First, an insight into the guy we’re dealing with:
Ok. So he’s an asshole.
But he’s dangerous too. Trump, through his surrogates, is openly involving a foreign power in domestic politics:
If you’re still worried about the collusion described in the Mueller Report forgot about that because it probably means you’re not focused enough on how President Trump’s top advisors are already, more or less openly, trying to muscle Ukraine into targeting Trump’s political enemies in the US to throw the 2020 election in Trump’s favor.
I really cannot overstate how important this is.
As you know, Ukraine remains highly dependent on the United States, diplomatically, economically and even militarily, at least in the sense of arms sales. Russia continues a de facto occupation/insurgency in the country’s east. Crimea has already been annexed by the Russian Federation. The government of Ukraine is in little position to say no to anything the US government asks for.
There’s already substantial evidence that Trump used his leverage to get the Ukraine government to end its cooperation with the Mueller probe in 2018. There’s really little question this happened. The open question is whether the President or his representatives had to ask explicitly or whether the government didn’t need to be told.
In any case, the President is now sending his personal representative, Rudy Giuliani, to Kiev to meet with thee incoming government of Ukraine to demand that the new government begin investigations into Hillary Clinton’s campaign, into the ‘origins’ of the Mueller probe and finally to target former Vice President Joe Biden. The claims against Biden are really bogus on their face and others have said as much. Bloomberg found that even key claims Giuliani coaxed the Times into publishing a week ago were false. But these issues are almost beside the point. The President is using his leverage as commander-in-chief to demand that the highly dependent government of Ukraine to target his political enemies in the US.
To the extent President Trump has leverage over Ukraine, that is not his personal property or asset. It’s power he exercises on behalf of the American people. But here he’s using it openly to target political enemies.
According to the Times, Giuliani is working with usual suspects Victoria Toensing, her husband Joe DiGenova and a high dollar Trump donor Lev Parnas, a Ukrainian-American businessman who appears to be close to Giuliani.
Giuliani told the Times: “There’s nothing illegal about it. Somebody could say it’s improper. And this isn’t foreign policy — 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.”
The investigation they’re allegedly already doing is the one Giuliani lobbied the outgoing prosecutor to begin. As Giuliani notes, he wants this because it is “very, very helpful to my client”, who of course happens to be the President of the United States and whose attitude and whims are close to life and death matters for the Ukrainian government. This is the most open and shut kind of abuse of office imaginable.
As Giuliani sees it, Joe Biden stands at the center of a nefarious plot to oust Ukraine’s former prosecutor, who had been poking into the company for which Hunter Biden worked. Yet Giuliani’s narrative collapses upon even basic scrutiny. Not only is there no evidence that Joe Biden’s support for removing the former — and notoriously corrupt — prosecutor was related to Hunter Biden’s company, but the timing Giuliani has pushed also doesn’t make sense.
As Bloomberg noted, the investigation into the younger Biden’s company had closed over a year before the former vice president called for the prosecutor’s removal. Added Oliver Bullough, who has covered Ukrainian domestic politics over the past few years, “There is, in short, no there there; [Giuliani and his supporters] are putting two and two together — and coming up with 22.” Even those critical of Biden’s previous efforts in Ukraine, like regional analyst Leonid Bershidsky, have called out Giuliani’s claims as bunk. “The conflict of interest story isn’t worth much on its merits… Americans shouldn’t pay too much attention to the shaky corruption allegations,” Bershidsky wrote.
Democratic lawmakers including Sen. Chris Murphy (CT) were quick to criticize the president’s lawyer for so clearly playing partisan politics in a traditionally bipartisan space — that is, in promoting rule-of-law efforts in former Soviet republics.
But as Giuliani told the Times, his work in Ukraine comes with Trump’s full support.
Imagine in an ordinary world, the lawyer of the president going to a foreign power and trying to encourage them to investigate the family of a political opponent. He said some people might think it’s improper. Arguably everyone thinks it’s improper. But that’s not stopping them.
And are Republicans concerned?
Of course not. Foreign meddling in U.S. politics? Sure why not? As long as the Republican agenda gets pushed through, the GOP will stand behind any kind of criminality.
Also, enlisting a foreign power to meddle in American politics kind of stands the slogan “America First” on its head.
I know we’ve become numb to the corruption of this Administration, but this story should be the total focus of the political class today. The President is openly asking a foreign government to investigate his political rival. This is next level. https://t.co/pboUJuCPoj— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) May 10, 2019