Now that it’s clear President Donald Trump did indeed try to get dirt on Joe Biden (at least eight times) or members of his family from Ukraine, leading a top U.S. intelligence official to report the phone call Trump had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which Trump reportedly made a “promise” to Zelensky, the scandal has morphed from one of espionage to one of bribery.
Former Director of the Office of Government Ethics Walter Shaub sent out this tweet late Thursday:
The President isn’t covered by many ethics laws, but he’s covered by 18 U.S.C. § 201, the anti-bribery statute. I say this for no reason in particular.
— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) September 20, 2019
The statute that Shaub cites reads in part that any public official who offers something in return for anything of value (in this case dirt on an opponent) has violated the law. And that law is violated “even when a bribe is not actually paid.”
And this bribery statute would also apply to the State Department, which reportedly arranged for Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to meet with a Ukrainian official to discuss the Biden family. Former CIA officer Ned Price notes:
As Ukraine comes into focus, the nugget buried in this story–that Trump State Department officials helped broker a back-channel meeting between Giuliani and a senior Ukrainian official to discuss political dirt–could become even more important. https://t.co/tdhZiKCCYc
— Ned Price (@nedprice) September 20, 2019
This all led former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance to weigh in on the matter:
This makes me think we may also not have looked at the (b)(3) provision enough in other contexts
— Joyce Alene (@JoyceWhiteVance) September 20, 2019
So Trump allegedly threatened to withhold American foreign and military aid to Ukraine unless the Ukrainian government gave him dirt on one of his potential 2020 Democratic opponents. Quid pro quo, only this time there’s a threat involved.
Starting to see where all of this leads? Trump knows he cannot win in 2020 and he’s afraid to ask for Russia to assist him because he knows everyone is looking in that direction. So he’s turning to Ukraine, where Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, has done business in the past. It’s a clear sign of desperation on Trump’s part, but this time his deepest fears of losing may well have led to him breaking the law in plain sight, for all to see.
As Hillary Clinton commented Friday:
The president asked a foreign power to help him win an election.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) September 20, 2019
Unlike the Russia investigation, where we had no documentary evidence that Trump had conspired with Russia, we have a phone call between Donald Trump and the president of Ukraine. It’s safe to say that some intelligence agency on this planet has a recording of that call.
We also have a witness: The U.S. intelligence agent who was on the call and grew alarmed by what he heard. And that means President Trump is cold busted. Even if he isn’t impeached (which he should be) this helps voters realize the need to get rid of the felon in the White House. And it opens him up to even more criminal charges when he leaves office.