Tags: roy | congressman | impeachment | shokin

New Defenses of Trump Are as Bad as the Old Ones

us president donald trump at the white house for a governors roundtable

President Donald Trump listens during a roundtable with governors on government regulations in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Mon. Dec. 16, 2019, in Washington, D.C. (Evan Vucci/AP)

By Monday, 16 December 2019 04:18 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, has handled the Ukraine controversy in an unusual way: He listened to the testimony and took some time to think about it before stating his conclusions.

When he spoke in the interim, it was to make discrete observations, such as defending former foreign-policy official Fiona Hill from xenophobic attacks by allies of President Donald Trump. Roy has now organized his thoughts in an article for National Review (where I am a senior editor).

It’s a good example of how someone can in good faith conclude that Trump should not be impeached and removed from office. But it’s also an example of the many ways conservatives are finding to minimize Trump’s misconduct.

The Democrats have filed Articles of Impeachment. No one is surprised, because impeachment has been the goal for the radical left and others who dislike the president since before his election.

Yes, some people have been calling for impeachment from the start of this presidency.

Others resisted these calls until after Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskiy came to light. We can conclude both that some Democrats would be for impeachment regardless of the facts, and that Trump has inspired suspicions about his tendency to corruption and abuse of power from the start.The first point should no more automatically incriminate Trump than the second should exonerate him.

In the case of Ukraine, it is clear that President Trump wants Europe to carry more of the burden of supporting their effort, and that he views both a longstanding history of corruption and Ukraine’s nexus to our 2016 elections as a problem. He is most certainly within his rights to believe these things, and act on them.

Congress passed a law authorizing aid to Ukraine, and Trump signed it. The law places real constraints on Trump’s discretion. And it is not at all clear either that Trump’s view about burden-sharing was a factor in the temporary withholding of aid, or that Trump has any interest whatsoever in Ukraine’s history of corruption.

In the reports we have about Trump’s comments on Ukraine to his aides and to Ukrainian officials, Trump sometimes failed to mention corruption at all. Sometimes he seemed to be using the term solely to refer to his desire for an investigation of Joe Biden and his son Hunter, or of a nutty theory about how Ukraine rather than Russia was responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee.

Indeed, federal law requires he act to stop corruption if American foreign aid is being distributed.

The administration was required by law to certify that Ukraine was taking action against corruption - but the Defense Department did that in May 2019.

[The Democrats] purposefully obfuscate the obvious evidence  . . . that there were troubling efforts by Ukrainians to influence the 2016 elections.   . . . They do this by conflating it with the less likely technological ‘interference’ (see, e.g., "Crowdstrike" 1 ). To be certain, the president’s continued personal promotion of that angle perpetuates that questionable narrative, but that’s not the core issue. The truth is that we saw Ukrainian leaders — including the sitting ambassador — publicly attack candidate Trump in the press . . . all of these things raise legitimate questions of Ukrainian engagement in 2016 elections, and thus provide President Trump with reasonable questions to raise to a new, reformist Ukrainian president.

Many Republicans have adopted a version of this argument: The core issue is the allegedly reasonable subjects Trump could have raised with Zelinskiy rather than the crazy one he actually did raise. But the fact that Ukrainian officials responded to Trump campaign statements that ran counter to their country’s interests by expressing concern in public doesn’t warrant an investigation anyway.

The elder Biden threatened $1 billion in aid to the Ukrainians in part to eject the prosecutor general, who was looking into Burisma — an energy company with known corruption issues and a board that his own son was sitting on with income of $83,000 per month.

A former deputy to that prosecutor general has said that the investigation was long dormant when Biden demanded the ouster.

At the time, the International Monetary Fund and many Ukrainians were unhappy that the prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin, was soft on corruption. The Obama administration had officially complained that Ukraine was not doing enough to assist British legal action against Burisma’s owner.

It’s true that Shokin has said that he was fired because he was going after Burisma, which certainly sounds like a nicer story about him than the prevailing one.

Zelenskiy himself denies feeling pressure either during the phone call or after.

It’s true that he has said that. It’s also true that he has an interest both in maintaining good relations with the Trump administration and in not appearing weak. In any case, whether Trump’s efforts to get Zelenskiy to investigate Biden or Ukrainian hacking were successful, or competently executed, are different questions from whether it was attempted or proper.

It is noteworthy that during the administration of President Trump, the Ukrainians now have a potential reformer president in Zelenskiy, full security funding, and Javelin missiles.

American policy under Trump is more supportive of Ukraine overall than it was under Obama. But that fact makes Trump’s abuse of power worse, not better.

The Obama administration didn’t believe military aid to Ukraine was in America’s interest and didn’t promise it. The Trump administration did believe it and promise it, and then put a hold on it to get Ukraine to cater to Trump’s personal interests.

Congressman Roy ends his argument with his strongest point: that the American people will have an opportunity to judge Trump’s conduct directly next November. But that judgment of Trump should be based on an accurate assessment of all the evidence we have about that conduct, which means it should be harsher than the judgment that the congressman is making.

1. Crowdstrike is the American cybersecurity firm that investigated hacking into the Democratic National Committee files in 2016.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a Bloomberg View columnist. He is a senior editor of National Review and the author of "The Party of Death: The Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life." To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

© Copyright 2018 Bloomberg L.P. All Rights Reserved.

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RameshPonnuru
American policy under Trump is more supportive of Ukraine overall than it was under Obama. But that fact makes Trump’s abuse of power worse, not better.
roy, congressman, impeachment, shokin
1052
2019-18-16
Monday, 16 December 2019 04:18 PM
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