Democrats’ impeachment hopes should have just been doomed.
In an interview with international news outlets over the weekend, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated — again — that the basis of the impeachment case against President Donald Trump is utterly empty.
And Trump wasted no time spreading the news.
“The President of Ukraine has just again announced that President Trump has done nothing wrong with respect to Ukraine and our interactions or calls,” Trump tweeted Monday morning.
“If the Radical Left Democrats were sane, which they are not, it would be case over!”
Breaking News: The President of Ukraine has just again announced that President Trump has done nothing wrong with respect to Ukraine and our interactions or calls. If the Radical Left Democrats were sane, which they are not, it would be case over!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 2, 2019
According to TIME, Zelensky’s comments came during a presidential interview with TIME, the French newspaper Le Monde, Germany’s Der Spiegel and Poland’s Gazeta Wyborcza.
While Zelensky was clearly unhappy that U.S. military aid to Ukraine had been delayed over the summer — in fact he slammed the Trump administration for it — he made it just as clear that there was no “quid pro quo” sought by Trump that would have made the aid delivery contingent on Ukraine agreeing to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.
“Look, I never talked to the president from the position of a quid pro quo. That’s not my thing. … I don’t want us to look like beggars. But you have to understand. We’re at war. If you’re our strategic partner, then you can’t go blocking anything for us,” Zelensky told the journalists.
“I think that’s just about fairness. It’s not about a quid pro quo. It just goes without saying.”
The Trump administration’s position has been that there was no quid pro quo involving U.S. aid and a potential Ukraine investigation into the activities of the Bidens – no matter that Joe Biden is on video literally bragging about forcing Ukraine in 2016 to get rid of a federal prosecutor who just happened to be investigating Biden’s son.
Instead, the White House has stressed its concerns about corruption in Ukraine that remained a problem even after the newly elected Zelensky took office in May. (The former comedian played the president of Ukraine on television, as The Washington Post noted, before becoming the president in real life.)
In the Saturday interview, Zelensky said he thought Trump’s statements about corruption hurt the image of Ukraine with the business world.
“Everyone hears that signal,” he said, according to TIME. “Investments, banks, stakeholders, companies, American, European, companies that have international capital in Ukraine, it’s a signal to them that says, ‘Be careful, don’t invest.’ Or, ‘Get out of there.’ This is a hard signal. For me, it’s very important for the United States, with all they can do for us, for them really to understand that we are a different country, that we are different people. “
However, he acknowledged in the interview that corruption is a problem.
“It’s not that those things don’t exist. They do. All branches of government were corrupted over many years, and we are working to clean that up. But that signal from them is very important,” he said.
So, to boil it down:
The president of Ukraine acknowledges his country has a problem with corruption — as the Trump White House has maintained.
Zelensky has denied to the international media — once again and in no uncertain terms — that there was any quid pro quo arrangement sought by Trump to hurt a domestic political rival. No quid pro quo means no “bribery” no “extortion” no whatever-other-focus-group-word Democrats want to try to hang on the White House.
There is, in short, no case for impeachment.
Taking questions from reporters in Washington on Monday, Trump used Zelensky’s words to brand the impeachment case a “hoax.”
“The whole thing is a hoax, everybody knows it.”@realDonaldTrump says the impeachment inquiry over his Ukraine call is a “hoax.” The Ukraine president said recently that he did not discuss a quid pro quo with Trump. pic.twitter.com/geP3JlsEYn
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) December 2, 2019
Of course, Rep. Adam Schiff and the impeachment-caucus Democrats aren’t going to accept Zelensky’s word alone. If their charges of “extortion” and “bribery” against Trump were true, Zelensky and his country would have been the primary victims, but why should a niggling thing like that get in the way of a power grab that’s been in progress since before Trump even took office?
And while the kind of worthies from the State Department and National Security Council who testified before the House “impeachment inquiry” might disagree with the president on Ukraine policy, there’s only one president, and right now his name is Donald Trump.
Foreign policy decisions are his to make under the Constitution. However Democrats try to spin it, disagreeing with the foreign policy establishment isn’t an impeachable offense for any president.
Delaying needed aid to an ally might not be wise (the Obama administration was a good deal worse in that regard when it came to Ukraine), but it’s not an impeachable offense.
“Bribery” of the sort Democrats are alleging between Trump and Ukraine might be – it would be a big, big stretch logically and an even bigger stretch politically, but it might be. Still, it would require at the very least some “victim” — or at least partner — in the alleged quid pro quo to exist.
Zelensky’s statements, made repeatedly, most recently in front of four major news organizations, make that impossible — and might have just doomed Democrats’ impeachment hopes.
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