Trump, Ukraine, and Biden

What we know for sure.

“#USAxAUS” by White House is in the Public Domain

At the moment there are three categories about the Trump/Biden/Ukraine story. One category is what the whistle-blower reported. We do not know what that report contains. A second category is what has been reported, to include a WSJ report that Trump brought up the topic of Biden roughly eight times to President Zelensky of Ukraine. Other reports have also stated that the topic came up in the call. The third are things that we know for sure via Trump himself and his surrogate, Rudy Giuliani.

Let’s look at what we can say we know for sure.

We know that the Trump campaign has been interested in a Biden-Ukraine connection for some time now. The Guaridan (which has a timeline of th issue) noted that it was brought up in April during a Giulani interview on a Fox News program and the NYT reported Giuliani mentioning the issue in early May:

“I can assure you this all started with an allegation about possible Ukrainian involvement in the investigation of Russian meddling, and not Biden,” Mr. Giuliani said. “The Biden piece is collateral to the bigger story, but must still be investigated, but without the prejudgments that infected the collusion story.”

Via the NYT: Biden Faces Conflict of Interest Questions That Are Being Promoted by Trump and Allies

Then, also in May, Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, was set to fly to Kiev in regards to issues for the Trump re-election campaign:

Mr. Giuliani said he plans to travel to Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, in the coming days and wants to meet with the nation’s president-elect to urge him to pursue inquiries that allies of the White House contend could yield new information about two matters of intense interest to Mr. Trump.

One is the origin of the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. The other is the involvement of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s son in a gas company owned by a Ukrainian oligarch.

Via the NYT: Rudy Giuliani Plans Ukraine Trip to Push for Inquiries That Could Help Trump.

The president-elect in question was Zelensky.

Giuliani described his planned trip thusly:

“I’m asking them to do an investigation that they’re doing already and that other people are telling them to stop. And I’m going to give them reasons why they shouldn’t stop it because that information will be very, very helpful to my client, and may turn out to be helpful to my government.”

Source: ibid.

Again, “my client” is the President of the United States. And it is pretty clear that he wanted Ukraine to be “helpful” as it pertains to politics, either discrediting the Mueller report and as it pertained to Paul Manafort and his dealings with Ukraine, and/or the Hunter Biden issue. Indeed, Giuliani specifically stated “this isn’t foreign policy”–meaning he was going to represent Trump, not to represent the United States.

The entire linked NYT piece is worth a read.

Giuliani would eventually cancel that trip.

So, we have known for months that Trump has had interest in Ukraine in terms of its potential for political help in the 2020 campaign. This was disturbing when Giuliani’s trip was announced, especially given the foreign interference in the 2016 election. But at a minimum, it clearly establishes, without leaks or speculation, that Trump had interest in Ukraine vis-a-vis Biden.

We also have Giulani, this past week, in the following interchange on CNN:

“Did you ask the Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden?” Cuomo asked Giuliani.

“No, actually I didn’t. I asked the Ukraine to investigate the allegations that there was interference in the election of 2016 by the Ukrainians for the benefit of Hillary Clinton, for which there is already a court finding,” Giuliani responded.

“You never asked anything about Hunter Biden? You never asked anything about Joe Biden and his role with the prosecutor?” Cuomo asked.

“The only thing I asked about Joe Biden is to get to the bottom of how it was that Lutsenko, who was appointed, dismissed the case,” Giuliani said.

“So you did ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden?” Cuomo pressed.

“Of course I did,” Giuliani said.

When asked about his contradicting answer, Giuliani said he “didn’t ask” for Biden to be investigated specifically, but asked Ukraine “to look into the allegations that related to my client, which tangentially involved Joe Biden in a massive bribery scheme.”

(emphasis mine)

So, from Giuliani’s own mouth, in several instances over a span of months, we know that the Trump campaign thinks that there is political hay to be made from Ukraine as it pertains to Joe Biden.

Giuliani would go on to tweet the following:

In this tweet he a) admits that Trump brought up the topic, and b) doubles-down on the notion that the Bidens have engaged in corruption in Ukraine (which underscores that the Trump campaign really thinks they have something here). He can’t even manage to pretend like the conversation was about generic corruption in 240 characters. No, he explicitly named Biden.

All of this, I hasten to remind us all, is trying to use a foreign government to dig up dirt on a political rival.

And, we have Trump stating the following:

“The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, was largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place. It was largely the fact that we don’t want our people, like Vice President Biden and his son creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine,” Trump said.

Via VOA News: Trump Says He Did Nothing Wrong in Call with Ukrainian Leader

Setting aside Trump’s weird syntax leading to the slip that “The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, was largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place” we have here an admission that the basic topic of investigations relevant to Biden was discussed.

All of this confirms, without the whistle-blower’s report nor with corroboration of press reports, that Trump and his surrogates have been trying to get Ukraine to investigate Biden (or, if we are going to excruciatingly fair, to investigate corruption, with Biden being a guiding example).

So, really, the only pending issue is exactly in what form was the topic raised and whether they was an explicit quid pro quo. I am of the opinion that there is a standing implicit quid pro quo in any conversation between POTUS and a less powerful state which is seeking aid from the US. Such is the nature of international relations between grossly incongruent powers.

So, we know for sure that a) the campaign sees the Biden issue in Ukraine as one worth pursing, as has for months, b) that it is willing to reach out to a foreign government for help on the matter, and that c) Trump himself raised the issue on the phone with Ukrainian president.

This is dangerous stuff and is clearly the President of the United States abusing the power of his office in an attempt to acquire aid from a foreign government to help him in his re-election bid.

By the way, here is how the Ukrainian government described the conversation in July right after they happened:

Donald Trump is convinced that the new Ukrainian government will be able to quickly improve image of Ukraine, complete investigation of corruption cases, which inhibited the interaction between Ukraine and the USA.

Source: official web site of the President of Ukraine

This confirms, at a minimum, that corruption was discussed. Given the fact that the we know that going back to May that the Trump POV was that “corruption in Ukraine” was linked to Manafort and to Biden, it seems quite plausible that Trump mentioned Biden in that call.

As such, I think that Tom Nichols is correct in his piece in the Atlantic: If This Isn’t Impeachable, Nothing Is.

Let us try, as we always find ourselves doing in the age of Trump, to think about how Americans might react if this happened in any other administration. Imagine, for example, if Bill Clinton had called his friend, Russian President Boris Yeltsin, in 1996, and asked him to investigate Bob Dole. Or if George W. Bush had called, say, President Vicente Fox of Mexico in 2004 and asked him—indeed, asked him eight times, according to The Wall Street Journal—to open a case against John Kerry. Clinton, of course, was eventually impeached for far less than that. Is there any doubt that either man would have been put on trial in the Senate, and likely chased from office?

Indeed.

But setting aside those counterfactuals, we already know enough to get us into a serious impeachment conversation. And, without a doubt, the contents of the phone must be made known to Congress.

And, at some point, Republican officer-holders and Trump supporters in the general populace are going to have to decide whether or not actively soliciting the help of a foreign government for electoral gain is worthy of their allegiance. Judges and tax cuts can only go so far, right?

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Impeachment, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Davebo says:

    Whether or not there “was an explicit quid pro quo” really isn’t relevant.

    https://twitter.com/RepSwalwell/status/1175159458328133634
    Here’s the deal: don’t fall for the “if there was quid pro quo” trap. If
    @realDonaldTrump
    told a foreign government to investigate his opponent that’s it. Game. Set. Match. He has committed a crime. If he’s innocent, he’ll release the tapes. #ReleaseTheTapes

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  2. Teve says:

    I just heard Trump on TV. he said the following things:

    1 I don’t know who the whistleblower is.
    2 The whistleblower is extremely partisan this is all coming from the other party.
    3 I don’t want to talk about what was said on the phone call.
    4 what you should be investigating is Biden withholding millions of dollars he’s corrupt.

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  3. michael reynolds says:

    The whole world knows Trump is stupid, senile and crooked. People who worked for Trump know he’s a ‘moron’. Our dotard-in-chief is being humiliated on a daily basis by Kim and Xi and the Ayatollahs, bought and used like a sex worker by MBS and of course Putin.

    The world is laughing at us. Everyone can see that the emperor is stark fking naked. All except for the cult, and even they know it’s true.

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  4. Sleeping Dog says:

    Judges and tax cuts can only go so far, right?

    Steven, you’re not cynical enough.

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  5. Modulo Myself says:

    And, at some point, Republican officer-holders and Trump supports in the general populace are going to have to decided whether or not actively soliciting the help of a foreign government for electoral gain is worthy of their allegiance. Judges and tax cuts can only go so far, right?

    Nah. Expect an incredible blitz of both-sides argumentation, where because the Democrats refused to adopt GOP positions on guns, health care, trans-rights, abortion, immigration, and climate change, there will be no choice but to support Trump, or out of wisdom, sorrow, and moderation shake one’s head at the folly of partisan politics.

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  6. @Sleeping Dog: Please read that sentence with as much snark and sarcasm as one might can muster.

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  7. Andy says:

    Yeah, I agree. And it’s already got more evidence behind it than the “Russian Collusion” claims after they got a thorough investigation. I think this is incontrovertibly impeachable conduct.

    However, I do not see things changing when it comes to the prospects for removal from office. The Senate is now a bimodal institution with none of the ideological overlap that existed during the Clinton years, plus our politics are much more tribal than any recent period in our history. I think retrenchment is the likely response from Senate Republicans.

    Related, there is also the problem of legitimacy, ie. whether the Democratic leadership can successfully make the argument to a highly polarized public and propagandized public that impeachment isn’t just a partisan power-grab. I have my doubts. Positive and negative partisanship along with tribalism are likely to rule the day. And Democrats will, I’m sure put their own electoral prospects as one of the primary factors in deciding what to do.

    And the end of the day, I’m guessing the Warren camp is ecstatic about this. Trump gets hurt and Biden gets hurt, even if everything was on the up-and-up with whatever his son was doing in Ukraine. Given that it’s Ukraine we’re talking about and, like a lot of weak and corrupt countries, you can’t do business there without greasing some palms, then there’s a good chance there is some real dirt that hurts Biden. That leaves a battle among progressives for the nomination and Warren is clearly in the best position there.

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  8. @Modulo Myself: And I know how a lot of them are going to decide.

    (Although years from now they will pretend like they decided differently).

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  9. michael reynolds says:

    @Andy:

    the “Russian Collusion” claims after they got a thorough investigation.

    False. An investigation that is systematically obstructed cannot by any stretch be considered ‘thorough.’ When Trump releases his records, frees his people to testify and stops suing every single time there’s any request for data, then we’ll see.

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  10. michael reynolds says:

    @Andy:

    the “Russian Collusion” claims after they got a thorough investigation.

    False. An investigation that is systematically obstructed cannot by any stretch be considered ‘thorough.’ When Trump releases his records, frees his people to testify and stops suing every single time there’s any request for data, then we’ll see.

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  11. Andy says:

    @michael reynolds:

    False. An investigation that is systematically obstructed cannot by any stretch be considered ‘thorough.’

    Except for the fact that Mueller report itself states that Trump’s obstruction efforts failed.

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  12. CSK says:

    @Andy: Attempted obstruction of justice isn’t much less criminal than obstruction of justice.

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  13. mattbernius says:

    @Andy:

    Mueller report itself states that Trump’s obstruction efforts failed

    Andy, can you point me to some analysis to back up that claim?

    At best, the report states the following:

    The President’s efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests.

    Mostly unsuccessful is not the same as saying the efforts failed out right.

    Further the report also notes the overall lack of cooperation from many witnesses leading to an incomplete understanding of the facts:

    The investigation did not always yield admissible information or testimony, or a complete picture of the activities undertaken by subjects of the investigation. Some individuals invoked their Fifth Amendment right against compelled self-incrimination and were not, in the Office’s judgment, appropriate candidates for grants of immunity. The Office limited its pursuit of other witnesses and information-such as information known to attorneys or individuals claiming to be members of the media-in light of internal Department of Justice policies. See, e.g., Justice Manual §§ 9-13.400, 13.410. Some of the information obtained via court process, moreover, was presumptively covered by legal privilege and was screened from investigators by a filter (or “taint”) team. Even when individuals testified or agreed to be interviewed, they sometimes provided information that was false or incomplete, leading to some of the false-statements charges described above. And the Office faced practical limits on its ability to access relevant evidence as well-numerous witnesses and subjects lived abroad, and documents were held outside the United States. Further, the Office learned that some of the individuals we interviewed or whose conduct we investigated-including some associated with the Trump Campaign—deleted relevant communications or communicated during the relevant period using applications that feature encryption or that do not provide for long-term retention of data or communications records. In such cases, the Office was not able to corroborate witness statements through comparison to contemporaneous communications or fully question witnesses about statements that appeared inconsistent with other known facts.

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  14. michael reynolds says:

    @Andy:
    He says no such thing. He says quite clearly that he cannot clear Trump. And he does not clear Trump of obstruction, that’s nonsense. And again: an obstructed investigation is no investigation at all. If you think Trump has been cleared of collusion you’re watching Fox News.

    Now I see @mattbernius: beat me to it.

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  15. Scott O says:

    “And, at some point, Republican officer-holders and Trump supports in the general populace are going to have to decide whether or not actively soliciting the help of a foreign government for electoral gain is worthy of their allegiance. ”

    They will decide that it’s fake news. They will say the only scandal here is that Joe and Hunter Biden aren’t in prison already. They will say that Trump is fighting corruption.

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  16. Mikey says:

    And, at some point, Republican officer-holders and Trump supports in the general populace are going to have to decide whether or not actively soliciting the help of a foreign government for electoral gain is worthy of their allegiance.

    If the Trump supporters I know personally are any indication–and being a retired military man, I know plenty–they have already decided. They are with Trump to the bitter end. He could strangle a baby on live television and they’d find some way to rationalize it.

    I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: I am deeply saddened when I see people who stood beside me at the East German border, having sworn to die if necessary to keep the Russians out of the West, just handing over the keys because that’s what Trump wants.

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  17. Gustopher says:

    Suppose that Biden was using the office of VP to pressure the Ukrainian government to protect his corrupt kid. Just for the sake of conversation.

    How is this effort by the Trump Administration different than the Obama Administration opening an investigation into Donald Trump’s incessant Russian contacts?

    I ask because we all know that this is going to be the talking points on the right, and I just want to get in before our right wing talking point transcribers.

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  18. Joe says:

    So, before we set about “proving” what Trump did and said, we need to wonder whether there is anything he could have done or said that would get the Senate and/or the American people to pursue impeachment. I am kinda doubting there is any such a thing. I can hear Moscow Mitch droning, “the chief concern of our President is that America not have corrupt leadership. For that reason, he told Ukraine that he would not deliver on the military aide commitment until Ukraine issued findings that Joe Biden is individually corrupt and eats babies because without such a finding Biden would be the next President and rain corruption (and baby eating) onto the American people. I, for one, believe that Mr. Trump is doing a hero’s work.” And we’d be done.

    In a courtroom, we have this term called “opening the door.” It means that you can have a ruling that some topic or other is deemed off limits and inadmissable, usually for the legitimate benefit of one party. But if that party then raises the topic, he has “opened the door” and all bets are off. It seems to me that the Administration cannot take the position that the conversation was privileged and entitled to confidentiality and then turn around and say what they want about the contents. I sided with James initially on the executive privilege argument, but the President has let that ship sail, and he set it on fire before he pushed it off.

    One more thing, the whistleblower mentioned a “promise” by the President. None of our speculation above identifies or even speculates what the promise might have been.

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  19. CSK says:

    @Mikey: Yep. They’re with him to the end. I saw an interview last spring with some Trumpkins. When the reporter asked if there was anything Trump could do or say that would alienate them, the two women replied: “No.”

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  20. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Gustopher:

    How is this effort by the Trump Administration different than the Obama Administration opening an investigation into Donald Trump’s incessant Russian contacts?

    One big difference: Obama’s investigation was done by the FBI and the DOJ. The way you would if you thought there was actual criminal activity going on. Trump sent a campaign staffer.

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  21. mattbernius says:

    @Gustopher:

    How is this effort by the Trump Administration different than the Obama Administration opening an investigation into Donald Trump’s incessant Russian contacts?

    It’s different in a couple key ways:

    First, Obama was not running against Trump (or running for reelection).

    Second, it was an investigation of unfolding activities — not specifically investigating a “cold case” from 5 years ago.

    Then there is everything that @Stormy Dragon mentioned as well.

    Additionally, there is the question of whether or not the President was withholding foreign aide in an attempt to influence the investigation.

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  22. Carol says:

    @Gustopher: Obama didn’t call putin and ask him to build a case against trump and offer him money to do it.

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  23. CSK says:

    Trump is still carrying on on Twitter about having a 51% approval rating. Where is he getting that figure?

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  24. Teve says:

    @CSK: Rasmussen.

    Sunday, September 22
    President Trump Job Approval NBC News/Wall St. Jrnl Approve 45, Disapprove 53 Disapprove +8

    Friday, September 20
    Race/Topic (Click to Sort) Poll Results Spread
    President Trump Job Approval FOX News Approve 45, Disapprove 54 Disapprove +9
    President Trump Job Approval Rasmussen Reports Approve 52, Disapprove 47 Approve +5

    Ever since I first started following polls, Rasmussen was an outlier, inaccurately leaning Republican by several points.

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  25. Teve says:

    Rasmussen buys their phone number lists from Truck Nuts and Grizzly Wintergreen retailers.

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  26. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    I know, but you need to work on your snark and sarcasm game. 🙂 More outrage!

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  27. steve says:

    This is all nice, but GOP senators will not vote for impeachment even if there is tape with Trump making explicit quid pro quo offers. There just isn’t anything they won’t rationalize away. Tribe comes way before country or duty.

    Steve

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  28. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Davebo:

    Yup. I made this point in another thread. Simply making the request, in and of itself, would be illegal. Quid pro quo would add additional illegality, but it’s immaterial as to the illegality of making the request in the first place.

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  29. @steve:

    GOP senators will not vote for impeachment

    I think this almost certainly true no matter what.

    However, there comes a point where certain actions require the House, at least, to officially sanction Trump and to make the GOP to go on record.

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  30. mattbernius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    Honestly, I am coming around to the idea of making everyone go on record as being worth it.

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  31. Scott F. says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    Official sanction needs to be accompanied by immediate penalties for defying subpoenas. I would hope formal impeachment would bring the means to overcome this administration’s open Contempt of Congress.

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  32. An Interested Party says:

    This is all nice, but GOP senators will not vote for impeachment even if there is tape with Trump making explicit quid pro quo offers.

    If it reaches that point, then the Democrats must use that as a campaign issue–how Republicans are excusing illegality and providing cover for their leader simply to stay in power…

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  33. Argon says:

    Giuliani needs to be asked by reporters if any rat exists that he won’t f*ck. ‘Cause from where I’m watching, he doesn’t seem to have many boundaries there.

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  34. Jax says:

    @Argon: That would the funniest damn thing I’ve seen in a while, cuz I bet he’d double down after originally denying it.

    I have hope that if we come out of the Trump Administration learning anything, it’s what we need to fix. If we’re not all in concentration camps for speaking against Dear Leader, that is.

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  35. An Interested Party says:
  36. Guarneri says:

    Oh, I think we know more than that.

    “The Washington Post has reported that the whistle-blower’s complaint concerns Trump’s interactions with Zelenskiy. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said in an interview with a Ukrainian news outlet, Hromadske, on Saturday that “Trump did not pressure Zelenskiy.” -Bloomberg”

    And:

    “The whistleblower didn’t actually hear the call. Buried in a recent CNN article noted by the Daily Wire’s Ashe Schow, “The whistleblower didn’t have direct knowledge of the communications,” adding “Instead, the whistleblower’s concerns came in part from learning information that was not obtained during the course of their work.” That’s called gossip.

    And….

    the quid pro quo aspect has conveniently been dropped from the story.

    And:

    Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko:

    “President Trump is interested, his advisor, [Rudolph] Giuliani, newspapers, Democrats, Republicans are interested in whether pressure had been put on Ukraine. I want to say that we are an independent state, we have our own secrets,” said Prystaiko.

    “I know what the conversation was about and I think there was no pressure. There was talk, conversations are different, leaders have the right to discuss any problems that exist. This conversation was long, friendly, and it touched on a lot of questions, including those requiring serious answers.”

    As I pointed out the other day, we know that John Solomon has interviewed Ukrainian officials who indicated that the incoming Ukrainian administration approached the US with concerns over the previously shut down investigation.

    It’s quite a different picture than the propagandists paint. And as I also pointed out the other day, Biden is the one who is going to get slaughtered by this story. And that appears to be happening real time.

    When would someone like to discuss Hunter Bidens well known skills in private equity investing (snicker) and China?

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  37. mattbernius says:

    @Guarneri:

    As I pointed out the other day, we know that John Solomon has interviewed Ukrainian officials who indicated that the incoming Ukrainian administration approached the US with concerns over the previously shut down investigation.

    You also seem to have ignored everything that I wrote about the issues with John Solomon’s opinion piece. Including the fact that Bloomberg had previously reported on a similiar discussion with the Ukrainian prosecutor who had talked about reaching out to Barr about a question abour taxes.

    It’s quite a different picture than the propagandists paint.

    Again, citing an opinion piece from a propagandist as reportage isn’t a good look.

    When would someone like to discuss Hunter Bidens well known skills in private equity investing (snicker) and China?

    I love how the right has suddenly discovered that they have concerns about children of candidates getting into deals with foreign governments while turning a blind eye to all the actions of the Trump progeny. *snickers*

    Or hey, how about that time that the Trump kids stole cancer donations to funnel them to their businesses?

    But hey, they don’t give you the same tingly feelings in your nethers for powning the libs.

    Aside: you also seem to fail to mention that the Ukranian foreign minister apparently wasn’t present on any of the calls either. If that’s enough to call the whistleblower’s account into question, shouldn’t the same hold true for that statement?

    Looking forward to you thoughtful response…

    BTW, still waiting to hear back on the bet for the 2020 election…

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  38. gVOR08 says:

    I see Mittens has issued a tweet.

    Mitt Romney
    ‏Verified account
    @MittRomney

    If the President asked or pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate his political rival, either directly or through his personal attorney, it would be troubling in the extreme. Critical for the facts to come out.

    11:34 AM – 22 Sep 2019

    Wake me up if he actually does anything.

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  39. @Guarneri: Any chance you could learn to hyperlink? It is 2019, after all.

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  40. Chip Daniels says:

    @CSK:
    Over at the Lawyers, Guns and Money blog, Erik Loomis wrote an essay about a Confederate General, with the quote from him “The white man will prefer tyranny to a polluted electorate.”

    I think the Flight 93 essay in 2016 captured this sentiment nicely.
    The Trumpists will prefer anything, literally anything, to the prospect of a world in which they are accountable to those they consider their inferiors.

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  41. An Interested Party says:

    Any chance you could learn to hyperlink? It is 2019, after all.

    To give him some credit, it’s not that he isn’t tech-savvy, but rather, he doesn’t want to include links to obviously laughable sources that are easy to debunk…I mean, he’s already ridiculed enough around here…

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  42. Teve says:

    @Chip Daniels: as much of a complete failure as Trump is he’s going to get his significant turn out because he has actually delivered on one thing–he’s been a loudmouth racist asshole.

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  43. Andy says:

    @mattbernius:

    Thanks for quoting that, the passage wasn’t as definitive as I remembered. “Mostly unsuccessful” is not “failed.”

    I think my comparison, however, still stands. However one wants to interpret “mostly unsuccessful” in terms of unknown possibilities, it’s still pretty clear that there is much more evidence with respect to this latest scandal with Ukraine. After all, the President himself and his personal lawyer (Guliani) have admitted to it.

    @michael reynolds:

    He says no such thing. He says quite clearly that he cannot clear Trump. And he does not clear Trump of obstruction, that’s nonsense. And again: an obstructed investigation is no investigation at all. If you think Trump has been cleared of collusion you’re watching Fox News.

    Just to be clear, Michael, if you reread what I actually wrote, I wasn’t talking about obstruction (for which there is strong evidence), but the criminal conspiracy (aka “collusion”) element.

    Secondly, I have never written or claimed that Trump was “cleared” of anything – your frequent mischaracterizations of my comments are rather tedious at this point.

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  44. mattbernius says:

    @Andy:

    I think my comparison, however, still stands. However one wants to interpret “mostly unsuccessful” in terms of unknown possibilities, it’s still pretty clear that there is much more evidence with respect to this latest scandal with Ukraine. After all, the President himself and his personal lawyer (Guliani) have admitted to it.

    I tend to agree with this statement — provided we are talking about evidence that has made its way into the public.

    I think Michael and I were both questioning how much evidence is the Russia investigation wasn’t able to be surfaced due to the obstruction issues mentioned above. But to some degree that’s arguing a hypothetical.

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  45. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Andy:

    Except for the fact that Mueller report itself states that Trump’s obstruction efforts failed.

    No, it does not. Did you read the report?
    It says they did not find conspiracy, but that witnesses lied, destroyed evidence, and used encrypted communications…in other words obstructed. Left open is whether those efforts succeeded, or not. But to say they failed is incorrect.

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  46. gVOR08 says:

    @Chip Daniels:

    The Trumpists will prefer anything, literally anything, to the prospect of a world in which they are accountable to those they consider their inferiors.

    ‘Twas always thus, for which see Edmund Burke, 1790,

    The occupation of a hair-dresser, or of a working tallow-chandler, cannot be a matter of honour to any person—to say nothing of a number of other more servile employments. Such descriptions of men ought not to suffer oppression from the state; but the state suffers oppression, if such as they, either individually or collectively are permitted to rule. In this you think you are combating prejudice, but you are at war with nature.

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  47. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Andy:

    We should be clear that attempting to obstruct justice, regardless of whether one actually succeeds or fails, is a federal felony. The attempt alone, in and of itself, constitutes a crime.

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  48. Blue Galangal says:

    @michael reynolds:

    The world is laughing at us. Everyone can see that the emperor is stark fking naked.

    I don’t know if you happened to catch Lenore Taylor’s Guardian op-ed:

    In most circumstances, presenting information in as intelligible a form as possible is what we are trained for. But the shock I felt hearing half an hour of unfiltered meanderings from the president of the United States made me wonder whether the editing does our readers a disservice.

    I’ve read so many stories about his bluster and boasting and ill-founded attacks, I’ve listened to speeches and hours of analysis, and yet I was still taken back by just how disjointed and meandering the unedited president could sound. Here he was trying to land the message that he had delivered at least something towards one of his biggest campaign promises and sounding like a construction manager with some long-winded and badly improvised sales lines.

    I’d understood the dilemma of normalising Trump’s ideas and policies – the racism, misogyny and demonisation of the free press. But watching just one press conference from Otay Mesa helped me understand how the process of reporting about this president can mask and normalise his full and alarming incoherence.

    @HarvardLaw92: Hey! It’s great to see your username again!

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  49. grumpy realist says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Welcome back! I hope that you’ve been sufficiently amused by the mini-Trump on the other side of the Atlantic, now occupying the position of Prime Minister in the U.K.

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  50. DrDaveT says:

    @Andy:

    Related, there is also the problem of legitimacy, ie. whether the Democratic leadership can successfully make the argument to a highly polarized public and propagandized public that impeachment isn’t just a partisan power-grab. I have my doubts.

    I understand your point here, and in other times I would have considered it important. But there comes a point when Godzilla is trashing the city that you stop worrying about which of your weapons are environmentally friendly. Besides, who in that “polarized and propagandized public” do you think is left who still think that Democrats aren’t entirely power-crazed, but would change their minds if Trump were impeached in the House?

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  51. R.Dave says:

    @DrDaveT: I don’t think that analogy quite works, though, because an impeachment attempt is almost certainly going to fail at removing Trump and, if it gets spun as a purely partisan effort, could not only damage the credibility of our institutions in the long term, but also make Trump’s removal in the short term via election harder. So, to make the Godzilla analogy more apt, the case against using the weapons would be both the long-term environmental damage and the risk that the weapons may actually just make Godzilla stronger.

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