Trump Is Trying To Conspire With Ukraine To Meddle In The 2020 Election

In an effort to benefit Trump’s 2020 campaign, the President is reportedly using the US government to pressure a foreign power to investigate Joe Biden.
President Trump (AP), Trump's Personal Lawyer Rudy Giuliani (Gage Skidmore/Flickr), and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (Vadim Chuprina)

President Trump (AP), Trump’s Personal Lawyer Rudy Giuliani (Gage Skidmore/Flickr), and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (Vadim Chuprina)

Updated September 9, 2019: The House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, and Oversight Committees are now investigating this.

The Lede

President Trump couldn’t win in 2016 without foreign help, so he’s seeking it out again ahead of 2020. Over the last several months, there has been an ongoing effort by President Trump and Rudy Giuliani to push the Ukrainian government to pursue an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.

When President Trump suspended military aid to Ukraine, many assumed it was the latest example of Trump doing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s bidding. It appears that is not the case. This move is reportedly tied to Trump’s effort to get the Ukrainian government to investigate his political opponent, who is the current frontrunner in the Democratic primary. The Washington Post reported:

Not only has Mr. Trump refused to grant the Ukrainian leader [President Volodymyr Zelensky] a White House visit, but also he has suspended the delivery of $250 million in U.S. military aid to a country still fighting Russian aggression in its eastern provinces.

Some suspect Mr. Trump is once again catering to Mr. Putin, who is dedicated to undermining Ukrainian democracy and independence. But we’re reliably told that the president has a second and more 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.

This is exactly what it sounds like. The President of the United States, his personal attorney, and the United States Government have been actively and publicly pressuring a foreign power to dig up dirt on a political opponent and interfere in American democracy.

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The Context

In May, Rudy Giuliani, with the full support of President Trump, announced that he was traveling to Ukraine to meet with the then-comedian turned President-elect Volodymyr Zelensky to try and get them to probe Joe Biden and his son.

In an interview with The New York Times, Giuliani attempted to claim this conduct was completely fine:

“We’re not meddling in an election, we’re meddling in an investigation, which we have a right to do. There’s nothing illegal about it. Somebody could say it’s improper. And this isn’t foreign policy — I’m asking them to do an investigation that they’re doing already and that other people are telling them to stop. And I’m going to give them reasons why they shouldn’t stop it because that information will be very, very helpful to my client, and may turn out to be helpful to my government.”

This trip was canceled soon after, but there was another development over the Summer that showed the effort was ongoing. In August, NBC News reported that Giuliani was able to secure meetings with a Ukrainian official and it was aided by the State Department:

Specifically, Giuliani has wanted Ukrainian officials to look into any impropriety related to the former vice president’s push to crack down on corruption in Ukraine and his son Hunter Biden’s involvement in a natural gas company there. Giuliani also sought to have Ukraine examine whether the Democratic National Committee worked in connection with Ukrainian officials to harm Trump’s 2016 campaign by releasing damaging information on the president’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

Giuliani has spoken with Ukrainian official Andriy Yermak, a lawyer and close ally of recently elected President Volodymyr Zelensky, on the phone and in an in-person meeting in Madrid over the last few weeks to encourage him to ramp up probes into the matters, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Trump’s attorney confirmed to NBC News that the State Department helped put him in touch with Yermak.

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The Analysis

This comes after President Trump has openly welcomed more interference in the 2020 election. In June, Trump made remarks that can only be compared to his July 2016 “Russia, if you’re listening…” moment where he begged for the hacking of Hillary Clinton. In an interview with ABC News, President Trump said that he would accept dirt on a political opponent from a foreign power – which is against the law:

“It’s not an interference, they have information — I think I’d take it,” Trump said. “If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI — if I thought there was something wrong. But when somebody comes up with oppo research, right, they come up with oppo research, ‘oh let’s call the FBI.’ The FBI doesn’t have enough agents to take care of it. When you go and talk, honestly, to congressman, they all do it, they always have, and that’s the way it is. It’s called oppo research.”

President Trump’s remarks not only invite Russia to interfere in American democracy again, it tells other foreign powers like Saudi Arabia that it’s open season in America. This isn’t the first time the Trump Administration has egged on future election meddling. White House Adviser Jared Kushner downplayed Russia’s interference and we also have Rudy Giuliani’s comments. This comes as the Trump Administration has done nothing to prevent Russia’s future election interference in 2020, as intelligence officials warn of Russia’s intent to repeat their successful interference of 2016.

Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report clearly outlines how Russia’s interfered in the 2016 election and how the Trump Campaign was receptive to it. Over the lifetime of the probe, the Special Counsel levied 37 indictments, 6 of which were indictments from Trump associates – 5 pleaded guilty. That included the indictments of 25 Russian individuals or entities for hacking and leaking Democratic emails as well as running the Russian troll operation.

Mueller did not charge the Trump campaign with a criminal conspiracy but the report did outline over 100 pages of collusion evidence. The Trump Campaign was receptive to Russia’s help. In his testimony, Mueller called the conduct “unpatriotic.” Mueller’s report also included 10 key obstructive acts on the part of President Trump, which over 1,000 former federal prosecutors say Trump would be indicted for if he wasn’t President.

While Mueller could not find a criminal conspiracy between Russia and the Trump Campaign, it’s fair to wonder whether the current conduct between the Trump Administration and Ukraine would meet that criminal threshold. We’ll have to wait and see if this corrupt act moves forward.

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Rundown // 2020 / Donald Trump / Election Interference / Joe Biden / Ukraine