Transcript shows impeachment proceedings justified

It is worse than we could have imagined.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., put it aptly Wednesday when he said the conversation between U.S. President Donald Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky “reads like a classic gangster shakedown.”

A transcript of the July 25 phone conversation released by the White House shows that the president had barely finished the niceties of congratulating the new Ukraine president when he gets down to business.

“I will say we do a lot for Ukraine. We spend a lot of effort and a lot of time,” says Trump, adding a few sentences later. “I wouldn’t say it’s reciprocal, necessarily, because things are happening that are not good, but the United States has been very, very good to Ukraine.”

Zelensky tries to turn the conversation to the help his country needs to stave off the threat from Russia. Congress had authorized $391 million in military aid for training and equipment, but Trump had frozen the aid in the days prior to his conversation with Ukraine’s new leader.

“I would absolutely like to thank you for your great support in the area of defense. We are ready to cooperate for the next steps. Specifically, we are almost ready to buy more Javelins (anti-tank missiles) from the United States for defense purposes …” Zelensky states.

Not so fast, the U.S. president implicitly signals.

“I would like you to do us a favor, though, because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation in Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike,” states Trump. “I would like to have the (U.S.) Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it. As you saw yesterday, that whole nonsense ended with a very poor performance by a man named Robert Mueller, an incompetent performance, but they say a lot of it started with Ukraine.”

Trump was apparently referencing a debunked conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine that stole the Democratic National Committee emails in 2016 and framed Russia. Both the Mueller investigation and U.S. intelligence services all say the evidence is clear that Russian military officers hacked the Democratic server. Yet here was Trump urging the leader of another country to come up with contradictory information.

Zelensky does his best to appease the U.S. president, pledging to work with Trump’s envoy, Rudolph W. Giuliani, and Attorney General William Barr to dig into whatever conspiratorial dirt they want to explore.

“I guarantee as the president of Ukraine that all the investigations will be done openly and candidly … that I can assure you,” says Zelensky.

“Good,” replies Trump. But there’s one more thing.

“There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the (U.S.) Attorney General would be great,” continues Trump. “Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution, so, if you can look into it …”

Trump was directly asking the Ukrainian president to again investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. As vice president, Biden had pushed the Ukrainian government to remove its top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, considered to be on the take. At the time, Hunter Biden sat on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings. Some on the right have tried to make the case that Joe Biden went after the prosecutor to protect the company tied to his son, but no legitimate investigation has backed that claim. The U.S. and its allies that were providing aid to Ukraine had agreed that Shokin was enabling corruption and had to go.

Zelensky promises Trump he will investigate further: “I would kindly ask you if you have any additional information that you can provide to us it would be very helpful for the investigation.”

How can any U.S. citizen think it’s OK for a U.S. president to push a foreign leader into trying to find dirt on a political opponent, offering the assistance of the U.S. attorney general in that effort? Meanwhile military aid, approved by Congress as in our country’s national security interest, is being withheld.

Is such conduct worthy of an article of impeachment? It could well be, but we await more facts to surface before making that judgment. One thing is for sure; this transcript shows the decision to begin a formal impeachment inquiry is the right one.

 

 

 

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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