In response to the Democrats launching an impeachment inquiry against him on Tuesday, President Donald Trump appeared at a public meeting with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to address the July 25 phone call at the center of the impeachment effort. In that call, Trump asked Zelensky to help the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, investigate potential corruption around Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden. Before the call, Trump had frozen $391 million in military aid to Ukraine. Democrats accused Trump of pressuring Ukraine to interfere in the U.S. election.
Yet on Wednesday, Trump released the transcript of the July 25 call, which shows that Zelensky brought up Giuliani first and reveals no explicit quid pro quo regarding the frozen military funding. In the meeting with Trump, Zelensky insisted that “nobody pushed me” on the Biden matter.
“I think we had good phone call. It was normal, we spoke about many things,” Zelensky said. “I think, and you read it, that nobody pushed me.”
Trump added, “In other words, no pressure.”
After the release of the transcript, liberals seized on Trump’s words, “I would like you to do us a favor,” even though the president’s favor involved asking Ukraine to help figure out how Russian hackers breached the Democratic National Committee’s servers in the 2016 election. While his request is not entirely clear from the transcript, Trump asked Zelensky about a server connected to CrowdStrike, the Silicon Valley cybersecurity firm hired by the DNC to investigate Russian hacking.
Only after Zelensky brought up Giuliani did Trump mention the Biden situation. Hunter Biden was on the board of Ukraine gas company Burisma Holdings at the time a prosecutor was set to investigate the company for losing $1.8 billion in aid funding. Joe Biden took a trip to Ukraine and later bragged about getting the prosecutor fired. Unlike Trump, Biden did pressure Ukraine, telling then-President Petro Poroshenko he would withhold a $1 billion loan unless Poroshenko fired the prosecutor.
Biden actually bragged about the quid pro quo, seemingly implicating former President Barack Obama in the deal.
Trump mentioned the Biden scandal in his press conference with Zelensky. “Now, when Bien’s son walks away with millions of dollars from Ukraine, he does nothing and they’re paying him millions of dollars, that’s corruption. When Biden’s son walks out of China with $1.5 billion …” that deserves to be investigated.
The Hunter Biden Ukraine crisis stinks to high heaven, but perhaps Democrats might have a point that a sitting president who is running for reelection against someone implicated in the scandal (Joe Biden) should not be using his diplomatic position as president to ask foreign governments to help investigate the scandal.
But Democrats’ hands are far from clean when it comes to pressuring foreign governments to investigate their political opposition. In May 2018, Democratic senators sent a letter to Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Yuriy Lutsenko, asking him to reopen investigations into Trump related to the Robert Mueller probe. As The Washington Post‘s Marc Thiessen pointed out, “In the letter, they implied their support for U.S. assistance to Ukraine was at stake.” The July 25 call did not involve a quid pro quo, but this letter did.
Ukrainian officials have also tried to present evidence of wrongdoing on behalf of American Democrats and their allies in Ukraine, specifically involving foreign meddling against Trump and for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.
Democrats can sermonize about the sanctity of U.S. elections all they want, but if the president did anything wrong, they’ve done far worse, with Ukraine in particular. As cases for impeachment go, this one is incredibly flimsy.
In any case, Zelensky made it clear “nobody pushed me” on the Biden investigation.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.