A Beautiful Shakedown

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

In his ‘perfect’ phone call with the Ukrainian president Trump essentially said ‘what a beautiful country you have, wouldn’t it be terrible if something happened to it?’  That was after he had held back $390 million in military aid Ukraine desperately needed to defend itself against Russian attacks that started in 2014 with the annexation of Crimea.  The ‘favor’ the president expected from Ukraine was help for his gofer Rudy Giuliani and potentially his Attorney General, Barr, in finding dirt on Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.  At the time Trump saw Biden as his most likely opponent in the 2020 presidential election, but soliciting as well as accepting foreign help in an election is a crime, and using the power of the presidency for personal gain violates the constitution.  Trump made his phone call the day after Robert Mueller testified in Congress, clearly feeling safe enough to become an active player in the next interference scheme.  However, after a whistleblower informed intelligence authorities of the president’s misbehavior Trump immediately released the money to Ukraine, and this week he released the memo of the phone call in an attempt to put the issue to rest.

In most of these cases the cover up is worse than the crime, but in this case it’s pretty even.  According to the whistleblower the White House decided to hide the word-for-word transcript of the phone call in a secret digital vault, and the Director of National Intelligence, confused by the fact that the whistleblower’s complaint pertained to the president, took it to the White House instead of Congress and was told by Trump’s Department of Justice that it was ‘not urgent’.  Once the dam had broken with the release of the memo it was not possible to keep the complaint a secret so that was released as well, followed by testimony by the DNI in Congress.  Other than an attempt to blackmail a president in desperate need of help against a foreign aggressor the memo contains some other breathtaking information.  Trump re-visited the false narrative that the Democrats hacked their own emails with Ukrainian help, in spite of the fact that Mueller had indicted 12 Russians for that crime, slandered Mueller and the former US Ambassador to Ukraine, and floated the evidence-free theory that Hillary Clinton’s emails and the DNC server were hidden somewhere in Ukraine.

When Trump realized that releasing the memo would not get him off the hook he called Nancy Pelosi to see if they could make a deal about ‘this whistleblower thing.’  By then Pelosi, who months ago had said that the president would ‘self-impeach,’ had already committed herself and her caucus to starting impeachment procedures, and the only advice she gave Trump was ‘to stop breaking the law.’  Some of the president’s cronies may think that impeachment will help him in 2020, but Trump doesn’t think so any longer, realizing that it will be the first line of his obituary.

During a Wednesday press conference at the United Nations to highlight his formidable accomplishments during its annual meeting Trump seemed distressed and deflated, although he still had just enough energy to call the whistleblower complaint fake news and utter a few choice words for the Democrats in Congress.  On Thursday he sounded more belligerent, calling the first person who informed the whistleblower about the phone call ‘almost a spy,’  who should be tried for treason.

All this time Trump did Putin’s bidding.  Withholding military aid to Ukraine obviously helped the Russians, and so did his sowing discord with European countries by blaming them for not sufficiently supporting Ukraine.  Suggesting to the Ukrainian president that he sit down with Putin to work things out was equivalent to having told Churchill to have a chat with Hitler during the Battle of Britain.


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