It’s not just Nancy Pelosi who is rolling the dice on impeachment in Ukraine-Gate. According to The Hill and Politico, Joe Biden will offer a conditional endorsement of impeachment at campaign event in Delaware within the hour. If Donald Trump refuses to cooperate with Congress on his July conversation with Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the front-runner will declare, then the House will have no option but to proceed with impeachment.
If being the operative word:
Former Vice President Biden is slated to announce on Tuesday that he will support impeaching President Trump if the White House does not cooperate in Congress’ whistleblower inquiry.
“He’s going to make the point that Trump’s latest abuses are on top of all of his prior abuses,” a campaign spokesman told The Hill.
“He’s going to call on Trump to comply with all of Congress’ outstanding, lawful requests for information – in the Ukraine matter, and in the other investigations — and if Trump does not comply, Congress has no choice but to impeach.”
Allahpundit mentioned this as breaking news in our previous post, but it’s worth exploring in a little more depth. Biden’s endorsement will almost certainly help Pelosi out in corralling the more reluctant members of her caucus. Other presidential candidates have already demanded Trump’s impeachment for this issue and for obstruction in Russiagate, but Biden has been more cautious. He knows he has to appeal to precincts where Hillary Clinton lost in 2016 and where his party made cautious gains in 2018. As an establishmentarian, Biden also has a temperamental bias toward resolving this in an election, especially when the Senate won’t act anyway.
In a sense, Biden’s about to transfer the risk of impeachment to himself in more ways than one. Electorally, whoever the nominee is will have to deal with an impeachment (and the lack of one too, for that matter), so this isn’t too much of a change on that point. However, the issue of Ukraine is an added risk for Biden, as his 2016 intervention in Ukraine’s internal politics while his son Hunter was making a whole lotta money in Kyiv with a corrupt oligarch still raises questions, as Time’s Ian Bremmer pointed out today:
Complicating matters for Pelosi, Biden, and Trump is what might be coming from Ukraine. Allahpundit shot me this late-breaking news from The Daily Beast reporting that the Zelenskiy government is likely to pursue the case against Burisma. The probe will be conducted on Ukraine’s terms, however:
The Daily Beast has learned from an influential member of Ukraine’s parliament, from one of the country’s prosecutors, and from a center combating corruption that the government here is likely to pursue the cases that President Donald Trump urged on President Volodymyr Zelensky in a controversial phone call last July. But not the way Trump intends, and not necessarily to the detriment of Trump challenger Joe Biden.
The investigations and possible prosecutions, if they happen, would take place in the context of a new law signed by Zelensky just before his departure for the United Nations General Assembly in New York, where he is expected to meet face to face with Trump for the first time. …
Nalyvaichenko said his country will be best served by pursuing an investigation related to Burisma’s alleged multimillion-dollar corruption deals, not because of Trump’s pressure but because Ukraine wants to know the truth about its own corruption, whether the founder of Burisma, Ukraine’s ex-minister of natural resources Mykola Zlochevsky from 2010 to 2012, had paid to quash the earlier investigations into the way he acquired gas licenses. …
Prosecutor Sergiy Gorbatyuk investigated the founder of Burisma company, Zlochevsky, for three months in 2016, until Prosecutor General Lutsenko made a decision to drop the probe. First, Lutsenko took the case away from the investigators, then closed it down illegally, Gorbatyuk told The Daily Beast on Tuesday.
“There would not have been any question [about pursuing] such cases today, if Lutsenko did not interfere in the investigations,” the prosecutor said. “I hope that with the change of management at the prosecutor general’s office there will be no illegal interferences and this case as well as other probes will be investigated strictly in accordance with the law.”
It was that 2016 interference that Trump alleges was motivated by Biden’s intervention, and which Biden’s defenders say had nothing to do with it. Lutsenko was the prosecutor appointed after Biden forced Petro Poroshenko to fire Viktor Shokin, who either was dragging his heels on all corruption probes including Burisma’s (Biden’s defense) or digging into Burisma too deeply and endangering Hunter Biden’s golden goose (Trump’s claims).
Do Ukraine’s actions help or hurt Trump? It might look like Zelenskiy buckled under pressure to restart the Burisma probe in order to attack Biden. Also, if Biden’s defenders and other analysts are correct, it might end up vindicating Biden, especially if it turns out that Shokin really was tanking the Burisma probe. However, if the new prosecutors turn up corruption involving the 2016 firing of Shokin, that’ll make Trump’s case.
All of that is down the road, however. The more immediate questions are: will Trump release the transcript of the conversation, and what does it say? Lindsey Graham thinks it’s a nothingburger, but if that’s the case, then Trump won’t release it until he can use it to embarrass Democrats. If the conversation is more ambiguous, Trump might need to pre-empt the momentum with a quick release along with explanations for whatever the transcript states. If it’s bad — as in nice foreign aid ya got there, shame if anything happened to it bad — then we’re on our way to impeachment either way and Trump has no incentive at all to release it. Best to keep everyone guessing than to hang yourself, one could argue, although it might not stay quiet for long if the intelligence community has the transcript.
Overall, though, one has to figure that Biden hopes Trump will cooperate rather than stick both of them in the middle of a messy probe on Ukraine. It’s a tossup as to which man takes more damage in that instance.