The President has once again launched himself into a scandal of his own making, and this situation involves an allegation from within his on Justice Department.
The whole ordeal began when news broke of a whistleblower complaint filed in the DOJ regarding a phone call Trump had with recently elected President Volodymyr Zelensky of the Ukraine. According to the Washington Post, who originally broke the story:
“Trump’s interaction with the foreign leader included a “promise” that was regarded as so troubling that it prompted an official in the U.S. intelligence community to file a formal whistleblower complaint with the inspector general for the intelligence community, said the former officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.”
As is his habit, President Trump took to Twitter to address the situation in his typically blunt fashion, saying the WaPo report was “Fake News.” His bluster was not accompanied by any data or contradictory account of his own to refute it.
What this troubling “promise” was is not yet known publicly. According to an exclusive report by the Wall Street Journal, Trump reportedly pushed Zelensky no less than eight times throughout the call to work with Rudy Giuliani, who was reportedly advocating for Ukraine to produce opposition research against Democrat 2020 frontrunner Joe Biden.
It remains unclear whether President Trump offered anything in return to Ukraine for the requested intelligence, but critics of the President were quick to speculate that Trump may have threatened to withdraw military aid to Ukraine if his requests were not met.
Such speculation carries some weight, as President Trump only recently reinstated a $250 million military aid package to Ukraine, and did so after the call in question happened. It was in this same period of time that reports emerged of possible foul play by Joe Biden, when as Vice President he may have used his sway to get his son out of legal hot water in Ukraine.
The military aid would go to Ukraine to aid them in a brutal fight against expansionist Russian forces, a defensive war in which they have been enmeshed for years at this point.
The President’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, went on CNN Thursday night to discuss the developing controversy, and was caught in a lie regarding whether he had asked President Zelensky to pursue opposition research against Biden.
Ukraine has been fighting Russian expansion for years. Some have suggested that Ukraine be allowed into NATO, as such a move would serve as a bulwark against further Russian aggression.
Also, if the speculation against Trump is true, he would have been party to a quid pro quo, which very few people would argue isn’t an impeachable offense.
The Trump administration has threatened the use of Executive privilege to shield the contents of the call in question. This move would set up an interesting standoff with Congress and their prescribed constitutional duty to investigate.
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff was quoted as saying that the situation seems to be “something more sinister” and that Congress will get to the bottom of the situation come “hell or high water.”