It has not been officially confirmed, but it appears that we already know the rough details of what President Trump promised a foreign leader that so alarmed an intelligence official that it elicited a whistleblower complaint that the Director of National Intelligence is now refusing to release to Congress. There’s a very good reason the acting DNI doesn’t want to release it to Congress: It implicates Donald Trump in a slam-dunk impeachable offense.
Late yesterday, we learned that the foreign leader to whom Donald Trump made a promise was the Ukrainian President, and by day’s end, Rudy Giuliani was on CNN ranting and raving while defending Trump for apparently making $250 million in foreign aid to the Ukraine contingent upon the newly elected Ukraine President investigating Joe and Hunter Biden. Basically, it sounds like Trump told the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, that he wouldn’t release aid to him unless he dirtied up Joe Biden, Trump’s potential opponent in the 2020 election.
On Chris Cuomo’s show, Rudy denied this allegation before contradicting himself and admitting it. From The Washington Post:
WATCH: Rudy Giuliani denies that he asked Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, before admitting to Chris Cuomo seconds later: "Of course I did!" pic.twitter.com/flcierpKGu— Axios (@axios) September 20, 2019
Giuliani then appeared to contradict himself over whether he asked Ukraine officials to specifically investigate the former vice president, who is a top-polling 2020 Democratic candidate for president.
“No, actually I didn’t. I asked Ukraine to investigate the allegations that there was interference in the election of 2016 by the Ukrainians for the benefit of Hillary Clinton,” Giuliani said.
“You never asked anything about Hunter Biden? You never asked anything about Joe Biden and the prosecutor?” Cuomo asked again.
Giuliani said the “only thing” he asked was how the prosecutor got dismissed.
“So you did ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden,” Cuomo said.
“Of course I did,” Giuliani said.
“You just said you didn’t!” Cuomo said.
Meanwhile, Rudy is also planting the “whataboutism” seed, suggesting that what Trump (allegedly) did is no different than what Biden did in 2016, when Biden made aid to Ukraine contingent upon Ukraine firing a corrupt prosecutor who was investigating a natural gas company where Biden’s son Hunter was on the board. The difference is, a whole bunch of world leaders wanted that prosecutor fired because he was corrupt — in fact, the entire country was corrupt as hell — and it had nothing to do with personal political gain. Just to put a fine 2019 point on all of this: The President of Ukraine was elected into office to clean up the rampant corruption in that country and also that newly elected President, Volodymyr Zelensky, won the election in part based on popularity he gained by playing a President on a television comedy. What a year.
In any respect, Giuliani lost his shit last night reminiscent of Colonel Jessup in A Few Good Men.
Rudy’s performance on @CNN just now was a level of pants-sh*tting panic rarely seen on national television.— Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) September 20, 2019
No. I think he knows how bad this is and he is crapping his pants and desperately trying to plant an alternate conspiracy theory as a deflection.— Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) September 20, 2019
“I want the truth!”— Soledad O'Brien (@soledadobrien) September 20, 2019
“Son, you can’t handle the truth!”
“Did you order the Code Red?”
“You’re goddamn right I did!” https://t.co/6BPVFACGwb
But the thing is, what the whistleblower was complaining about is not exactly a huge secret. Senator Chris Murphy (and others) knew pretty much what was going on weeks ago:
A few weeks ago in Ukraine, I met w President Zelensky and we discussed the surprise cut off of aid and the inappropriate demands the Trump campaign was making of him. The obvious question everyone in Kiev was asking was - were the two things connected? https://t.co/8yXFiFRlQm— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) September 20, 2019
Zelensky did not explicitly connect the two in our meeting, but he was VERY concerned about the cut off of aid, and VERY aware of the conversations that Rudy Giuliani was having with his team. I told him it was best to ignore requests from Trump’s campaign operatives. He agreed.— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) September 20, 2019
I don’t know what is in the whistleblower complaint, but it was clear to me that Ukraine officials were worried about the consequences of ignoring Giuliani’s demands. And of course they were. That’s why presidents shouldn’t have their campaigns talking to foreign leaders.— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) September 20, 2019
This is most certainly an impeachable offense, but in the United States of America in 2019, just because the President is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors doesn’t actually mean that he’ll be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors because Mitch McConnell is still the leader of the Senate and Fox News still controls the minds of 40 percent of the American people. But Jesus, this is bad.
We have seen some uniquely bizarre days since January 20, 2017. No need to rehash the highlights. Many ongoing matters closing in on the President but the last 24 hours seem different. This whistleblower story seems utterly explosive. Feels like early summer 1974 a bit tonight.— Spiro Agnew’s Ghost (@SpiroAgnewGhost) September 20, 2019
If it’s Ukraine, then this looks very much like a promise of US arms or other aid in return for dirt on a political opponent’s family (Biden’s son Hunter) — both a violation of federal campaign law and bribery, an explicitly impeachable offense. Smoking howitzer, anyone? https://t.co/sx4IHrBJaB— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) September 20, 2019
If Trump was trying to abuse his power of the presidency to solicit foreign help for his campaign, it’s hard to imagine a more impeachable offense. https://t.co/zPLffDUpmr— Ben Rhodes (@brhodes) September 20, 2019
Ok, caught up on whistleblower stuff. Three things are true:— Seth Mandel (@SethAMandel) September 20, 2019
1. If he traded military aid to a country (occupied by Russia btw) in exchange for investigation into Biden, he's done.
2. Don't jump to conclusions, because
3. If it's true he'll likely admit it anyway: he's Trump.
And that last point is important because of course after directing his acting DNI to cover up the whistleblower complaint, Trump will eventually admit to it and argue that it was totally fine. Rudy did as much in this tweet after his appearance on CNN:
Save this tweet. It seems important. https://t.co/InlAZhcYCH— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) September 20, 2019
I doubt that this is a realistic possibility, but holy sh*t:
The only way it could get more lit is if Bolton is the whistleblower— Allahpundit (@allahpundit) September 20, 2019
It’s going to be an interesting few days, but we’ve seen how this has played out numerous times over the course of Trump’s presidency. He covers up and denies, and once he’s dead to rights, he admits it and then suggests that something Obama or Hillary did was just as bad, then Fox News normalizes it, and the Republican Congress runs away from reporters as fast as they can until the whole thing blows over because Trump has made another mess for himself that the media turns its attention toward. It’s too early to say if it will be any different this time, but, there is no reason in hell — if all of this is true — that the Democrats in the House should not immediately file Articles of Impeachment. If the Republican Senate wants to let Trump off for what is clearly a crime worthy of impeachment, that’s on them.