Trump Resorts to Familiar Tactics in Ukraine Story
Amid renewed calls for his impeachment following suggestions that he urged the President of Ukraine to dig up dirt on Joe Biden and his family, Donald Trump is doing what he always does: attacking the media and trying to shift the focus of outrage to his political opponents. On Friday night, he hosted a state dinner in the Rose Garden for Scott Morrison, the conservative Prime Minister of Australia, who is an avowed admirer of the U.S. President.
Trump didn’t provide any evidence to support his allegation against Biden, which his lawyer Rudy Giuliani has been pushing for months, without providing any evidence, either. (A Ukrainian official has denied that Biden did anything wrong.) In contrast, the allegation that Trump pressured the Ukrainian leader, Volodymyr Zelensky, to investigate Biden appears to have more substance. It is based on a complaint by an anonymous intelligence whistle-blower, which the acting director of National Intelligence has refused to turn over to Congress, as he is required by law to do.
The Journal report did contain one potentially exculpatory detail relating to two hundred and fifty million dollars in U.S. aid to Ukraine, which the Trump Administration, perhaps seeking leverage, had held up for months when Trump spoke with Zelensky. Referring to a separate source, an anonymous Ukrainian official, the story said, “Trump in the call didn’t mention a provision of U.S. aid to Ukraine, said this person, who didn’t believe Mr. Trump offered the Ukrainian president any quid pro quo for his cooperation on any investigation.” Reports out of Kiev have suggested that Ukrainian officials believed Trump was holding up the aid until they agreed to launch a new Biden probe.
Biden has demanded the release of the transcript of the July 25th phone call between Trump and Zelenksy. “If these reports are true, then there is truly no bottom to President Trump’s willingness to abuse his power and abase our country,” Biden said. “This behavior is particularly abhorrent because it exploits the foreign policy of our country and undermines our national security for political purposes.” Biden continued, “It means that he used the power and resources of the United States to pressure a sovereign nation—a partner that is still under direct assault from Russia—pushing Ukraine to subvert the rule of law in the express hope of extracting a political favor.” When reporters at the White House asked Trump about the phone call, he said, “Someone ought to look into Joe Biden.” He also claimed that his discussions with other world leaders are, “at the highest level, always appropriate,” and when he was asked whether he had spoken about Biden in his phone call with Zelensky, he said, “It doesn’t matter what I discussed.”
Trump didn’t go quite as far as Giuliani did on Thursday night, when he told CNN’s Chris Cuomo that Trump had every right to ask the Ukrainian President to investigate Biden. But the President also didn’t deny the central allegation—that he put pressure on Zelensky, and he may well be gearing up to make the argument that, even if he did put the squeeze on a foreign leader to help him out in his 2020 reëlection bid, he didn’t do anything wrong. Pursuing such a strategy would present yet another test of the loyalty that elected Republicans have to their rogue President, and, based on past experience, there is every reason to suppose that almost all of them would fall in line, abjectly.
On the other side of the aisle, some senior Democrats are stepping up their calls for impeachment. On Friday evening, Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted, “After the Mueller report, Congress had a duty to begin impeachment. By failing to act, Congress is complicit in Trump’s latest attempt to solicit foreign interference to aid him in US elections. Do your constitutional duty and impeach the president.” In a follow-up tweet, Warren wrote, “A president is sitting in the Oval Office, right now, who continues to commit crimes. He continues because he knows his Justice Department won’t act and believes Congress won’t either. Today’s news confirmed he thinks he’s above the law. If we do nothing, he’ll be right.”
In a post on Friday, I noted that many details of the whole affair remain murky, including exactly what the whistle-blower has alleged. I also provided a brief chronology of the whistle-blower story up to that point, but if you really want to understand what is going on here you need to delve into some of the more in-depth pieces that have sought to explain the background of the story, including the Ukrainian end of it. From 2014 until earlier this year, Biden’s son Hunter was on the board of directors of a Ukrainian energy company called Burisma Holdings.
This week’s issue of The Economist provided more details of Giuliani’s role and suggested that his actions crossed the line. It is also worth going back and reading a couple of articles that appeared before the whistle-blower story blew up. In July, my colleague Adam Entous published a long piece about Hunter Biden that looked extensively into his business activities and some of his personal history. In May, Politico ran a story about how Trump and some right-wing activists and researchers were looking to turn Joe and Hunter Biden into targets during the 2020 campaign, much as they targeted Hillary Clinton in 2016. “Last time, he had the right-wing conspiracy media to boost his chants of ‘lock her up,’ but this time he’s going to actually weaponize the federal government against our nominee,” Jesse Ferguson, a former senior spokesman for the Clinton campaign, told Politico.
—— AUTO – GENERATED; Published (Halifax Canada Time AST) on: September 22, 2019 at 12:17AM