Ukraine transcript is like a lousy sequel to Russia ‘collusion’ controversy

Ukraine transcript is like a lousy sequel to Russia ‘collusion’ controversy, by Sohrab Ahmari.

Well, the transcript is out, and it is already clear that Biden-Ukraine is the even-lousier sequel to the already-lousy Russian “collusion” flick. ..

The Washington Post, the chief organ of the #Resistance, described the call between President Trump and “a foreign leader” as “so troubling that it prompted an official in the US intelligence community to file a formal whistleblower complaint.”

Why? Because the interaction with the foreign leader “included a ‘promise’” — gasp! What had Trump promised: America’s nuclear codes in exchange for the foreign leader spending a week at one of his golf resorts? Had he revealed “how the United States obtained sensitive information,” as the paper speculated?

Later it was revealed that the interaction involved less strategic matters. Trump, we were told, had pushed the Kiev government to look into Hunter Biden’s role in a Ukrainian energy firm, work for which the vice presidential princeling was paid $50,000 a month (nice work if you can get it). Had there been a tight quid pro quo: US aid to Kiev in return for embarrassing Trump’s leading rival via his son? ..

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested a “formal” impeachment inquiry (whatever that is).

Then came the transcript of the call between Trump and Ukraine’s President Zelensky. …

The transcript isn’t actually very long, and the bottom line is that there is no “promise,” contrary to the whistleblower’s widely reported complaint: At no point does Trump explicitly condition any action or assistance on the Ukrainians doing anything specific.

Early on, Trump does note that he has done much more to help the Russian-threatened Ukrainians than the Europeans have, which is true and admirable. Zelensky agrees and mentions purchasing more Javelin antitank missiles from the United States. “I would like you to do us a favor though,” Trump replies, and it is this single clause that the impeachment-now crowd has seized upon to suggest a quid pro quo. But the favor Trump asks for has nothing to do with the illustrious, handsomely compensated Hunter Biden.

Instead, Trump asks Zelensky to probe Ukraine’s role in foreign interference in the 2016 election — a perfectly legitimate request in an area of bipartisan concern.

Later, when it comes to the Hunter question, Trump seems legitimately concerned about corruption: “There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son,” Trump grumbles, “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 [William Barr] would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it. . . . It sounds horrible to me.”

And that’s all true. As vice president, Biden did encourage Ukraine to fire a prosecutor who happened to be investigating the company on whose board his son happened to sit. Widespread graft being Ukraine’s biggest enemy after Russia — the country is one of the world’s most corrupt, according to Transparency International — how is it not legitimate for the US chief executive to probe these matters with his Ukrainian counterpart?

That’s it. That’s really all the “there” in the call that set off this brouhaha. And it falls far short of a legitimate basis for removing a duly elected president from office.

The US Constitution gives the president vast discretion in the conduct of foreign affairs. Ours being a fallen world, that conduct has ever been grubby, though Trump has undoubtedly made it grubbier with his vulgar ways. But if this call is enough to justify impeachment, it will become impossible for any president to act on the world stage. Democrats might want to ponder that before setting out to make Mike Pence president.