I think it’s self-evident that, when investigating wrongdoing that occurred in, or is related to, a foreign country, the investigators can ask officials in that country for cooperation. This is true even if the investigation has ramifications for an upcoming presidential election, and even if the subject of the investigation is likely to run for president.
Democrats must also think this is self-evident. They didn’t hesitate to demand that Ukraine cooperate with Robert Mueller’s investigation of President Trump and others. Mueller’s investigation had the potential, if the facts turned out differently, to affect significantly the 2020 presidential election. But that was no reason for not demanding Ukraine’s assistance in finding out whether Trump engaged in Ukrainian-related wrongdoing.
Now, however, Democrats seem to think it’s grounds for impeachment that Trump sought Ukrainian assistance in finding out whether the Bidens engaged in Ukrainian-related wrongdoing.
Are the two situations distinguishable? Maybe, but it’s not clear that there are significant differences.
The Dems wanted Ukraine to cooperate with Mueller, a special counsel appointed by the Attorney General’s surrogate (the Deputy Attorney General). Trump wanted Ukraine to cooperate with the Attorney General.
Trump also wanted Ukraine to cooperate with Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney. Here, things get a bit sticky. If there’s a problem, this is it.
Trump may also have wanted more Ukrainian cooperation with Giuliani than the Senate Dems wanted with Mueller. If Trump was asking the Ukrainians to open their own investigation, even if in conjunction with Giuliani or William Barr, he was seeking more than the Senate Dems were. As I understand it, they weren’t asking for a Ukrainian investigation beyond what was required to respond to Mueller’s questions and requests for information.
Trump may have wanted the Ukrainians to go further. How far he wanted them to go is not clear from the “transcript.”
Even if it turns out that Trump went somewhat further than the Democrats is his “ask” of Ukraine, this wouldn’t, in itself, demonstrate wrongdoing by Trump — and certainly not monumental wrongdoing of the kind that might justify impeachment.
If a quid pro quo is involved, that’s serious. But so far, the evidence of a quid pro quo is no stronger in the case of Trump than it was in the case of the Senate Democrats. In neither case has the existence of one been established.