The second piece of Trump’s “no corrupt intent” argument is that even if he conditioned release of the aid on an announcement of an investigation of the Bidens, he did so out of legitimate anti-corruption concerns, not for assistance in the 2020 election. Therefore, the argument goes, this particular quid pro quo was the acceptable kind, neither corrupt nor impeachable.
This is why dirtying up the Bidens is a centerpiece of Trump’s defense. This is why Trump’s defenders are complaining that the Bidens weren’t called as witnesses by the House Intelligence Committee. If congressional Republicans can make the Bidens look bad enough, people might believe that Trump’s intent in asking Ukraine to investigate them was justified, not a corrupt abuse of power.
But this argument is bogus in all sorts of ways. Are we really supposed to believe that Trump, who famously tolerates and even admires some of the most corrupt leaders in the world, suddenly got religion on corruption just in time to demand an investigation of the Bidens?
Or that it’s a coincidence that the only two corruption investigations Trump has ever demanded from a foreign country—a debunked conspiracy theory about Ukrainian interference on behalf of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election and an investigation of the Bidens—happen to correspond exactly to the red meat Trump dishes out at his campaign rallies?