Ukraine call: Quid pro quo or not, what Donald Trump did was wrong

USA Today Opinions 1 month ago

For the slender segment of the metro Phoenix electorate that is not immovably entrenched in the pro-Trump or anti-Trump camps, here are some observations:

The Republican defense of Donald Trump’s phone call, in which he asked Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden and his son, has become: There was no quid pro quo. Specifically, Trump didn’t explicitly make military aid to Ukraine contingent on the investigation taking place.

Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs — who has become one of Trump’s staunchest, and most effective, defenders — makes the case for the absence of any quid pro quo in a recent column for the American Greatness website.

Quid pro quo? That misses the larger point

Now, impeachment-minded Democrats have certainly asserted that there was a quid pro quo, explicit or implied. But this quid-pro-quo dispute misses the larger, and more important, point: What Trump did was wrong, and an abuse of his power as president, irrespective of whether there was a quid pro quo.

Trump did not ask that Ukraine get tougher on corruption in general. He asked that a specific investigation be conducted into Joe Biden, a political rival, and his son.

This wasn’t a request to advance the foreign policy objectives of the United States. It was to improve Trump’s odds of winning re-election in 2020.

Any doubt about that was removed by his request that Ukraine work with Rudy Giuliani in the investigation of the Bidens. Giuliani isn’t a foreign policy official representing the U.S. government. He is Trump’s personal lawyer. He was representing Trump the candidate, not Trump the president.

It is inappropriate, and an abuse of power, for a president to ask a foreign government specifically to investigate a political rival. That is what Trump asked of Zelensky privately. And he compounded it by making a similar request to China publicly.

Either way, it's an abuse of power

Such a request is inappropriate, and an abuse of power, irrespective of whether there is a quid pro quo expressly or implicitly involved. Or whether the foreign government feels pressure to conduct the investigation. Or whether the foreign government would have conducted the investigation anyway.

Now, the abuse is even greater if there was a quid pro quo, and Congress should be investigating the extent to which there was one.

But it might be looking in the wrong place regarding the military aid, although acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney acknowledged that it was held up, in part, over Ukrainian cooperation in a separate probe into the 2016 election. He later backtracked. 

The quo for the Biden investigation may have been a meeting between Zelensky and Trump, which the Ukrainians wanted even more than the aid, as a signal that the U.S. still stood behind Ukraine and its new, inexperienced president.

State Department officials working on setting up such a meeting certainly believed that there was a connection. They drafted a statement announcing both a meeting and a Ukrainian investigation into Burisma Holdings, the energy company on whose board Biden’s son, Hunter, served. The Ukrainian government wisely rejected it.

But quid pro quo or no quid pro quo, what Trump did was wrong and an abuse of his position as president.

What the Bidens did was inappropriate

On the other hand, Democratic efforts to whitewash what the Bidens did in Ukraine also misses an important point.

The whitewash, repeated frequently in the traditional media, takes this kind of formulation: There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either of the Bidens.

It would be accurate to say that there has been no evidence of criminal violations of either U.S. or Ukrainian law by the Bidens. But that doesn’t mean that what occurred wasn’t wrong and inappropriate.

Hunter Biden was receiving, according to the Wall Street Journal, $50,000 a month to serve on the board of Burisma, at the time that his father was serving as the Obama administration’s point man for Ukraine. That included pressuring Ukraine to get tougher on corruption generally.

While it is unclear the extent to which Burisma was under investigation, there’s no question that its principal, Mykola Zlochevsky, was, from a stint in which he held government office.

In that part of the world, having a Biden on the board conveyed the message of having sway with the Obama administration. That could influence events, including the course of investigations, without either Biden doing anything directly to cause it.

Trump’s claims of corruption are irresponsible. But it was an unseemly situation that compromised the effectiveness of U.S. policy in the country.

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Read also:
NBC News › Politics › 1 week ago
Taylor describes quid pro quo despite denials of a quid pro quo.
Newsweek › 1 week ago
"There was no quid, and there was no quo," Washington Times editor Charles Hurt told Fox & Friends' Steve Doocy. "When there's no quid or pro, you can't keep saying 'quid pro quo,' even though I don't even know what that means, really."
Breitbart › Politics › 0 month ago
NYT confirmed that there could be no quid pro quo because Ukraine did not know the United States had delayed the release of aid.
CNN › Politics › 1 month ago
"Quid pro quo," the term you can't escape (let alone pronounce). CNN's Jeanne Moos reports on mangling "quid pro quo."
Telegraph › Politics › 3 weeks ago
A diplomat at the centre of the Donald Trump impeachment inquiry did say there was a "quid pro quo" between the US president and Ukraine, according to his lawyer.
Breitbart › Politics › 2 weeks ago
CLAIM: Sondland admitted a Ukraine quid pro quo. VERDICT: False. He "presumed" there was one -- after media reported one that did not exist.
Telegraph › Politics › 2 weeks ago
A key witness in the Donald Trump impeachment inquiry has reversed his evidence, indicating he did believe there was a quid pro quo in which US military aid would be denied to Ukraine unless it publicly launched a corruption investigation into Joe...
Raw Story › 2 weeks ago
President Donald Trump tried to get his devoted Attorney General Bill Barr to make an announcement that the Commander-in-Chief broke no laws when he extorted the president of Ukraine in a quid pro quo scheme to further his political career. Trump...
Newsweek › Politics › 2 weeks ago
On Sunday the president claimed that even if he did push the Ukrainian president for a quid pro quo, it would not be an impeachable offense.
Breitbart › Politics › 2 weeks ago
Bill Taylor told impeachment investigators Ukraine did not know the U.S. had temporarily frozen aid on July 25, making quid pro quo impossible
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