Several clear facts form the basis of the growing controversy over President Donald Trump’s demand of the president of Ukraine that his country investigate Joe Biden and the former vice president’s son. While more needs to be known, the smoke and fog of Trump’s misdirection machine are obscuring that effort.
Don’t be confused. And don’t conflate this episode with other Trump outrages, or with attempts by some Democrats to nail him for something. All Americans should find this latest incident profoundly disturbing on its own.
Trump has admitted that he spoke by telephone with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky in July and raised allegations of corruption against Joe Biden. Trump also has acknowledged tying funding for Ukraine to the country’s handling of its general corruption problem. Much of this has been corroborated by Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, who also has been pressuring Ukraine to probe Biden. Several media reports have said that Trump repeatedly asked Zelensky to investigate the claims during that call.
Also known: The Trump administration was withholding $250 million in military aid to Ukraine before Trump’s phone call to Zelensky, and the money was released only just before news broke that a U.S. intelligence official had filed a whistleblower complaint with the inspector general of the intelligence community. It was later revealed that the complaint filed by one of Trump’s own appointees centered on the president’s call with Zelensky, and a promise made to a foreign leader. This was so alarming to those in the intelligence field that the inspector general deemed it of "urgent concern," which means by law that Congress must be notified. Trump’s Justice Department has refused to let him do so.
Trump says the call with Zelensky was "perfectly fine and routine," but he and Giuiliani are not acting that way.
In 2016, then-Vice President Biden called for Ukraine to crack down on corruption, including that it dismiss an ineffective prosecutor not doing enough to root out corruption, echoing similar pleas made by many world leaders. But Trump says, without evidence, that Biden was trying to short-circuit a probe of a Ukrainian energy company for which Hunter Biden was serving as a board member. That investigation already had been closed. Hunter Biden should not have joined the board while his father was vice president, just as Ivanka Trump should not be seeking licenses, which were granted, to sell her clothing in China while her father is president. But there is no equivalency here — not when Trump is alleged to have pressured a foreign leader to investigate a political opponent to influence the 2020 election.
The full transcript of the president’s call with Zelensky must be released. No summary or highlights. Only the complete transcript will suffice.
Then the whistleblower’s complaint must be given to the Senate and House intelligence committees. The Trump administration is stonewalling.
The nation must know whether the president used his office to get a foreign government to investigate a political opponent. Only full disclosure will prove or discount that.