There is a courageous whistleblower out there in Washington DC, a senior person who is part of the intelligence community, who learned of a “promise” Trump was making involving Ukraine that shocked him or her so much he or she has risked his or her career to try to get this information to the Congress by following the rules and filing an “urgent” whistleblower complaint. What is emerging is a plot on the part of this president to threaten to withhold $250 million, much needed money, from Ukraine, money that was already approved by Congress to help support Ukraine. What Trump wanted from Ukraine in exchange was some dirt on Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden. The idea was that by re-opening an already closed Ukrainian investigation that found no wrongdoing, Trump could get something he could use to smear his political rival. Trump’s most feared 2020 presidential rival is Joe Biden. He wanted to damage Biden as he damaged Hillary Clinton by insinuating there was something terrible going on about her emails.
The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and other news sources are in agreement that Trump, in a phone call with President Zelensky of Ukraine, urged him at least 8 times in that call to dig up dirt on Joe Biden, by re-opening the closed investigation on Biden’s son, Hunter, which would give Trump something he could use to smear Biden on the campaign trail. “Did you see that Ukraine has re-opened their investigation on Hunter Biden and his relationship with a Ukrainian gas company? What was that all about? Biden must be hiding something.” etc etc. ad nauseum.
“[W]e’re reliably told that the president has a … venal agenda: He is attempting to force Mr. Zelensky to intervene in the 2020 U.S. presidential election by launching an investigation of the leading Democratic candidate, Joe Biden. Mr. Trump is not just soliciting Ukraine’s help with his presidential campaign; he is using U.S. military aid the country desperately needs in an attempt to extort it.” WaPo
The reporting also tells us that there was not only one phone call but a series of events that have given rise to the urgent concern. To be crystal clear, if this information is accurate, Trump has engaged in three potential crimes: 1) extortion, 2) conspiracy to commit extortion, and 3) violations of federal election law.
- Extortion is using a threat or threats of withholding something of value (monetary aid of $250 million dollars) unless Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, gets Trump the dirt he wants on his political rival, Joe Biden. The threat does not have to be explicit. Trump would not need to say, “Hey, Zelensky, I will withhold American military support from Ukraine unless you get me dirt on Joe Biden or his son”. The threat could be implicit as it was here, with Trump withholding the money for unknown reasons that Congress had already earmarked for Ukraine- stalling out the payment that was supposed to go to Ukraine, waiting to see if he could get what he wanted from Zelensky. The withholding itself was a threat to Ukraine.
- Conspiracy to engage in extortion. Rudy Guiliani is Trump’s personal criminal lawyer-fixer. Trump sent Rudy to Ukraine to get the Ukrainians to dig up dirt on Biden to help Trump win re-election. Rudy is a co-conspirator and Trump is the main instigator and perpetrator in this conspiracy. There was an act in furtherance of the conspiracy when Rudy went to Ukraine to do Trump’s bidding.
- Violation of federal election law. Trump was engaging in eliciting the help of a foreign government to interfere in our elections and get a personal benefit. Sound familiar? This was at issue when Robert Mueller investigated what Trump and his team did in 2016 to win against Clinton. The outcome was that Mueller could not conclude that Trump knowingly broke the law because it was too hard to prove that Trump and his team knew the law. They were the gang who couldn’t shoot straight. Mueller determined he could not make a finding of conspiracy with the Russians because of that element of knowledge. (There was no collusion- as Trump would say.) But the Mueller Report has eliminated the NO KNOWLEDGE defense that Trump had before. We ALL know by now that it is illegal to conspire with a foreign government to win an election. Trump can no longer claim he did not know any better. That defense is dead in the water.
Trump and Barr and Trump’s entire team are now engaged in a desperate and unlawful effort to hide this information from the American public by keeping it from Congress. As with everything else that Trump knows would reveal him to be a man without morals and someone who has conned the American people into thinking he is a successful businessman when he is a failed and corrupt businessman, Trump and his team are currently engaged in a huge cover-up across multiple platforms. As president, he holds vast power and after being in office three years he also has created a loyal team of craven acolytes who will try to protect him. Mafia Don and his gangster mob have taken over the White House and the Republican Party at this point. The only way they can stay in power is to have the support of Republicans, especially Republicans in the Senate. Without that support, Trump would be like the guy in the Wizard of Oz after the curtain is pulled back… a little dude without special powers, and, in this case, an amoral and unethical guy who fears losing re-election, and fears being exposed as the failure he is, a man who will also be indicted and face jail time the minute he leaves office.
This will go to the courts. US v Nixon held that a president cannot shield audiotapes from Congress based on executive privilege. The courts should rule in this instance that Trump cannot hide his conversation with Zelensky from Congressional oversight. Even now we already know Trump is guilty, without a ruling from the courts. Why? Because he is not releasing the contents of his conversation with the Ukrainian president. He is trying to do everything in his power, working in tandem with AG Barr, to keep the contents of that conversation secret from us.
What if Trump were innocent? How would he behave? He would WANT everything to come out as fast as possible so that he could clear his name and the dark cloud that hangs over him and his entire corrupt administration. Instead, he tries to cover up everything and pretend everything he has done is normal. This behavior is not normal. This behavior is illegal. It is abuse of power. And it is highly corrupt.
How will this end? It is hard to believe that Republicans will not see this most recent abuse of power by Trump, emerging now in this whistleblower’s complaint, as a last straw. But they may not. They are so far gone at this point, they may say nothing in the face of something as close to treason as we have ever witnessed from an American president.
Will they be able to stand proudly next to this thoroughly rotten man when the truth comes out that Trump was trying to extort Ukraine for his own personal advantage in the 2020 election? Because this is what is coming out- whether by whistleblower or by leak. Trump will claim it is fake news or he will try to pretend it is normal behavior and that everyone gets opposition research on their opponents. Not true. No one but Trump would extort help from a foreign government to try to win re-election. There may be a tape or notes of Trump’s conversation or other documentation. Exposure is coming.
Congress must request injunctive relief from the courts. We need a fast remedy. Democrats, you need to step up your game! Trump is breaking the glass in the china shop every single day and no one is stopping him, so he thinks he can abuse his power with impunity. The courts need to be prompted to act quickly to keep this administration from getting away with unlawfully blocking this whistleblower’s complaint from getting to Congress and the American people.