In a series of explosive developments last week, a whistleblower’s complaint about President Trump’s telephone call to the president of Ukraine opened up a new front in the efforts by Democrats to impeach Trump. The complaint cited information from “multiple U.S. government officials” accusing Trump of trying to “pressure the Ukrainian leader to take actions to help the president’s 2020 reelection bid.”
Trump blasted the accusations as “the greatest scam in the history of American politics!” He denied pressuring the Ukrainian president. He told reporters that the process was a “disgrace,” tweeted that it was “another fantasy to hurt the Republican Party” and accused Democrats of stalling progress on legislation.
The charges were aired publicly at a hearing by the House Judiciary Committee with acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire grilled intensely about his delay in submitting the complaint to the committee. He said he relied on an opinion from the Office of Legal Counsel, stressing that the complaint was essentially hearsay, second-hand information and not “corroborated by other folks.”
The complaint accused Trump of pressuring the Ukrainian president to investigate the activities of Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. On that point, in 2016 the Ukrainian prosecutor was fired after Biden told the country’s leaders $1 billion in U.S. aid would be withheld unless they acted. Trump contends that Biden wanted the prosecutor fired so he would not investigate Hunter Biden who became a board member of Ukraine’s largest private gas company and was paid up to $50,000 a month. Biden has said the prosecutor had to be fired because of corruption.
The highest and best evidence of what was said is the transcript of the telephone call. Here are relevant parts of Trump’s comments to President Zelensky of Ukraine:
“I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation in Ukraine. They say Crowdstrike … The server, they say Ukraine has it.” (This apparently refers to cyber security firm Crowdstrike that determined Russians hacked the Democratic National Committee computer server leading up to the 2016 presidential election and the location of the server.) Trump continued: “I would like to have the attorney general call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it.”
Regarding the Bidens, Trump said: “The other thing, there’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it. ... It sounds horrible to me.” After Zelensky gave assurance that the investigation would be carried out, Trump said: “Good. Well … thank you very much and I appreciate that. I will tell Rudy (Giuliani) and Attorney General Barr to call. Thank you.”
Even before the release of transcripts, Nancy Pelosi, the Democrat Speaker of the House, called a news conference to get the impeachment ball moving. “The actions of the Trump presidency revealed dishonorable facts of betrayal of his oath of office and betrayal of our national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections,” Pelosi said. “Therefore, today, I’m announcing the House of Representatives is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry and directing our six committees to proceed with their investigation under that umbrella of impeachment inquiry.”
Just what that means is unclear since House committees have been involved in impeachment investigations for months. The outcome boils down to whether Pelosi can get majority support — from Democrats — to vote articles of impeachment. There are questions being raised about this hurting Democrats and helping Trump in the 2020 elections. Regardless of a House vote, however, the Senate has the responsibility of deciding the matter, and with a Republican majority, there would be no conviction.
The bottom line: The people — and not the Congress — should decide the issues surrounding Trump’s presidency in the elections next year.