Trump doubles down

President Trump today publicly called on both Ukraine and China to investigate the Bidens. Thus, Trump not only went public with his call for Ukraine to investigate a political rival, he called on a second country to do the same thing. Rarely has the cliche “double down” been more apt.

Leaders of political parties typically disagree completely about policy. At times, they read the political tea leaves somewhat differently.

In this case, however, Trump and Nancy Pelosi have totally different views on the politics of Trump’s foreign outreach on the Bidens. Trump seems to believe the public is fine with calling on foreign governments to investigate a political rival, or will be once he “normalizes” the practice. Pelosi seems to believe that the public will see it as grounds for impeachment.

There is, of course, a middle ground. One can disapprove of what Trump is doing — less so in the case of today’s comments about China, which certainly isn’t going to take its cues from Trump — without believing that it’s an impeachable offense. That’s my view.

Pelosi, her fellow congressional Democrats, and their media allies in unison are framing the matter as Trump “requesting that a foreign government assist his reelection campaign.” I assume they frame the matter this way because their polling shows that a majority of Americans say requesting foreign assistance in a president’s reelection campaign is an impeachable offense. Americans presumably are less convinced that anything short of this rises to the impeachment level.

But Pelosi et al. are overstating their case. It’s true that the effect of an investigation of the Bidens might well be to help Trump’s reelection prospects (though it’s possible that an investigation might clear Joe Biden, thus possibly harming Trump’s prospects if Biden becomes the nominee). But that doesn’t mean Trump is asking for foreign assistance in his reelection campaign.

Senate Democrats urged Ukraine to cooperate with Robert Mueller. Doing so might have supplied Democrats with ammunition with which to impeach Trump or at least undermine his election prospects. But that didn’t mean Senate Democrats were asking for foreign in assistance in their campaign to remove or defeat Trump. They weren’t.

By the same token, Trump isn’t asking for foreign assistance in his reelection campaign. Like the Senate Democrats, he’s only asking for something that might have the effect of assisting him politically by harming an opponent.

Trump goes further than the Senate Dems did, though. He’s urging an investigation of a political rival by foreign governments, not just cooperation with a U.S. investigation of a rival.

I think that’s improper, but not an impeachable offense. However, Trump and Pelosi both seem to be betting that most Americans will disagree with this take, albeit on different grounds.