On Trump, Biden, Ukraine and impeachment
After two and a half years of relentlessly calling for the impeachment of President Trump, the Democrats have finally found an offense that might come under the heading of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” In a July 25 phone conversation with recently elected Ukrainian President Zelensky, President Trump asked his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate Ukrainian involvement in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. In addition, he asked him to look into the activities of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son involving corruption in the Ukraine itself.
As everyone must know by now, President Trump’s conversation was leaked to a House committee chaired by Democrat Adam Schiff. The outcry prompted the White House to release a transcript of the conversation. Here is what President Trump said in paragraph 7 of the transcript:
I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike… I guess you have one of your wealthy people… The server, they say Ukraine has it. There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation. I think you’ve surrounded yourself with some of the same people.
President Trump’s request “to do us a favor” came only after effusive personal and political compliments from the Ukrainian President who repeatedly expressed his willingness to cooperate with the United States in many matters.
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 Javelins from the United States for defense purposes.
Apparently, President Trump took these remarks about cooperation as an invitation to bring up the question of Ukrainian influence in the 2016 election that, of course, had occurred before Zelensky was elected. The Ukrainian President responded that he was more than willing to look into the matter.
Yes it is very important for me and everything that you just mentioned earlier. For me as a President, it is very important and we are open for any future cooperation. We are ready to open a new page on cooperation in relations between the United States and Ukraine. … I also plan to surround myself with great people and in addition to that investigation, I guarantee as the President of Ukraine that all the investigations will be done openly and candidly. That I can assure you.
Apparently pleased with these remarks, President Trump then raised a related issue about past Ukrainian corruption.
Good because I heard you had a prosecutor who was very good and he was shut down and that’s really unfair. A lot of people are talking about that, the way they shut your very good prosecutor down and you had some very bad people involved. …The other thing, there’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it… It sounds horrible to me.
These are the two statements that have led House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to open the doors into a formal impeachment inquiry. The first charge can be dismissed out of hand. For two and a half years the Democrats have been clamoring for an investigation of foreign influence in the 2016 election. How can President Trump be blamed for now asking the recently elected Ukrainian President to investigate his country’s involvement?
The second statement is more serious. Can the President of the United States ask a foreign government to investigate charges of political corruption in its country that might involve an American political opponent? Does that constitute a “high crime and misdemeanor?”
It is hard to doubt that President Trump had a political motive for seeking information on the activities of Vice-President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, in the Ukraine during the administration of President Obama. Nevertheless, why shouldn’t a President be able to seek information on what happened to more than a billion dollars of aid that the United States gave to Ukraine during the previous administration?
Commentators have been complaining that President Trump has sat on almost a half billion dollars of aid to Ukraine for months, but it is undeniable that during the Obama administration, Vice-President Joe Biden bragged about withholding a billion dollars of aid to Ukraine until that country dismissed a prosecutor investigating a company that employed Biden’s son as a director with a $600,000 annual salary.
President Zelensky openly admitted that Ukraine’s prior government had been full of corruption. Why would it be wrong for President Trump to ask for an investigation to see if prior aid to Ukraine had been misused before releasing any more funds?
Although the Democrats in the House of Representatives will proceed with impeachment of President Trump, it would appear that the political damage to Joe Biden will be much greater. He was already losing ground in the polls and this latest revelation will be hard to deal with in upcoming debates. How will he explain that while he was in charge of investigating corruption in Ukraine, his own son received an annual salary of $600,000 from the very company that was under investigation?
Francis P. DeStefano, Ph.D., of Fairfield, is a writer, lecturer, historian and retired financial planner.
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