JANUARY 31, 2020 – AMAC Spokesperson and Former Assistant Secretary of State, Robert Charles, discusses impeachment updates during the Senate trial and America’s future relations with the Middle East with Frank Gaffney on Secure Freedom Radio.
[Announcer] Now more with Frank Gaffney.
[Gaffney] Bobby I want to talk about a couple of things and thank you for giving us two segments of the show for the purpose. Starting with the — as we speak, still very much unfolding and high drama, impeachment process now underway with the trial in the United States Senate. It may be coming to an end soon, I’d be interested in both kind of your take on what we have seen to date in the course of this trial and where you think it’s going from here?
[Charles] Yeah, so I thank you Frank again for a chance to talk about it. I will tell you that having run portion of the Oversight Committee for five years, I marvel at what we’ve witnessed here in the last few weeks actually the last couple of months.
It began as we all know on the House side with a set of you know, despite the fact that every juror and grand juror is expected to be fair and impartial and the House is supposed to be operating as a grand jury I think it was as far away from fair and impartial as you could get. And so they articulated ultimately two articles, which of all Americans know one is abuse of power, which again there’s no crime behind it, and the other is obstruction of Congress, which again is a brand new phrase chiefly I think because obstruction of justice was not the way the Muller report so they with another term that they thought could generate some traction. In neither case do you have a crime and I think one of the things we would hear in the last really the last week is some extraordinarily thoughtful arguments on the part of the president’s legal counsel. I’ll start with Alan Dershowitz, really a distinguished legal scholar and if people you know just a moment took off their partisan hats and just listened to the law being discussed I think they would come away a hundred percent on the president’s side here.
But you know I think what we’re witnessing here Friday is the great countdown to the two big votes. One is going to be a vote on witnesses and the second of course is the vote for conviction or acquittal. And I think on witnesses as this thing moves rapidly I think what you’re seeing is desperate pleas on the part of the Senate Democrats and House Managers to try to use every last idea to convert from Republicans which I think not going to work. And I think even if you converted some Republicans you might find Collins voting for this, you might try and Romney voting for it, to bring in Bolton and bring in big Mulvaney and I think that’s chiefly for their own political reasons. I think Collins would know that there aren’t enough votes to make it happen but she is in a tough Senate race in Maine, divided state and probably wants to show her colors. And Mitt Romney I think is always been a Trump guy so he’s going to vote against them regardless.
But at the end of the day, you also have to remember you have five Democratic states that are very likely, at least eventually, to tip in the president’s direction both on witness vote and final acquittal and those states frankly are Arizona, where you have Kyrsten Sinema, you know remember Trump won that state 48-44. You have Alabama with Doug Jones that Trump won that state I think 68-22, something that. You have a West Virginia dimension where Trump won that state I think 62 to 26. You have Michigan where Trump won the state and that seat has to be defended by Gary Peters and in Minnesota where he did not win he seems to be leading heavily and so as a result you’ve got another senator there, Tina Smith who has to defend.
So what you could see here is a vote on witnesses where a couple of Democrats pop up voting in that direction in order to preserve their own – against witnesses – in order to preserve their own political futures and you see a couple of Republicans, maybe Collins and Romney but I think we now know that Markowski will not vote for these witnesses and we also know Lamar Alexander will not. So I think this is almost a done deal all over except the shouting.
But you have this moment where they’ll take the dramatic witness vote, I can already see the writing on the wall. I mean I’m an older American. I’m 59 as you said a moment ago I represent AMAC the Association of Mature American Citizens. That group of Americans over the age of 50 lived through Nixon, they lived through the Clinton impeachment, and this one is really looking more and more like such an oddball impeachment. It will end up being partisan from beginning to end except to the fact that some Democratic senators are very likely to join the Republicans and saying you know this really — there was no there — we’re not gonna, we’re not going to abide it.
[Gaffney] And vote to acquit in other words so you think the Republicans even the dissenters perhaps on this issue of witnesses are going to vote to acquit the president?
[Charles] I do. I think you’re gonna find this will end up being – I believe – you will end up anywhere between one and four Democrats coming over to vote by probably tomorrow to vote for acquittal and you know I see the desperation when you hear how the speaker goes out today and say that the acquittal is invalid, why? Because there was an insufficient number of witnesses.
Now I ask to stop the tape, go back and look at what’s on the House side. If the Senate acquittal is for some reason in her mind’s eye invalid for lack of material witnesses, then surely the two articles are void ab initio on the House side for lack of material witnesses because they shut down every Republican effort to get material witnesses to testify. And by the way, the way this works is that the witnesses and the trial, the description — that the data, the fact, that the documents in the witnesses that are supposed to support an impeachment – set of impeachment articles are all supposed to be laid out on the House side and then on that record the Senate conducts its review in trial. And I think one of the most remarkable things we have here is you had a completely twisted process over on the House side. Not any American watching it – I truly think even Democrats watching it – know that it was an utterly partisan affair and you’ve never had a vote on the House floor that was 100% partisan and you did just now. So I mean it’s invalid void ab initio.
[Gaffney] So let me ask you this Bobby, and I appreciate you going out on a limb to make some prognosis as to what’s likely to play out in the next few hours as we speak, it’s still unfolding as this program airs, some of it may have been accomplished but I want to ask you about something you touched on there a moment ago. Nancy Pelosi, both in this most recent press event and in some of her previous statements, has made it very clear the whole purpose of this exercise is to try to really destroy this president. Even if they can’t remove him from office through this process or through the previous what I call coups, attempted coups. Certainly through his removal at the polls in November and they are, as you know, some Democrats calling for the president to be removed from the ballot so he can’t even get votes.
They then are also obviously going to be, as you say she’s announced now, saying that it doesn’t matter whether he’s acquitted, it’s not a valid acquittal, it doesn’t alter the fact that he has been impeached for all time I think she put it the other day. So talk about this exercise in the sort of political warfare sense, which is I think the way to think about it, and its implications for the future of the country.
[Charles] So my opinion, Frank, is that this began several years ago right really when he was elected because there was such a crestfallen sense that they wanted Hillary Clinton, first woman progressive Democrat, you know, really all of them were looking for positions and help the Hillary Clinton administration. And there’s nothing worse than — there’s only one thing worse than losing, and that is believing you’re gonna win and then losing. And I think that happened and created this massive tidal wave of anti-trump thinking, which really only had partially to do with him, it had to do with the loss of their own future as they saw it.
The result was they moved forward toward impeachment really from the get-go and I think what you’ve witnessed is a gradual disintegration of every argument from the Russia collusion piece all the way up to and through this impeachment. The disintegration of on the merits of every argument that they’ve raised and so the most desperate moment I think came or day or two ago when you had people like Jerry Nadler as well as Adam Schiff arguing that Trump was, not just that Trump had done something that warranted removal now, which he had not legally or politically, but that because he was — could potentially do something in the future that we needed to prematurely de-legitimize the 2020 election because after all he would become a dictator, he would become a king, I’m quoting from them, he would become a tyrant, he would become a, etcetera, etcetera. And I think that what happened here is there is an obsessive-compulsive element to all this.
What’s happening, they are losing every single argument on the merits and they find themselves in a corner, which is why Pelosi could come out with a press conference today and say she’s not going to basically abide, believe in, respect the acquittal by the United States Senate of this president, which I think is pending.
At the part I look at this and I say you know as an average America and I grew up in rural America, you know, I worked in cities but I grew up in a small town and at the end of the day I look at it and I say you know this is — the lady doth protest too much. This is a situation in which you are literally abusing provisions of the United States Constitution, misusing them in a way to serve your political ends. And I will tell you that I think everything in America from whether we stop at red lights and stop signs to whether we impeach or don’t impeach pursuant to rules of the of the Constitution and rules of the House and Senate, is all based on honor and it’s truly a matter of individual honor. And if you have our leaders dishonoring the process, abusing the provisions of the Constitution for their own benefit, ultimately you’re beginning to lose rule of law and I would put her in the position of being culpable.
[Gaffney] Okay so what does it mean in terms of lowering the bar to future impeachments? Most would be concerned about that too if this process is not seen as completely illegitimate.
[Charles] So in a nutshell I thought, and I think a lot of us thought, that because this was done with such partisanship – any time a house is controlled by the party that’s opposite the holder of the White House you will end up with an impeachment. I think now, in retrospect – almost retrospect, that this has become such an embarrassment, it is such a disgrace, it is such a miscarriage of the way the Constitution was conceived of and has long been implemented that I think it will potentially become a talisman – a kind of a third rail – where people say you know, one thing we don’t want to do is go repeat the Pelosi mess because I think it’s going to cost her the House in November.
[Gaffney] Well it certainly should I think. Bobby Charles we have to pause for just a moment but I take heart from what you said and I guess that would mean for sure that we will not see more impeachments going forward in what remains of this session, which some of the more strident Democratic partisans have been promising will happen if in fact he is not convicted on these charges. We’re speaking with Robert Charles, former Assistant Secretary of State and very influential figure in the public policy arena based on both his experience in government and just that sure common sense he brings to these matters. We’ll be right back with more with Bobby Charles right after this.
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[Gaffney] Welcome back, we are continuing our conversation with Robert Charles. He has a wealth of experience in senior positions inside places like the State Department that I think give him a unique ability to help us work through some of the other challenges of our time besides impeachment and I’d like to turn to foreign policy. We have of course, Bobby, seen some very dramatic developments in the past couple of months with respect to Iran, notably the escalation of the violence between the United States and Iran with attacks on American personnel and on our embassy in Baghdad and the response by President Trump that wound up with the liquidation of one of the architects of such attacks, namely Qasem Soleimani. You have called attention to not just all of this, this context if you will, but also to how it’s playing inside Iran and I’d be very interested in your thoughts about the attitude of the Iranian people as best we can tell.
[Charles] Yeah so of course the society where they have regularly shut down the internet and closed off communications with the West. But there are contacts direct and indirect with those in Iran and I think we’re learning a lot.
The first thing people often don’t know but ought to know is that despite these sort of government prodded protests that erupted after killing of Soleimani, who was responsible for terrorist events that go all the way back to the bombing of the Marine Barracks in Lebanon during the Reagan years and come all the way forward to the killing of hundreds and maiming of thousands in Iraq — Iran, basically he was the father of the IED and a number of those other things and of course you have this notion that he was planning other events. The response by the Iranian people that I have heard, the people who are really a combination of the middle class and the average Iranian says frankly they wish we could have gotten rid of Soleimani earlier because this is an individual who was the head of the Quds Force, which is really the head of the Iranian entire military, and one of the things that the Iranian people know clear as a bell is that he was the individual with the IRGC who punished them, who killed 1,500 Iranians about 8 weeks ago. That same group incidentally that went to the Iranian families I had been told and forced them to pay for the bodies of their of their loved ones after they had executed them summarily for protesting.
So they believe – the average I think Iranian – that it would have been nice to have Soleimani gone before this. But there’s a bigger picture here and I think what we’re beginning to see is that the Trump administration has a coherent, a genuinely coherent, policy toward the Middle East. Not only did we get a peace plan that really makes a lot of sense in some ways released recently but in a bigger sense he has made it clear that he does not want to put troops on the ground anywhere in the Middle East unless there is a vital American interest, that he will take out high-value nodes who are creating disharmony, terrorist events, and probably beyond that may be responsible for other acts – bad effects – in the region. And I think that you know he made it — the other thing this president has made crystal clear from the beginning, what the military calls the bluffs, the bottom line, up front, he said in his press conference, “I will not let the Iranian government acquire nuclear weapons.” Well frankly that is the biggest concern I think of the average American. That is what we cannot allow to happen and he knows. So I see a coherent strategy on the part of the president. I see it being well-regarded inside Iran.
You know the intellectual folks around Washington believe that this, his maximum pressure campaign is intended to do one of two things, either trigger regime change or trigger a renegotiation of the nuclear program essentially having them swear off nuclear weapons forever and allow us to verify that. I think it’s very possible there’s a third way and I think it is possible that this administration, I don’t know, but is looking to see whether Iran continues to overplay its hand and if it over plays its hand just once too many times, we may hit their centrifuges and take the program out ourselves or encourage the Israelis to do that.
So I’m not saying that will happen I just think this president is being very nimble, he’s being very targeted and I think the Iranian people actually very much appreciate this president.
[Gaffney] We certainly have a common interest with them and seeing the end of the regime that threatens us and terribly represses them, that’s for sure.
Bobby let me didn’t ask you to come back to something you touched on there a moment ago, as you indicated President Trump this week unveiled what he calls the “deal of the century,” because it’s formally titled the “vision for peace in the Middle East.” What is your assessment of the kinds of terms that were laid out in that deal as they relate both to the Israelis and Palestinians?
[Charles] I think it acknowledges reality, which is the beginning of any problem-solving, whether it’s within a family or within a family of nations. It acknowledges the reality. It acknowledges where Israelis are and where they aren’t, where the Palestinian people as opposed to their leadership may want to be versus where they are. It acknowledges I think in the most fundamental way that peace is a better outcome than perpetual war. And I’m not, you know, I’m not blind to the fact that he is looking at a steep climb. But I will say that, you know, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a firm strong first step and I think that this is a situation in which maybe, if the right power brokers in the region can awaken to the idea that there’s reality behind it and if Trump gets reelected I think you could see negotiations of a kind we haven’t seen for 30 or 40 years.
[Gaffney] How does that come about given the rejection-ism of the Palestinian leadership, does that require some kind of regime change in that regard as well in order for what I suspect, you’re right, is the aspiration of a lot of Palestinians though it’s pretty hazardous for them to say so at the moment, to have normal lives and to get out from under the thugs and corrupt politicians and the jihadists that are currently misruling them?
[Charles] I think one of the problems that you have is that perpetual conflict is often the agenda of leaders who see their power base as based on perpetual conflict, that’s true.
Frankly in this country just as it is true in the Middle East. I think however the voice of the people becomes ever more important and I think the voice of the Palestinian people, if they were actually cold in the quiet of the night, would probably prefer to have the kind of peace that the president has architected in that state of perpetual bloodletting. I actually think that’s also true of the Israelis and I think it’s probably true of the vast majority of the populations in the Middle East.
The problem is that you’ve had power brokers who route their power in the idea of hostility, violence, terrors, and so what has to happen isn’t necessarily regime change, although I think that will flow from it, but rather a sense of perspective change.
And how does that start? You know, just if you go back, even things like the Oslo Accords and the even the days of Jimmy Carter, how does it start? How does it begin? It begins when someone says, I want you to stop I want you to look at the future and I want you to realize it isn’t written yet and therefore the art is impossible. The art of the deal is real.
[Gaffney] If so, it will presumably require a considerable buy-in from others in the Middle East and you mentioned that it’s not just the Palestinians and the Israelis that are actually involved here. Do you sense, based on what we’ve seen out of notably Saudi Arabia under Mohammed bin Salman, that there really is an enduring change of direction on the part of the Saudi government? That is not only aligning itself with Israel more and more vis a vis Iran, of course, but more generally and that is likely to prove enduring?
[Charles] I think that necessity is the mother of invention and what did we learn in the last two months? We learned that Saudi Arabia hit directly in effect by their large – the largest refinery in the world – hit by Iran and their surrogates that Saudi Arabia did not respond. Why did they not respond? They have an Air Force, they have all kinds of other opportunities to respond, I think there is an increasing perception that Iran is an outlier, that they need to be isolated within the region and that there is value in taking a more incremental feasible approach within the larger Middle East to trying to isolate Iran. If that is one of the objectives in the end, trying again whether it’s to get them to renegotiate get rid of nukes or getting regime change.
What’s happening is that Israel’s future and in many ways our support for a peaceful future in the Middle East is increasingly, I think, more like a magnet and I think you’re going to see not just Saudi Arabia but other countries migrate toward that magnet and away from Iran.
You know I’m always reminded that Ronald Reagan and had a famous quote that he applied elsewhere but he said you know every idea has three phases. There’s your crazy, forget it, followed by the phase great idea but it’ll never work, followed by the phase always thought that was a good idea I was on it from the beginning. And that’s potentially what you could see, I think what you’ll have to ultimately see, these steps forward on peace in the Middle East.
[Gaffney] We’ll be watching closely as will you I know. Bobby Charles, thank you so much for your time, former Assistant Secretary of State Robert Charles, and your continuing service to our country notably at the Association of Mature American Citizens and Fox News and of course the Charles Group. Keep it up my friend, come back to us again soon. I hope the rest of you will come back to us again on Monday, same time, same station until then this is Frank Gaffney thanks for listening.
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