The Wall Street Journal reports that President Trump, in a July phone call, repeatedly pressed the president of Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden, son of Joe Biden. According to the Journal, Trump urged Volodymyr Zelensky about eight times to work with Rudy Giuliani, his personal lawyer, on a probe of Hunter Biden:
“[Trump] told [Zelensky] that he should work with [Giuliani] on Biden, and that people in Washington wanted to know” whether allegations were true or not, [one of the Journals’ sources] said. Mr. Trump didn’t mention a provision of foreign aid to Ukraine on the call, said this person, who didn’t believe Mr. Trump offered the Ukrainian president any quid-pro-quo for his cooperation on an investigation.
The last point — the reported absence of the offer of any quid-pro-quo — is key. If Trump did tell Ukraine’s president that the provision of foreign aid to his country hinged on a decision to investigate the son of Joe Biden, that would be a major scandal.
It would, though, be the mirror image of a scandal involving Joe Biden. Biden boasted that, by threatening to cut off $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine, he caused the Ukrainian government to fire a prosecutor who was investigating a company that employed his son Hunter as a board member.
What Trump reportedly did was a response to Joe Biden’s scuttling of the investigation. He wanted the investigation reopened.
Assuming no quid-pro-quo offer, did Trump behave improperly by urging Ukraine’s president to reopen the Biden investigation? Rudy Giuliani says no:
A President telling a Pres-elect of a well known corrupt country he better investigate corruption that affects US is doing his job. Maybe if Obama did that the Biden Family wouldn’t have bilked millions from Ukraine and billions from China; being covered up by a Corrupt Media.
That’s true as far as it goes. But Giuliani omits the fact that Trump was telling a foreign leader he better investigate a family whose patriarch might well be Trump’s opponent in next year’s election. Once we acknowledge this fact, Giuliani’s suggestion that Trump was acting in the interest of the U.S., rather than his own political interest, loses credibility.
It loses even more credibility when we note, as David French does, that Trump was trying to insert Giuliani, his personal counsel, into the investigation. French says:
There is not a Republican alive who would find it acceptable for a Democratic president to press a foreign country to work with his personal lawyer to investigate a domestic political rival.
I know I wouldn’t defend such conduct.
For me, the question isn’t whether Trump’s conversation, as reported by the Journal, was proper. It wasn’t. For me, the question is the magnitude of the impropriety.
If there was a quid-pro-quo discussed, it ranks very high on the scale of impropriety — right there with what Joe Biden admits doing when he pressured Ukraine into firing the prosecutor who was investigating the company Biden’s son was associated with. Otherwise, it falls somewhere further down the scale.
Let’s wait for more facts before trying to be more definite.