" affair--seeking foreign intervention from Israel against his likely opponent in the 2012 election--was unacceptable in the eyes of the media, his Democratic allies and Obama's devoted base.

As you'll recall, what came to be known as ChutzpahGate had its origins in the voting machines of the 2008 election and in the offices of a little-known startup in Tel Aviv. While Obama had easily defeated Republican John McCain in the general election that November, the 44th President was increasingly worried about former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in 2012. Despite the successes of Obama's 2009 stimulus program, polling showed that the painfully slow recovery and stubbornly high unemployment made him vulnerable to a proven business leader like Romney.

Worse still in Obama's eyes were the implications of a largely overlooked conspiracy theory floating around in some of the most fevered swamps of the internet.

During and after the 2008 GOP primaries, a far-right blogger declared that Governor Romney's surprising margins of victory in the Michigan, Minnesota and Colorado primaries were suspiciously high. (The same blogger alleged that a pedophile ring met regularly in the basement of Barack Obama's favorite vegan café in Washington, DC. Those rumors were debunked when it turned out that "Arugula Heaven" was actually a food truck which made regular stops in Georgetown, Adams Morgan and Capitol Hill.) All three states, it turned out, used the same electronic voting machines produced by the small Israeli company, Chutzpah Election Systems (CES). And Chutzpah had been largely funded by none other than Bain Capital, the venture capital firm Mitt Romney once led and from which the 2012 White House hopeful still profited handsomely.

With his own reelection less than two years away in the spring of 2011, President Obama was growing increasingly concerned about Romney's Chutzpah. While its voting machines were little used during the 2008 race, by the 2010 midterms CES devices were deployed in 31 states. In those elections, the Republicans picked up a staggering 63 seats in the House as a popular vote wave washed away Democratic congressmen and governors. Exacerbating Obama's paranoia was Mitt Romney's notoriously close relationship with his former colleague at Boston Consulting Group, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. When Romney visited Bibi in January 2011, rumors began to swirl that the former Massachusetts Governor arranged for Netanyahu to get stock options in Chutzpah Election Systems. Declaring "we can almost speak in shorthand," Romney told the media:

"We share common experiences and have a perspective and underpinning which is similar. And I believe America must say -- and the best way to have peace in the Middle East is not for us to vacillate and to appease, but is to say, we stand with our friend Israel. We are committed to a Jewish state in Israel. We will not have an inch of difference between ourselves and our ally, Israel."

Soon, some of the President's allies were muttering about corruption in Israel and rumors the Prime Minister would use Chutzpah to electronically manipulate the 2012 vote in favor of his friend, Mitt Romney. Soon, a whisper campaign suggested that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was corrupt, just like his predecessor Ehud Olmert, who had been indicted in 2009. Speaking at a rally in North Carolina that March, Obama cryptically proclaimed:

"Don't fall for the easy cynicism that says my vote doesn't matter, or all politicians are the same. It does matter, and they're not all the same. That's what my opponents wants you to think, because they don't want you to vote. And apparently, some of them won't stop there to win an election."

That's why some eyebrows were raised in May 2011 when President Obama's counselor John Podesta announced he would be making a trip to Israel. Podesta, a close associate of Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, explained the purpose of his trip this way:

"We're not meddling in an election, we're meddling in an investigation, which we have a right to do.

"There's nothing illegal about it," he said. "Somebody could say it's improper. And this isn't foreign policy -- I'm asking them to do an investigation that they're doing already and that other people are telling them to stop. And I'm going to give them reasons why they shouldn't stop it because that information will be very, very helpful to my client, and may turn out to be helpful to my government."

But if that seemed bizarre and suspicious, to Obama's foes at least, the media let the matter drop.

Until, that is, revelations of a freeze on American aid to Israel began to surface that summer. To be sure, this was a lot of money to put on hold. At over $3 billion a year, U.S. military and financial assistance to the Jewish State was 8 times larger than the funding at issue in Trump's Ukraine imbroglio. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton among others said the aid was only temporarily held up due to "bureaucratic technicalities," right-wing media went on the attack. Pointing to the dollars to be allocated for new Arrow anti-missile systems and the first overseas deployments of the F-35 fighter jet, Sean Hannity of Fox News warned Obama was "putting American and Israeli national security at risk." Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro called Obama's "a borderline Jew-hating administration" and branded Rahm Emanuel "a kapo" who along with his boss was personally putting Jews on trains. For her part, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow brushed off the Republican criticism while seated in front a graphic reading, "NOTHING TO SEE HERE."

And there was nothing to see, until a whistleblower from the National Security Council staff came forward with a complaint that August. The unclassified version of the complaint made public on August 12, 2011 alleged that President Obama tried to extort the Israelis during a July 25 phone conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Israel wouldn't get a dollar of the American aid, the whistleblower claimed Obama said, until the Bibi announced two investigations into the Chutzpah affair. First, Netanyahu had to publicly promise a probe to determine whether Chutzpah machines had helped Romney in 2008 and would do so again in 2012. Second, the Israeli leader needed to investigate whether Mitt and his son Tagg personally profited from Chutzpah's sale of vote-rigging machines in the United States.

It all unraveled very quickly from there. President Obama pressed his Attorney General Eric Holder to block the legally required transmission of the whistleblower complaint to Congress. Holder not only refused, he told Obama he would not even read the document. AG Holder told the Inspector General for national security and intelligence affairs to bring the complaint to Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) the Republican Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. After White House Press Secretary Jay Carney released a transcript of Obama's July 25 call with Netanyahu, the architecture of the President's quid pro quo became crystal clear:

NETANYAHU: I would also like to thank you for your great support in the area of defense. We are ready to continue to cooperate for the next steps specifically we are almost. ready to buy more F-35's from the United States for defense purposes.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Israel knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Romney and the voting machines, they say Chutzpah... I guess you have one of our wealthy people... The voting machines, they say Israel has them. There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation.

That wasn't all. President Obama went to remind Bibi of John Podesta's mission to Israel and why he went there:

PRESIDENT OBAMA: John very much knows what's happening and he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him that would be great. The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news so I just want to let you know that. The other thing, There's a lot of talk about Romney's son, that Romney stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do would be great. Romney went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it... It sounds horrible to me.

That "former ambassador" was Miriam Josefowitz, a thirty-year veteran of the American Foreign Service. When Obama had Podesta pressure her to push the Israelis to jump start the investigations into Mitt and Tagg Romney, Josefowitz resigned in protest. Soon she became a household name. And soon, the freeze on the $3 billion in aid to Israel was lifted.

For his part, Netanyahu initially denied feeling any pressure from President Obama. But in Congress, the heat was on Obama. And the incoming fire was coming from his own party, too.

Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), fresh off his victory in that summer's debt-ceiling hostage taking, announced in October that the House Intelligence, Oversight and Reform, and Foreign Affairs committees would jointly pursue an impeachment inquiry. Obama's fate would be in the hands of Rogers, Darrell Issa (R-CA), and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL). When Rogers declared that hearings would begin on November 13, 2011, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) acknowledged the seriousness of the allegations against President Obama:

"I love Barack Obama and stood with him to save our economy, to bring health care to all Americans and to pass climate change legislation. But if these allegations are true, the President would have jeopardized the national security of the United States and our ally Israel at risk and all for his personal political gain. Even if the Romneys did engage in corrupt conduct in Israel, bribing a foreign leader to interfere in our democratic election process would represent a violation of President Obama's oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

The impeachment inquiry moved quickly in the House. Within days, Attorney General Holder, the DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel and the White House itself issued guidelines authorizing all federal agencies to turn over any documents required by the House committees. Holder instructed Obama administration officials to honor any subpoenas. White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler announced her office would not represent any officials, whether political appointees or career civil servants, from testifying before Congress.

Testify they did, both in the House and in the Senate. And the impact of their testimony was devastating. Barack Obama never mentioned corruption in Israel, unless he was asking about Netanyahu, the Romneys and Chutzpah. State Department and NSC staff described their complaints to their superiors. One reported sitting in a café in Jerusalem while Podesta spoke to Obama on the phone. Podesta bragged that Bibi would go along with their gambit "even though he hates your ass." The NSC staffer recounted hearing Obama through the phone shout, "Romney's going to go to prison. If he cooperates, maybe I'll let him keep his doctor. "

The media reaction was furious and bipartisan. Fox News ran ChutzpahGate stories almost 24-7. (At one point, Hannity interviewed Donald Trump of all people. Trump told Hannity he had dispatched private investigators to Tel Aviv, adding, "You wouldn't believe what they're finding.") In the midst of the House impeachment hearings, the Obama-friendly Daily News front page headline read merely, "O No!" The York Times editorial board called for Obama's impeachment and convicted in a thundering screed titled simply, "No, You Can't." The night before the impeachment vote was taken, an ashen Rachel Maddow lamented the President's impeachment was all but certain and deservedly so.

"Not since Eduard Bernstein issued his call for 'evolutionary socialism' in 1909 have working men and women felt as hopeless and betrayed as they do in America tonight. Like Karl Kautsky of the German Workers' Party voting for the war credits that helped launch the carnage of the First World War, Barack Obama was not the change we've been waiting for."

On December 18, 2011, President Obama was impeached by the United States House of Representatives. The vote was 377 to 58. Among those voting "yes" was Rep. John Lewis (D-GA). After the historic House action, the Civil Rights legend spoke to the press. With tears in his eyes, Lewis said simply:

"I love Barack Obama like a son. On my desk, I have a framed photograph of myself with him on which he wrote, 'Because of you, John.' But this, using the power of the presidency for his own political gain is not what Dr. King fought for. It's not what the Freedom Riders suffered for. And it's not what I bled for."

By the time Chief Justice John Roberts gaveled the Senate trial of Barack Obama into order, most of the President allies agreed with Lewis' sentiment. Secretary Clinton, who war largely unaware of Obama's scheme, agreed to testify if asked. So, too, did National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, who opposed the Israeli extortion racket from the get-go. (While Donilon's book on ChutzpahGate was to be published by the end of January 2012; he volunteered to deliver the manuscript to House impeachment managers Darrell Issa and Trey Gowdy (R-SC), as well as to the Obama defense team. By January 20, Obama's approval plummeted to just 24 percent. Almost 80 percent of all Americans supported his conviction; that figure included 68 percent of Democrats. It's no surprise the vote for call was witnesses was 98-2.

But that was never a factor. The evidence was overwhelming. The objective truth of Obama's criminality and abuse of power was inescapable. On January 16, 2012, the General Accountability Office (GAO) found that President Obama had broken the law. His failed effort to block the funds passed by Congress and which he himself signed into law violated the Impoundment Control Act of 1974. On January 28, 2012, the Senate voted 89 to 11 to convict Barack Hussein Obama and remove him from office. That same day, Vice President Joe Biden took the oath of office and became the 45th President of the United States.

As he left the Senate, a beaming Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) proclaimed, "I have kept my promise to make Barack Obama a one-term president." For a grim Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the only consolation was that he had done his Constitutional duty:

"This is as sad and disappointing a day as I can recall in my long life. Barack Obama had so much promise. For a time, he was the embodiment of hope for millions of Americans. But no man is above the law. No President of the United States can flout the Constitution he swore an oath to uphold. In voting with most of my colleagues to convict and remove President Obama, we have sent the message that in the United States truth and the rule of law still reign supreme."

That night, Fox News, One America Network, Breitbart and the National Review all ran with the same talking point. "O'Bummer is O'Busted." On CNN, Anderson Cooper and Don Lemon led a round table called, "The Shame of Barack Obama." On MSNBC, Lawrence O'Donnell said simply, "The conviction of Barack Obama is what the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan would have called a 'necessary heartbreak.'"

The rest, as they say, is history. Joe Biden, untouched by the Obama extortion racket, served out the remainder of his term. But too weakened by ChutzpahGate, Biden was mauled by Mitt Romney in the 2012 election. Romney's 59 percent of the ballots--along with 405 electoral votes--represented the greatest landslide since Ronald Reagan's in 1984. But President Romney's honeymoon didn't last long. Hounded from the right, Romney was soon engulfed by his own scandal. While allegations of vote-switching by CES voting machines were never proven, Romney confronted charges that he and other Bain executives were involved in financial wrong-doing by Chutzpah Election Systems. Calling Mitt Romney a "loser," it was Donald Trump who won the Republican nomination in 2016. He beat Democrat Hillary Clinton, whose treatment from the media only worsened since her days as First Lady. And in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was indicted for his Chutzpah.

Of course, aside from Bibi's indictment on other charges, none of these things happened. But if they had, if Barack Obama had committed the offenses over which Donald Trump has been impeached, President Obama would certainly have been convicted by the Senate and removed from office. Much of the so-called "lamestream" media and most Democratic voters, like me, would have insisted on it.

Published with permission of Perrspectives.

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