What Yuri told Rudy

Yuri Lutsenko was Ukraine’s chief prosecutor from May 2016 until August 2019. Thus, he held that position at the time of President Trump’s now famous phone conversation with Ukraine’s president.

Lutsenko says he told Rudy Giuliani that he would be happy to cooperate if the FBI or other U.S. authorities began their own investigation of Joe Biden and/or Hunter Biden. However, he told Giuliani that, as far as he knew, the Bidens hadn’t broken any Ukrainian laws.

According to Lutsenko, he told Giuliani that Hunter Biden’s position on the board of Ukraine’s largest natural gas company, Burisma Holdings, while his father was involved in steering Obama administration policy toward Ukraine “could be signs of a conflict of interest” but was not a violation of Ukrainian law.

If Lutsenko is telling the truth about his conversations with Giuliani, then it looks like what Giuliani and President Trump were seeking wasn’t cooperation in an American investigation. They were seeking a proceeding against the Bidens by the Ukrainian prosecutor.

It’s one thing for the president to ask a foreign government, as a “favor,” to cooperate with an official U.S. investigation, even if that investigation is of a political rival of the president. It’s another when the favor sought is a proceeding by a foreign government against that rival. The former “ask” will rarely be problematic. The latter raises concerns, as I see it.

Lutsenko’s statement, if true, also raises the question of why the Trump administration didn’t commence an official investigation of the Bidens. If the Bidens violated Ukrainian law but not American law, then the U.S. had very little, if any, legitimate interest in the matter.

If the Bidens might have violated American law, then the U.S. interest in investigating is real. But if Lutsenko is telling the truth, there was no official U.S. investigation. Why not?

Perhaps because Trump and Giuliani thought that knowledge of such an official U.S. investigation would harm Trump politically. Better, the thinking might have been, to have the Ukrainians do the investigating “off the books.”

It’s not proper, though, to use foreign governments for domestic U.S. political purposes in this way. Moreover, doing so is too clever by a half. Any political fallout of an official U.S. investigation of the Bidens would have paled in comparison to the potential political fallout of asking a beleaguered ally, as a favor, to open up a proceeding against them.

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