The next episode in this fiasco will be Trump dialing up world leaders and asking them to investigate Romney for “corruption.”
By all appearances, the President’s brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and to Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is wrong and appalling.
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) October 4, 2019
Here’s a similar sentiment expressed today by another well-known RINO. Guess who.
Donald Trump should not have been on the phone with a foreign head of state encouraging another country to investigate his political opponent, Joe Biden. Some Republicans are trying, but there’s no way to spin this as a good idea. Like a lot of things Trump does, it was pretty over-the-top. Our leaders’ official actions should not be about politics. Those two things need to remain separate. Once those in control of our government use it to advance their political goals, we become just another of the world’s many corrupt countries. America is better than that. That’s also why it’s good that there are finally investigations looking into the extent to which the Obama FBI may have used our government — and even foreign governments — to try to crush Trump in the last election.
That’s Tucker Carlson, writing today with Neil Patel at the Daily Caller. Trump is right — Fox News really isn’t on the team anymore!
It’ll be lost amid all the huffing and puffing at Romney about “treason” and “coups,” etc, that he raises a good question in his tweets, one which could help quiet criticism of Trump if the correct answer is provided by the White House. *Is* Joe Biden the “only American citizen” whom Trump has asked about in connection with corruption during his chats with foreign leaders? Trump keeps insisting that he’s interested in corruption by U.S. officials in the abstract, not in damaging Joe Biden specifically. There’s reason to doubt that. Like I said yesterday, his interest in Biden seems to have blossomed only this year, with Grandpa Joe finally poised to enter the Democratic race. The Republican House could have investigated Biden two years ago if “corruption” was a priority for Trump. Likewise, there are other government officials who have been accused of benefiting from their relationships with foreigners, e.g., Mitch McConnell and Elaine Chao. Has Trump ever expressed any interest in seeing them investigated?
The more evidence he can produce that he’s nudged foreign leaders about investigating U.S. officials besides Biden, the stronger his case is that he’s telling the truth. This isn’t about Biden specifically, this is about draining the swamp — the whole swamp, of which Biden is but one part. Trump was asked about that in a short press conference today. Can he think of any cases where he asked a head of state for help investigating a former official who doesn’t just so happen to be the Democratic frontrunner for president? Answer:
WATCH: @EamonJavers: "Have you asked foreign leaders for any corruption investigations that don't involve your political opponents?"
President Trump: “You know, we would have to look" pic.twitter.com/H6AUH8b4qX
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) October 4, 2019
He can’t think of any offhand. Has he ever talked at length in a *speech* about corruption abroad, which would lend a little credence to the idea that he was concerned about Ukraine’s justice system? That would be unlike him, since normally he displays no moral qualms about transacting with cretins like Putin, Duterte, and so on. But maybe there’s a speech somewhere in which he talked at length about foreign corruption. Is there?
Please send me the links of Trump speeches expressing concern about corruption in Ukraine (or any other country for that matter). Singling out one individual (who just happens to be the son of your electoral opponent) is not a campaign or policy against corruption. https://t.co/Bi9SwFKYrE
— Michael McFaul (@McFaul) October 4, 2019
If there is, the White House should be circulating the text to support their claim that none of this is about Biden specifically. One more question, per Republican consultant Stuart Stevens: If Republicans in Congress intend to go along with this idea that this is a story about corruption generally, not the Bidens in particular, where’s the evidence of their concern that the Trump family is benefiting from its own foreign relationships while dad is in office?
Hugh, if there was genuine concern about children of US politicians exploiting relationships for financial gain, Republicans would be demanding investigations into ongoing deals with Trump kids. That’s current & expanding. Their silence reveals Biden hysteria as pure politics. https://t.co/YjCJIcBvEJ
— stuart stevens (@stuartpstevens) October 4, 2019
The good news for the White House today is that there is a report floating around of Trump having mentioned an American citizen other than Biden in a phone call with Xi Jinping back in June. The bad news is … it’s another Democratic candidate:
During a phone call with Xi on June 18, Trump raised Biden’s political prospects as well as those of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who by then had started rising in the polls, according to two people familiar with the discussion. In that call, Trump also told Xi he would remain quiet on Hong Kong protests as trade talks progressed.
The White House record of that call was later stored in the highly secured electronic system used to house a now-infamous phone call with Ukraine’s President and which helped spark a whistleblower complaint that’s led Democrats to open an impeachment inquiry into Trump.
That’s awfully vague. What was the context for Trump bringing up Biden and Warren in a call with China’s supreme leader, particularly now that we know Trump is eager to see China investigate the Bidens for corruption? It could be they were just making chitchat about the coming presidential race; certainly there are world leaders (like Boris Johnson) whom you can imagine bantering with Trump in friendly conversation and the election coming up in passing. Xi Jinping does … not seem like one of those leaders, particularly while there’s a trade war raging between the two countries. CNN wants us to infer that a sinister quid pro quo was on the table in this case too, with Trump suggesting that he’d keep his mouth shut about Hong Kong if Xi sniffed around for dirt on Biden and Warren. Warren had this to say about it:
Trump can say what he wants about me, but it's outrageous that any president would sell out the people of Hong Kong behind closed doors.
The public must see the transcript of Trump's call with Xi. And we need a leader who will stand up for our values.
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) October 3, 2019
But all it is is an inference. There’s no direct claim by CNN of a quid pro quo between Trump and Xi.
Although there is this from later in the CNN story:
One Trump ally outside the White House described receiving a message [yesterday] from Chinese government officials asking if Trump was serious when he suggested China open an investigation into Biden. The response: investigating corruption is an easy way to earn goodwill with Trump.
We’re left to wonder if Trump is telling the truth when he claims he never intended a quid pro quo with Ukraine — and China — or if the quid pro quo offers are farmed out to cronies like Giuliani and the unnamed “Trump ally” in the CNN piece, so that Trump can keep his fingerprints off of them.
In lieu of an exit question, here’s a little something from a guy who knows exactly how to get under Trump’s skin. I doubt there’d be more than two or three Republican senators willing to vote to remove Trump at this point, although Ben Sasse did sound annoyed about Trump’s appeal to China yesterday to investigate the Bidens: “Hold up: Americans don’t look to Chinese commies for the truth. If the Biden kid broke laws by selling his name to Beijing, that’s a matter for American courts, not communist tyrants running torture camps.” The only suspense left in this process is whether the Senate will get to 51 votes to remove, which won’t be nearly enough to actually end Trump’s presidency but will hand Democrats a 2020 talking point that majorities in *both* chambers of Congress think the president should go. We’ll see.