The official House Republican impeachment report is dedicated to nitpicking the vast evidence of misconduct against President Trump, and wedging a handful of available facts into an alternative frame. President Trump, argues the report, “holds a deep-seated, genuine, and reasonable skepticism of Ukraine due to its history of pervasive corruption.” Trump wasn’t trading favorable policy for particular investigations, Republicans insist. He just wanted to be sure the country had cleaned up its act before he sent them a check.
Meanwhile, at this very moment, Rudy Giuliani is back in Ukraine, blowing that defense to smithereens.
Giuliani — who, incredibly, still represents Trump as an “attorney” despite being the reported target of an increasingly dire criminal investigation — is continuing the same work he’s been undertaking on Trump’s behalf for two years. The House Republican line is that Trump wasn’t trying to order up dirt that would discredit the Mueller investigation and the Bidens. No, he was just really serious about corruption. Yet Giuliani is meeting with various Ukrainians “as part of his investigation into the Bidens and his bid to undercut the credibility of the impeachment investigation.”
This fact isn’t being dug up by hostile reporters against Giuliani’s wishes. He is literally broadcasting it. Last night he tweeted, “The conversation about corruption in Ukraine was based on compelling evidence of criminal conduct by then VP Biden, in 2016, that has not been resolved and until it is will be a major obstacle to the US assisting Ukraine with its anti-corruption reforms.”
Giuliani is saying out loud that corruption (1) specifically means Joe Biden, and (2) Ukraine must satisfy Giuliani and Trump by investigating it in order to get “assistance” from the United States. He is literally tweeting out the quid pro quo.
And lest there be any ambiguity as to whether Giuliani is speaking on Trump’s behalf, he has dispelled it. Giuliani called his trip “work being done by a lawyer defending his client” to the Daily Beast, and tells the right-wing news network OANN: “The president of the United States, I can tell you this, is asking for this.”
The Republican argument insists that Trump held up military aid and a presidential meeting in order to vouchsafe that the new Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, was really serious about ending corruption. “The Ukrainian government considered issuing a public anti-corruption statement to convey that President Zelensky was ‘serious and different’ from previous Ukrainian regimes,” argues the report. And once Trump was assured Zelensky really had broken from Ukraine’s corrupt old ways, he released the military aid.
So … since Ukraine apparently satisfied Trump’s concerns, why is Rudy there at all now?
Indeed, at this moment, Giuliani is palling around with some of the most corrupt Ukrainians from the old regime. Giuliani held a confab yesterday with pro-Russian Ukrainian MP Andriy Derkach, a former member of the Party of Regions, which was deposed in a popular uprising against its extravagant corruption:
Giuliani is also meeting with Kostyantyn Kulyk, Yuriy Lutsenko, and Viktor Shokin, three notoriously corrupt Ukrainian officials.
It’s long been perfectly obvious that Trump has not only no interest in reducing Ukrainian corruption, but an active interest in reviving it. Still, Giuliani seems intent on snatching away whatever fig leaf Trump’s allies have tried to maintain. That Zelensky is serious and different from previous regimes is exactly what Trump and Giuliani are afraid of.
And finally, the House Republican report takes great pains to insist Giuliani’s contacts with Ukraine were specifically requested by the latter, not foisted upon it. “President Zelensky did not express any concern about Mayor Giuliani’s engagement — in fact, President Zelensky, not President Trump, first referenced Mayor Giuliani in the conversation,” argues the report, “Evidence shows that the Ukrainian government, and specifically Zelensky adviser Andrey Yermak, initiated contact with Mayor Giuliani — and not the other way around.” Therefore, Republicans suggest, Giuliani (and his shady Russian partners, Parnas and Fruman) provided a welcome service to Zelensky, rather than shaking him down for political favors.
And yet here we have the Ukrainian government openly saying they do not want Giuliani in their country. “An official in Zelensky’s office said the president was caught off guard by Giuliani’s arrival, learning about it from the media,” reports BuzzFeed, “The official emphasized that there are ‘no official meetings’ planned with him.”
The headline on ABC’s report on the trip reads, “Giuliani in Ukraine with conservative news outlet in effort to discredit impeachment probe.” The only impeachment report Giuliani is discrediting is the Republican one. He’s vindicating the Democratic impeachment report.
Trump has openly said he has an “absolute right” to demand any country investigate anybody he doesn’t like for any reason of his choosing. He’s not even bothering to pause briefly for impeachment to end before he resumes. If Republicans allow him to stay in office, he will simply keep doing the same thing over and over, and they will have given him permission to do so.