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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Impeachment will not deal with all of Trump's conduct issues

The seven House impeachment managers are led to

The seven House impeachment managers are led to the Senate to deliver the articles of impeachment last week. Credit: Bloomberg/Andrew Harrer

For both houses of Congress, several big questions about the day-to-day conduct of the Trump administration are likely to get lost in the coming impeachment trial.

The partisan deadlock over whether President Donald Trump should be removed overshadows those questions, which elected officials may find worth exploring as a matter of governance, if not criminality.

On Ukraine, the factual frame is pretty clear. The president, his lawyer and budget officials put the squeeze on a new government in Kyiv to investigate what seem to be illusory crimes of U.S. Democrats. These efforts fell apart and politically backfired.

Perhaps more important than whether to penalize the president is what this mess tells us about the White House's overall approach to government.

State Department appointments and actions were plainly guided from outside the official hierarchy. Is this a good method of operation?

Support it or not, the move to have Ukraine go after Joe Biden and digital trails generated by the Democratic Party practically invites foreign players to influence American domestic matters.

If gas oligarch Dmytro Firtash had delivered on the elusive "dirt" on the Bidens sought by Rudy Giuliani and Lev Parnas, one question is whether the Justice Department would have cut him a break on pending bribery allegations for which he's charged in Illinois.

If, as the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office says, the administration violated the law by halting security aid to Ukraine, perhaps Congress should consider legislating a tighter hold on budget matters in a comprehensive way.

Another separation-of-powers dispute is already underway in the case of military funding diverted for Trump's border wall. Another concerns the president's military options in Iraq and Iran. Executive powers have shrunk and contracted over the years, after all.

Those institutional tensions stand apart from the matters of party control and impeachment.

Former Energy Secretary Rick Perry had a still-hazy role in American interactions with the regime of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. The subject is energy exports and imports. Both parties of Congress might wish to find out — if only for everyone's enlightenment — what Perry was doing, whether positively or negatively.

These bigger questions for which Congress can serve as a watchdog go beyond Eastern Europe.

According to a newly released memo from the FBI, the government of Saudi Arabia "almost certainly" helps its citizens accused of serious crimes flee from the United States.

The Saudi government does this, the FBI stated, to avoid the embarrassment of "Saudi citizens enduring the U.S. judicial process," as described by USA Today and The Oregonian newspaper. More than Congress, Trump ordinarily expresses sympathy to the kingdom in any controversy.

A recent terrorist rampage in Pensacola, Florida, by a Royal Saudi Air Force second lieutenant, subsequently killed by a local police officer, was followed by the expulsion of more than a dozen Saudi servicemen. Investigators said they found child pornography, "jihadi or anti-American content" on accounts or devices associated with the expelled Saudis, all students in the same Pentagon-sponsored training program stateside as the attacker.

The FBI report was issued under a new law approved by both parties.

Law enforcement aside, is it proper for Trump businesses to make money from his incumbency, despite the promises the president made early on to separate himself from the transactions?

This "emoluments clause" question was excluded from the House impeachment articles, but it could be raised again in Congress regardless of the Senate trial's preset outcome in Trump's favor.

Once Trump is acquitted as expected, lawmakers could dig for some answers, if only to inform the public and act as a check where necessary.

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