The New York Times reports that Ukraine’s president was about to yield to pressure from the White House to investigate the Bidens when, suddenly, the White House released the military aid it had been withholding. At that point, a relieved President Zelensky was free not to undertake the investigation. He did not undertake it.
According to the Times, Zelensky wanted to avoid getting caught in the middle of American partisan politics, and thus had resisted pressure from the Trump administration — pressure that Gordon Sondland now concedes was applied — to investigate the Bidens. This reporting is consistent with both common sense and with documentary evidence that Zelensky made it known to the U.S. he didn’t want to be a “pawn” in our politics.
However, Ukraine was in desperate need of U.S. aid. Thus, according to the Times, “Zelensky’s staffers were already conceding to what seemed to be the inevitable, and making plans for a public announcement about the investigations.” Indeed, says the Times, “Zelensky’s staff planned for him to make an announcement in an interview on Sept. 13 with Fareed Zakaria, the host of a weekly news show on CNN.” (Whether Zelensky ultimately would have gone through with this plan seems unclear.)
But then, just two days before the date of the expected announcement by Zelensky, the Trump administration suddenly released the military aid unconditionally. There was no appearance by Zelensky on CNN and no announcement.
Why did the White House reverse course and release the aid without Zelensky making the announcement of the investigation it had been pushing for? Probably because word of the quid pro quo had leaked. Politico reported that aid to Ukraine had been withheld. Senators were asking questions. There were rumors about a whistleblower complaint.
Under these circumstances, the administration wisely released the aid. President Trump thus spared Zelensky of having to investigate Democrats, whose support Ukraine needs just as it needs Republican support, in a case where Joe Biden, however unethically he may have acted, clearly did not violate Ukrainian law.
And Trump spared himself of a consummated quid pro quo deal.
Trump’s attempt to consummate one will lead to his impeachment. However, at least he has a “no harm, no impeachable foul” defense to make to the Senate.