WASHINGTON — The rough transcription of that July 25 phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy confirms that Trump is at it again. He has invited another a foreign power to meddle in another American election, this time in his bid for a second term in 2020.
The caper worked wonderfully for him in his 2016 election campaign, when Trump openly called on his Russian buddy Vladimir Putin to get and give him political dirt on Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. Now there’s evidence he dusted off a similar scheme and leaned on Zelenskiy to play along.
That at least is the strong implication of the rough transcript of their chat cobbled together by White House aides who are said to have monitored it in the Situation Room.
Working off a premise that former Vice President Joe Biden was the frontrunner to be Trump’s Democratic challenger in 2020 and that this younger son Hunter had been a paid board member of a giant Ukrainian energy company, Trump urged Zelenskiy to investigate Biden and son, obviously in hope of repeating his successful reach-out to Putin years earlier.
“There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution (of Ukrainian corruption) and a lot of people want to find out about that,” Trump said according to the transcript, “so that whatever you can do with the (U.S.) attorney general would be great. Biden went around that he stopped the prosecution, so if you can look into it.”
Trump also blocked release of an unidentified government whistleblower’s “urgent” appeal to the Justice Department to a make public what he claimed was a violation of his right to be heard, which House Democrats are seeking to obtain.
Furthermore, the White House is said to have locked all data on the Ukrainian affair in a more secure internal computer system, thwarting new congressional Democratic committee efforts to build a case for abuse of presidential power against Trump.
In any event, this weak Trump effort to bar the door to House Democrats to pursue impeachment was suddenly overwhelmed by the largely unanticipated announcement by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that she was abandoning her resistance to that step, support for which has surged among her House flock.
She put her decision in the starkest of terms: “The actions of the Trump presidency have revealed the dishonorable fact of the president’s betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of our elections.”
For the moment, Pelosi put aside her realistic political awareness that as long as the Senate remains in Republican majority control, impeachment of Trump by the House majority still faces likely Senate acquittal, as happened in the two prior House convictions of Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton.
In 1974, President Richard Nixon faced certain conviction in the Senate in the wake of the Watergate scandal and, when so informed by his closest congressional friends, resigned. Senate conviction of Trump right now would likely come only in a total collapse of his fierce and loyal political base.
Pelosi still has her own goal of retaining the House Speakership in the Trump era when her beloved “People’s House” seems in peril from a president determined to make the executive the controlling branch at the expense of the legislative, if only out of personal hubris.