September 26, 2019

Ukraine Call Revealed

From the Left

The left sees evidence of a quid pro quo by Trump in order to obtain dirt on a political rival, and believes he should be impeached.

“Let’s say this as simply and clearly as possible. Trump was using the inducement of U.S. taxpayer dollars to get a foreign power to intervene in our politics on his behalf. That he didn’t specifically mention aid in the readout of one phone call the White House released Wednesday doesn’t change the message he was sending. Trump was subordinating our country’s national security interests to his selfish needs. He was willing to do anything to smear Joe Biden… [This] is now a clear-cut case involving a deplorable abuse of power.”
E.J. Dionne Jr., Washington Post

“Trump was not asking a geopolitical equal for help; he was demanding help from a weakened country situated on the border of an increasingly aggressive Russia; a country part of whose territory has already been illegally annexed by Russia, and whose continued survival as an independent nation depends on military, economic and diplomatic support from the United States and its European allies in NATO. How can the request of ‘a favor’ from the American President to such a country be understood as anything but an extortionate demand?
Frank Bowman III, CNN

The quid pro quo was implicit — rather like the gangster who drops in on a store and offers to provide ‘protection.’ Trump in essence was saying: Such a nice country you have. Shame if anything were to happen to it. By the way, can you do me a favor?Just in case Zelensky was particularly thick, Trump noted that the U.S. had been very helpful to Ukraine, said that Ukraine had not reciprocated, held out the promise of a meeting if Zelensky cooperated, and repeatedly encouraged Zelensky to speak to Barr and to his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani… If that presidential call were set to music, it could be the soundtrack for a ‘Godfather’ movie.”
Nicholas Kristof, New York Times

“Vladimir Putin considers Ukraine to be his backyard. It shares a nearly 1,500-mile border with Russia, was part of the Soviet Union, and for centuries has been referred to as ‘Little Russia’ by domineering leaders of its northern neighbor… In pushing Ukraine’s new, pro-Western president to investigate his political rival Joe Biden, Trump has taken a page from Putin’s book—treating Ukraine as something like Little Trumpland and its president like a world leader who has to do his bidding…

“It’s true that Ukraine relies heavily on U.S. support to defend itself against Russia… At the same time, however, a rift in the Ukraine-U.S. relationship can also hurt America in its own struggle against Russia. Ukraine’s spy services and military forces have become an important U.S. partner in countering Russia—especially in the realm of hybrid warfare, which Moscow has deployed so effectively against America and its allies. Lost amid the accusations that Trump has used U.S. aid as leverage to push Ukraine to do his political bidding is the fact that while Kiev is heavily reliant on America to defend against Russia, America needs help from Kiev too.”
Mike Giglio, The Atlantic

“The summary, released this morning, is a wild look into the president’s mind-set and approach to his job. It shows a commander in chief consumed by conspiracy theories, strong-arming a foreign government to help him politically, and marshaling the federal government in his schemes… The call is bizarre on several levels. First, the United States has legitimate interests in Ukraine, but Trump is using his conversation with that country’s president to pursue his pet, unsubstantiated conspiracy theories. Second, Trump appears—as has been alleged—to be engaging in a quid pro quo, asking Zelensky to assist him in pursuing those conspiracy theories, in exchange for help to Ukraine. Trump never puts it in plain terms—he’s too smart, and too experienced in shady business, to do that—but it requires willful blindness to miss what Trump is asking… Third, the call shows how Trump enlists the might of the U.S. government in his weird, personal, political schemes.”
David A. Graham, The Atlantic

“Trump’s defenders will say this evidence is all circumstantial. But circumstantial evidence is not weak evidence: it’s simply evidence based on the circumstances in which an act of wrongdoing is committed — such as the license plate of a car that speeds away from a bank just after that bank is robbed. Criminals are convicted on such evidence all the time. They will also say that there’s no explicit quid pro quo proposal here. But… ‘even when a corrupt deal is struck implicitly, the government can still prosecute extortion on a quid pro quo basis. Circumstantial evidence can be enough to prove a criminal exchange.’…

“In the absence of an explicit quid pro quo over restarting aid, the context and circumstances are what will become the focus of the investigation. There is enough here to support impeachment. Whether it is also enough to convince Republicans and lead to removal is another matter.”
Noah Feldman, Bloomberg

Some suggest that Congress “remove Trump from office, so that he cannot abuse incumbency to subvert the electoral process, but let the American people make the judgment on whether or not he gets a second term… Removing Trump from office for the remainder of his term would disable him from abusing presidential power again and protect the integrity of the electoral process from inappropriate interference. At the same time, letting him run for a second term would permit the American electorate to decide whether Trump, despite his attempt to subvert the system, should have another chance… Decoupling removal from disqualification lowers the stakes and changes the constitutional calculus. As long as Trump can run again, Republicans cannot hide behind a claim that they are [the] ones protecting voter choice by opposing impeachment.”
Edward B. Foley, Politico

From the Right

The right finds Trump’s comments to be problematic, but does not believe they are worthy of impeachment.

The right finds Trump’s comments to be problematic, but does not believe they are worthy of impeachment.

“Trump did encourage the new Ukrainian president to investigate Hunter Biden as part of his new agenda. However, there is no mention at all of a quid pro quo, and in fact it was Zelensky who brought up [Rudy Giuliani] first. Zelensky mentions a recent meeting between Rudy Giuliani and one of his deputies and promised that Giuliani would continue to have access for his investigations in Ukraine… It’s not at all a smoking gun, at least not for the impeachable offense that Democrats first alleged. They will have to look elsewhere for that kind of evidence.”
Ed Morrissey, Hot Air

“There is nothing wrong with asking a foreign head of state to investigate meddling in U.S elections… [And] the references to the Bidens are in the context of fighting corruption, not as a prerequisite of U.S. aid. Mr. Trump was unwise to mention Mr. Biden, but the tenor of the conversation is congenial. It’s amusing to hear the same critics who call Mr. Trump an oafish thug on a daily basis now say this was all a subtle masterpiece of extortion. When is Mr. Trump ever subtle?…

“Is anyone else troubled that this is all it takes to impeach a President? If a bureaucrat who dislikes a President can trigger a complaint based on hearsay that forces the disclosure of presidential diplomacy, the conduct of foreign policy will be severely hampered. Democratic Presidents won’t be spared once Republicans figure out how this works.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“If we are concerned about U.S. officials inappropriately threatening aid to Ukraine, then there are others who have some explaining to do… It got almost no attention, but in May, CNN reported that Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) and Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) wrote a letter to Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Yuriy Lutsenko, expressing concern at the closing of four investigations they said were critical to the Mueller probe. In the letter, they implied that their support for U.S. assistance to Ukraine was at stake…

“Describing themselves as ‘strong advocates for a robust and close relationship with Ukraine,’ the Democratic senators declared, ‘We have supported [the] capacity-building process and are disappointed that some in Kyiv appear to have cast aside these [democratic] principles to avoid the ire of President Trump.’”
Marc A. Thiessen, Washington Post

“The words of Trump on that call are not worthy of the office of commander-in-chief. But American presidents say and do a lot of things that aren’t worthy of the office, like seducing 19-year-old White House interns, addressing White House reporters while naked on Air Force One, joking about launching nuclear missiles at Russia within five minutes (setting off a red alert in the Soviet military), vomiting on the Japanese prime minister, or losing the nuclear-launch codes…

“It’s kind of mind-boggling to think that Trump being his usual self-interested, conspiracy-minded self could lead to the third impeachment in American history, when much more consequential acts, such as the internment of Japanese Americans, the Bay of Pigs invasion, and lying about the real situation on the ground in Vietnam led to no such consequence.”
Jim Geraghty, National Review

“In truth, the only thing the transcript reveals clearly is that Trump doesn’t understand the necessary proprieties of his job. He is still treating the presidency as if it were his own business, dwelling on minor matters and wielding power to advance his own interests, rather than attending first to the national interest. That is regrettable, which is a long way from saying it should lead to impeachment…

“What [Democrats] have now is what they've always had — not a smoking gun but a loose cannon in the Oval Office. Trump is reckless and gives ammo to his opponents. He shouldn't have spoken as he did, but that doesn't mean what he said is obviously something for which he should be removed from office. Impeachment will stretch lugubriously into next year and the height of the election season, bespattering both the president and many others including, perhaps, the Democratic nominee. Isn't it best to let voters decide who they want as their leader rather than ousting the one they chose in 2016?”
Editorial Board, Washington Examiner

Some do support impeachment, arguing that “the transcript bolsters what plenty of supplementary evidence already made evident: The quid and quo were not just vaguely implicit, but very strongly implicit, especially in light of actions preceding and following it. A proverbial ‘offer you can’t refuse’ remains a demand even if it’s not explicitly delineated then and there… the very involvement of the president in urging a foreign government to criminally investigate a U.S. citizennever charged under U.S. law is extremely problematic. When the targeted citizen is his chief political rival, or the rival’s son, it's worse.”
Quin Hillyer, Washington Examiner

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

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