A key aspect of the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump is the allegation that he engaged in an improper “quid pro quo” during a July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Specifically, Trump has been accused of inappropriately using an invitation for Zelensky to visit the White House, as well as about $400 million worth of military aid to Ukraine, as leverage to coerce the Ukrainian president into opening investigations into prior allegations of Ukrainian interference on behalf of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 elections as well as allegations of corruption involving a Ukrainian energy firm named Burisma on whose board former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden served.
There’s a significant problem with that narrative, however, in that at no point in the partial transcript of the call did Trump ever mention military aid, much less tie such aid to the requested investigations or any White House visit.
Furthermore, on top of Trump’s extension of a White House invitation — with no strings attached — in the call, it has since been revealed by one of the Democrats’ star impeachment witnesses that Trump’s offer was actually the second invitation Zelensky had received to visit Washington, D.C.
That revelation came during the prepared opening statement of Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a director on the National Security Council who testified before Congress in October about his “concerns” regarding Trump’s call.
Trump had made the July call to congratulate the Ukrainian president on his party’s victory in the country’s parliamentary elections. Vindman revealed that Trump had actually called Zelensky for the first time on April 21 to congratulate him on his presidential victory that day.
Vindman, one of several officials to listen in on the April call, testified that the April call was “positive” and that Trump “expressed his desire to work with President Zelenskyy and extended an invitation to visit the White House.”
Fast forward to the July call. Following some discussion between the two presidents about fighting corruption, Zelensky brought up a need for more military aid and Trump responded by mentioning the investigations he wanted to see occur.
Toward the end of that call, Zelensky actually thanked Trump for the prior invitation to visit the White House and said, “I also wanted to thank you for your invitation to visit the United States, specifically Washington, D.C.”
A moment later, Trump said in response, “Whenever you would like to come to the White House, feel free to call. Give us a date and we’ll work that out. I look forward to seeing you.”
Trump twice offered up an invitation for Zelensky to visit the White House — without directly linking that visit to the corruption investigations.
As for the military aid, it has since been revealed — by The New York Times, ironically enough — that Ukraine didn’t even know the roughly $400 million in aid had been withheld until weeks after the July call. And the aid was eventually distributed in September without any of the requested investigations being announced.
In other words, if Trump was using the White House visit and military aid as a “quid pro quo” method to coerce investigations into corruption out of Ukraine, he did a really terrible job at it, as Ukraine was entirely unaware of any purported connections between the supposed quids and quo.
Besides, media talk about quid pro quos misses something crucial: There is nothing inherently wrong with them, and such tit-for-tat agreements are literally the foundation of our nation’s foreign policy.
As for the requested investigations into the Bidens and their alleged activities in Ukraine, whatever happened to “if you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to worry about?”
If the Bidens did nothing wrong in Ukraine, then an investigation would clear them of any wrongdoing. But if they did do something wrong, then they should be investigated and held accountable for their actions.
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