The New York Times reports that Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s lawyer, is planning a trip to Kiev to urge Ukraine’s incoming president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to pursue investigations that would be useful to President Trump.
Of interest to Giuliani and President Trump are inquiries that would both discredit the special counsel’s Russia investigation and cast a negative light on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden in regards to his actions as then-Vice President.
The Trump administration is looking to show that Ukrainian officials aimed to help then-candidate Hillary Clinton by releasing information that damaged Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and forced him to resign. They are also attempting to boost interest in a claim that would damage Joe Biden, front runner in the Democratic nomination and likely opponent of President Trump in the 2020 presidential race. The Trump camp claims that Biden interfered in Ukrainian politics to help his son Hunter, who worked for a company that was under investigation by Ukraine’s top prosecutor.
In an interview with the Times, Giuliani said, “We’re not meddling in an election, we’re meddling in an investigation, which we have a right to do. There’s nothing illegal about it.” He continued, “Somebody could say it’s improper. And this isn’t foreign policy — I’m asking them to do an investigation that they’re doing already and that other people are telling them to stop. And I’m going to give them reasons why they shouldn’t stop it because that information will be very, very helpful to my client, and may turn out to be helpful to my government.”
According to the assessment of US intelligence agencies Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential race aiming to harm Hillary Clinton and help elect Donald Trump. President Trump has spent the first half of his presidency fighting allegations that he welcomed that aid. His personal attorney is now seeking the aid of another foreign nation to damage Trump’s likely opponent and bragging about it.
Giuliani told the Times that President Trump supports his efforts to seek aid from Ukraine and said, “He basically knows what I’m doing, sure, as his lawyer.”
Ukrainian officials deny improper behavior on their part which would have helped Hillary Clinton by exposing Paul Manafort’s relationship with former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. Manafort was found guilty of eight charges last year and later pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy against the United States and witness tampering.
The inquiries were opened by Yuriy Lutsenko, prosecutor who served under outgoing Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko. Zelensky, who takes office June 3, has said he wants to replace Lutsenko. Giuliani has met with Lutsenko several times to discuss the investigations and is attempting to set up a meeting with Zelensky while in Kiev.
Bloomberg’s reporting has undercut the Trump camp’s argument that Joe Biden, while Vice President, interfered in Ukrainian politics to help his son Hunter. The timeline shows that the Obama administration pushed for Ukraine to crack down on corruption in early 2016. Biden asked for the removal of Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin, who had been investigating Burisima Holdings, the gas company that Hunter Biden worked for. But, according to Bloomberg, the investigation into Burisima had been shelved by Ukrainian officials in 2014 and 2015.
Furthermore, the rationale behind Biden’s pressing for the removal of Shokin appears to have been because he was not assisting in the international investigation of Mykola Zlochevsky, owner of Burisima Holdings, on accusations of money laundering.
There is good reason for Ukraine to mollify the Trump administration. Ukraine is in a difficult position as Russia has invaded Crimea and seeks to influence Ukrainian politics. The New York Times reported last May that Ukraine halted its cooperation with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Paul Manafort out of fears of antagonizing the Trump administration.
The cases are just too sensitive for a government deeply reliant on United States financial and military aid, and keenly aware of Mr. Trump’s distaste for the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, into possible collusion between Russia and his campaign, some lawmakers say.
The decision to halt the investigations by an anticorruption prosecutor was handed down at a delicate moment for Ukraine, as the Trump administration was finalizing plans to sell the country sophisticated anti-tank missiles, called Javelins.The New York Times
Trump, along with his surrogates are pushing the Biden smear. He told Fox News, “Sure, I’m hearing it’s a major scandal, major problem. I hope for him it is fake news. I don’t think it is.”
Why It Matters
The president’s attorney seeking aid to discredit an investigation and harm his future opponent from a foreign government is not normal. It should never be accepted as normal. And we should all pray it never is.
Adam Schiff, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, may be a Democrat but he is correct. This activity may be going on in broad daylight but that does not make it something to accept as normal or right. It is immoral, unethical and unpatriotic regardless of party affiliation.