Trump Asks Ukraine To Investigate Biden On Call, Then On Camera

President Trump's effort to use the full force of the United States Government to pressure Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden was blown wide open.
President Volodymyr Zelensky meets with President Donald Trump at the UN General Assembly – September 25, 2019 (Source: The Presidential Office of Ukraine)

President Volodymyr Zelensky meets with President Donald Trump at the UN General Assembly – September 25, 2019 (Source: The Presidential Office of Ukraine)

The saga of President Trump’s unprecedented abuses of power continued to unfold in a whirlwind day of explosive developments and brazen corruption.

Last week, reporters revealed the fact President Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch an investigation into Joe Biden and his son on a July 25th phone call. On Monday, we discovered that President Trump personally ordered the freeze of military aid to Ukraine a week before that phone call. On Tuesday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry into President Trump. By Wednesday morning, that impeachment inquiry was given even more fuel.

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The White House released 5 pages of non-verbatim notes memorializing President Trump’s call with President Zelensky, and it was more damning than many expected. In a nutshell, Trump tells Zelenksy that the US has been very good to Ukraine, but it hasn’t been reciprocal. That comment sets up the fact Trump expects something from Ukraine. Zelensky then says that his country is almost ready to buy more weapons from the US. This is where the potential quid pro quo comes into play. Trump then immediately asks for a favor.

Trump goes on to ask Zelensky to look into the origins of the Mueller probe and work with Attorney General William Barr and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to investigate Joe Biden. It’s important to keep in mind that there is no evidence of wrongdoing against Joe Biden or Hunter Biden.

While the country was absorbing this news, we learned that the Trump-appointed Intelligence Community Inspector General thought this conduct was so improper that he referred it for a criminal investigation to the Justice Department. The William Barr-led Justice Department cleared Trump of wrongdoing. And as we know, the Justice Department then blocked the release of the whistleblower complaint, which references the July telephone call. It is important to note that AG Barr is referenced in the non-verbatim transcript numerous times.

So, let’s break that down. Legal experts claim that President Trump’s request for foreign interference in the 2020 election violates election law. The Justice Department claims it does not, but their claim appears to contradict how Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the FEC see a matter of this nature:

When it comes to a quid pro quo (extortion, bribery), some have argued that it was implicit, given the context of suspended military aid and Trump’s request for a favor directly following the topic. In any case, Democrats argue that a quid pro quo isn’t necessary for their impeachment probe, as the request for an investigation itself is impeachable in its own right.

Republicans made their best efforts to spin this news and spread their talking points. In spite of the evidence, President Trump’s allies like Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) claimed there was no quid pro quo and no election law violation. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT), however, called the phone call troubling while other Republicans were privately concerned. But, the day wasn’t over. There was more to come.

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At the United Nations General Assembly, President Trump held an afternoon bilateral meeting with President Zelensky and repeated the request he made during their July 25th phone call. When asked if Trump wanted Ukraine to investigate Biden, Trump said he wants them to investigate corruption and then proceeds to claim what Biden and his son did was corrupt:

President Trump went on to rant about the origins of the Mueller probe (which Trump asked Zelensky to investigate during their call) and ranted about Hillary Clinton. Zelensky looked visibly uncomfortable throughout the meeting. Zelensky claimed that he felt no “push” from Trump in regards to investigating Biden, but reporting indicated Ukraine felt pressured. ABC News reported a statement from a Ukrainian official:

“It was clear that [President Donald] Trump will only have communications if they will discuss the Biden case,” said Serhiy Leshchenko, an anti-corruption advocate and former member of Ukraine’s Parliament, who now acts as an adviser to Zelenskiy. “This issue was raised many times. I know that Ukrainian officials understood.”

In the 4 pm ET hour, President Trump gave a meandering press conference where he repeated his false allegations against Biden and falsely accused President Obama of seeking foreign election help. Trump also claimed there was a first phone call between Trump and Zelensky and Pence also had phone calls.

Meanwhile, the whistleblower complaint, which reportedly contains details of how records of the Ukraine call were handled, was sent to the Senate and House Intelligence Committees. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA), and other members of the committee, expressed concern:

By the end of the day, 218 House Representatives, the vote threshold needed to formalize an impeachment inquiry, came out in support of impeachment proceedings. The House also passed a resolution calling for the release of the whistleblower complaint. This week still has more consequential plot points to develop.

The Acting Director of National Intelligence, who denied reports that he threatened to resign if he wasn’t allowed to speak freely before Congress, testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday morning. Expect more to come.

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Rundown // Donald Trump / Impeachment / Nancy Pelosi / Ukraine