Trump Repeatedly Pushed Ukraine To Investigate Biden’s Son
The details about President Trump's attempts to get Ukraine to investigate the son of one of his potential 2020 rivals keep getting worse for the President.
As further details emerge about the phone call between President Trump and the President of Ukraine that apparently is the focus of a complaint from a whistleblower inside the intelligence community the worse things are looking for the Trump Administration even as it pushes back against the suggestion that the President did anything wrong, Based on reporting that has been confirmed by both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post reports that President Trump sought to influence the Ukrainians to open an investigation of the son of former Vice-President Joe Biden and that he was apparently using an arms sale that had already been authorized by Congress to do so:
President Trump pressed the leader of Ukraine to investigate the son of former vice president Joe Biden in a call between the two leaders that is at the center of an extraordinary whistleblower complaint, according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
Trump used the July 25 conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to pressure the recently elected leader to pursue an investigation that Trump thought would deliver potential political dirt on one of his possible challengers in 2020, the people said.
The descriptions of the call provide the clearest indication to date that Trump sought to use the influence of his office to prod the leader of a country seeking American financial and diplomatic support to provide material that could aid the president’s reelection. After spending much of his presidency fending off allegations that he welcomed 2016 campaign help from Russia, Trump now stands accused of soliciting political ammunition from a country next door to Russia.
Trump on Friday repeated his denial that he has done anything untoward in his conversations with world leaders, but he refused to address whether he had raised the issue of a dormant investigation of a company that previously employed the Democratic presidential contender’s son, Hunter Biden.
“It doesn’t matter what I discussed,” said Trump, who criticized journalists for covering the issue. “It’s another media disaster,” Trump said, even though the intelligence community’s inspector general has assessed the whistleblower complaint as credible and a matter of such urgency that it should be disclosed to the relevant committees in Congress.
One source familiar with the contents of the phone call said that Trump did not raise the issue of American military and intelligence aid that the administration was at the time withholding from Ukraine — indicating that there may not have been an explicit quid pro quo expressed in that conversation.
The call, however, is part of a broader set of facts included in the whistleblower complaint that is at the center of a showdown between the executive branch and Congress, with officials in the Trump administration refusing to divulge information about the substance of an Aug. 12 complaint to the inspector general of the U.S. intelligence community.
Other former U.S. officials familiar with the substance of the whistleblower complaint said it alleges that Trump at some point came closer to conveying a proposed quid pro quo. They said the complaint described a “promise” the president made or an offer of some benefit to a foreign leader.
The revelation that Trump pushed Zelensky to pursue the probe of a company with links to Biden, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, helps to explain why a U.S. intelligence official who apparently learned about the call felt compelled to file a whistleblower action against the president
For those wondering, there are several statutes that would cover a situation where a politician or candidate sought to get a foreigner to interfere in an American election. Not the least of these is 50 U.S.C. 30121(2) which states that “It shall be unlawful for… a person to solicit, accept, or receive a contribution or donation [of a thing of value] from a foreign national.” Additionally, there would be potential violations of 18 U.S.C. 371(1) which states:
If two or more persons conspire either to commit any offense against the United States, or to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose, and one or more of such persons do any act to effect the object of the conspiracy, each shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.
If the latest allegations are true then it’s hard to understate what the President is doing here. Just as he did when, in a speech at a campaign rally, he called on Russia to “find” the “30,000 emails” allegedly deleted from Hillary Clinton’s email server, (video here) the President is asking for the help of a foreign government in the context of a Presidential election. In 2016, it was Russia. In 2019, it appears to be Ukraine. Even while Congress is still engaged in an effort to get the information it needs to thoroughly investigate what happened in 2016 and the apparent efforts of the Trump White House to impede the investigation of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia, as well as other allegations that have been made against this President, we’re now presented with something entirely new to investigate.
As with the Russia investigation, there are two things that need to be looked into. The first involves the allegation made public by these latest reports that the President, both by himself and through his private attorney Rudy Giuliani has attempted to influence a foreign government to investigate a domestic political rival. The second involves the handling of this whistleblower complaint and why the Administration has blocked the Director of National Intelligence and the Inspector General from following regular procedure, which would mean providing the House and Senate Intelligence Committees with a copy of the Complaint and access to the whistleblower. After all, as more than one person has noted in the past several days has said, if the contents of his conservation with the Ukrainian President are being even halfway accurately reported then he is essentially admitting to having conspired to break the law.
Writing in the Washington Post, George Conway, the husband of Trump Adviser Kellyanne Conway, and Neal Kaytal, former Solicitor General in the Trump Administration, call these latest allegations “over the top,” and they’re right:
Simply put, the framers viewed the president as a fiduciary, the government of the United States as a sacred trust and the people of the United States as the beneficiaries of that trust. Through the Constitution, the framers imposed upon the president the duty and obligation to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed” and made him swear an oath that he would fulfill that duty of faithful execution. They believed that a president would break his oath if he engaged in self-dealing — if he used his powers to put his own interests above the nation’s. That would be the paradigmatic case for impeachment.
That’s exactly what appears to be at issue today. A whistleblower in U.S. intelligence lodged a complaint with the intelligence community’s inspector general so alarming that he labeled it of “urgent concern” and alerted the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Though the details remain secret, apparently this much can be gleaned: The complaint is against the president. It concerns a “promise” that the president made, in at least one phone call, with a foreign leader. And it involves Ukraine and possible interference with the next presidential election. The complaint is being brazenly suppressed by the Justice Department — in defiance of a whistleblower law that says, without exception, the complaint “shall” be turned over to Congress.
We also know this: As he admitted Thursday night on CNN, the president’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, has been trying to persuade the Ukrainian government to investigate, among other things, one of Trump’s potential Democratic opponents, former vice president Joe Biden, and Biden’s son Hunter about the latter’s involvement with a Ukrainian gas company.
Trump has already done more than enough to warrant impeachment and removal with his relentless attempts, on multiple fronts, to sabotage the counterintelligence and criminal investigation by then-special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and to conceal evidence of those attempts. The president’s efforts were impeachable because, in committing those obstructive acts, he put his personal interests above the nation’s: He tried to stop an investigation into whether a hostile foreign power, Russia, tried to interfere with our democracy — simply because he seemed to find it personally embarrassing. Trump breached his duty of faithful execution to the nation not only because he likely broke the law but also because, through his disregard for the law, he put his self-interest first.
The current whistleblowing allegations, however, are even worse. Unlike the allegations of conspiracy with Russia before the 2016 election, these concern Trump’s actions as president, not as a private citizen, and his exercise of presidential powers over foreign policy with Ukraine. Moreover, with Russia, at least there was an attempt to get the facts through the Mueller investigation; here the White House is trying to shut down the entire inquiry from the start — depriving not just the American people, but even congressional intelligence committees, of necessary information.
It is high time for Congress to do its duty, in the manner the framers intended. Given how Trump seems ever bent on putting himself above the law, something like what might have happened between him and Ukraine — abusing presidential authority for personal benefit — was almost inevitable. Yet if that is what occurred, part of the responsibility lies with Congress, which has failed to act on the blatant oquobstruction that Mueller detailed months ago.
As things stand today, we don’t know the whole story here. We don’t know exactly what the President discussed with the President of Ukraine during that July phone call. We don’t know if there was a formal quid pro quo put forward by the President regarding the release of the hold on arms sales to Ukraine and an investigation of the Biden affair. We don’t know if there were any subsequent conservations during which this was raized. We don’t know if such an offer was made during Rudy Giuliani’s visits to Ukraine. We also don’t know what it was about this July phone call that set off alarm bells for both the whistleblower and the intelligence community Inspector General, and we don’t know on what legal basis or why the White House insisted that the complaint not be turned over to Congress as generally required. All of this must be investigated thoroughly and the facts need to be put before the American public. Instead of allowing that to happen, the White House is doing everything it can to prevent the truth from coming out. The reader can determine for themselves why this is the case.