For most Americans the Ukraine is a former member of the U.S.S.R., the home of Nikita Khrushchev and the site of terrible battles between Russian and German forces during World War II. More recently we have come to learn that it seems to be governed alternately by pro-Russian and anti-Russian kleptocracies in which bribery and corruption figure prominently. American aid going to the Ukrainians seems to line the pockets, not only of their own politicians but also of politically-connected Americans acting on behalf of Ukrainian interests.
Remember Paul Manaforte? His troubles came about in part because of payments to him as a consultant to a former Ukrainian President. Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani while interfering in American diplomatic relations with Ukraine has been receiving substantial legal fees from a defunct corporation owned by a Ukrainian-American businessman and from multiple other Eastern European sources. And of course there is Hunter Biden, the $50,000.00 per month director of a Ukrainian energy company. The items included in the American military aid package were chosen, not by a Ukrainian assessment of their military needs but by Senators and Congressmen at the behest of American defense contractors.
Now the Ukraine is the subject of an impeachment investigation into the telephone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on June 25 of this year. The transcription of the call shows it largely taken up with pleasantries. The business part of the call was a request by Trump for investigation of corruption generally and then in more detail a request for investigation of interference by Ukrainian entities in the 2016 election. Only after that discussion did Trump say,
“The other thing, There’s (sic) 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.”
That sounds like quintessential Trump, clumsy and ham-handed, the way he would speak to a New York City Building Inspector or Police Captain. “I hope we can work something out. The Commissioner’s a friend of mine. Could you use a couple of tickets to the Yankee game?”
Trump’s request for an investigation of his then-strongest political opponent for 2020 was sleazy and unfounded. Biden’s or his son’s conduct might harm him politically but does not seem to violate any U.S. laws. Trump’s request of Zelenskyy concerning Biden likewise does not constitute any crime but it could be considered an “Abuse of Power” sufficient to warrant impeachment, if the Democrats have the stomach for it.
The conversation itself included no expressed or implied threats. Zelenskyy himself says he was not pressured. The extension or withholding of benefits in international relations to obtain favorable action by another party is called “diplomacy.”
Democrats have not applauded Trump’s request for cooperation in an investigation into foreign interference in the 2016 U.S. election. Their interest in the subject is apparently limited to collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.
Attorney General William Barr has stated that he has made no inquiries of the Ukraine concerning Biden. What Barr and U.S. Attorney Richard Durham been quietly looking into is foreign and domestic participation in the origins of the investigation by U.S. counterintelligence of the Trump campaign and the “unmasking” of U.S. citizens in intercepted phone calls, and leaking of the results.
When Barr’s investigation ends with a loud bang, you may be sure it will be decried as a “diversion” from impeachment efforts.
The Ukrainian impeachment effort is just an extension of the earlier impeachment crusade which was supposed to be based on the findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. When that investigation produced no grounds for impeachment the Democrats’ efforts continued. Without a vote of the House of Representative Speaker Nancy Pelosi proclaimed existing oversight investigations to be an “Impeachment Inquiry.” The distinction is important, as an Impeachment Inquiry has been considered by the courts to permit broader discovery from the Executive branch by Congress. The Trump administration asserts the broader discovery rules have no application in the absence of a vote by the House to commence an Impeachment Inquiry.
Why no vote? Speaker Pelosi’s majority depends on many new members elected from districts carried by Trump. She doesn’t want to put them in the position of casting a vote that might be unpopular at home.
A “whistleblower” report of the June 25 Presidential conversation breathed new life into impeachment fever. Carefully staged leaks from the Congress claimed Trump had extorted campaign assistance from Zelenskyy. Uncharacteristically shrewdly and swiftly, the White House promptly released the official transcription of the conversation, revealing it to be largely banal with the exceptions noted above.
A whistleblower is one who reports government misconduct and by statute is protected from retaliation in his employment. He is not entitle to anonymity. The Democrats kept talking about the whistleblower report, which is a report of a conversation to which we already had a transcription. The Democrats hyped a report of a second whistleblower who turned out to be just a person who had reported the conversation to the first whistleblower. Worse still, it has developed that the original whistleblower is a partisan Democrat, that he reported informally to the Chairman or majority staff of the House Intelligence Committee before sending his report and that he then went to a Democratic lawyer who seems to have prepared and filed the actual report. Chairman Adam Schiff flat out lied when asked about the earlier contact and its concealment from other members.
The process itself has involved only witnesses being interviewed secretly with the public aware only of information selectively released by Chairman Schiff. The upshot of all this is that the impeachment comes across as a partisan, politically motivated effort, as likely to backfire on the Democrats as injure the President.