Trump Enabler Floats the Idea That Abuse of Power Is Not a Crime

For rational people, Ambassador William Taylor’s opening statement in testimony before the House Intelligence Committee is a slam dunk when it comes to proving that the scheme cooked up by Trump and Giuliani to pressure Ukraine into investigating the president’s political opponents contained a quid pro quo. So when I read about it, I wondered how Trump and his enablers would respond.

It didn’t take long to find out. The White House issued a statement saying that it was part of a “coordinated smear campaign from far-left lawmakers and radical unelected bureaucrats waging war on the Constitution.” They would have us believe that Taylor is one of those “radical unelected bureaucrats.” But his resume demonstrates that he is a West Point grad who served in the 101st Airborne Division during the Vietnam War and has a distinguished career of serving as a diplomat. There is also the fact that he was chosen to serve in Ukraine by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

On Tuesday night, Representative John Ratcliffe (R-TX), who serves on the House Intelligence Committee, went on Laura Ingraham’s show to spin out the next defense, which he apparently repeated on Fox and Friends the next morning. That’s where Trump picked it up.

Personally, I find it hard to imagine how Ukrainians could be unaware that military aid was being withheld. Simple logic tells you that the check didn’t come in the mail. But not long after Trump sent that tweet, the New York Times reported this.

[W]ord of the aid freeze had gotten to high-level Ukrainian officials by the first week in August, according to interviews and documents obtained by The New York Times.

The problem was not a bureaucratic glitch, the Ukrainians were told then. To address it, they were advised, they should reach out to Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, according to the interviews and records.

Just to be clear, the telephone call between Trump and President Zelensky took place on September 24th. Ukrainian officials became aware that U.S. aid had been frozen by the first week in August. So when Trump asked for a couple of “favors,” the quo for that quid was pretty clear.

Finally, Trump was interviewed by Sean Hannity on Tuesday. He offered another defense we’ve heard pretty regularly during this whole affair.

“You hear about Ukraine. I hear Clinton was involved; I hear somebody who wrote the fake dossier was out of Ukraine. I would like the Attorney General to find out what’s going on. We’re investigating corruption. I have an obligation to do that, we have an obligation to investigate corruption. That’s what it was, corruption,” he added.

The president would have us believe that his concern wasn’t about digging up dirt on his political opponents, but to carry out his job as president by investigating corruption. But if he had any interest in that, he wouldn’t also be doing this.

The Trump administration has sought repeatedly to cut foreign aid programs tasked with combating corruption in Ukraine and elsewhere overseas, White House budget documents show, despite recent claims from President Trump and his administration that they have been singularly concerned with fighting corruption in Ukraine.

What we see is that every defense floated by Trump and his enablers has been shot down almost as fast as they’ve been thrown up. I suspect that will continue to happen in an attempt to find something that sticks. But here’s the problem with that strategy: they’ve already demonstrated that their only hope is to float lies, while the evidence of a serious abuse of power continues to mount.

Perhaps that is why former acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker was sent out last night to float the most absurd defense of all. He told Laura Ingraham that, in the Constitution, “abuse of power is not a crime.” Frankly, that one leaves me speechless. But if that’s all they’ve got, the ball game is already over.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.