Media pundits and national security experts had cautioned that release of a rough transcript of the call between President Trump and Ukraine’s president was unlikely to be conclusive. If Trump was willing to give it up, it could not have been that damning, right? Wrong. Not only does it reveal the president anxious to gather dirt from a foreign leader and requesting that he contact Trump underlings, but we now know that Trump’s Justice Department blessed a plainly illegal effort to secure something of value from a foreigner.

President Trump told his Ukrainian counterpart to work with the U.S. attorney general to investigate the conduct of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and offered to meet with the foreign leader at the White House after he promised to conduct such an inquiry, according to a newly-released transcript of the call.
Those statements and others in a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky were so concerning that the intelligence community inspector general thought them a possible violation of campaign finance law. In late August, intelligence officials referred the matter to the Justice Department as a possible crime, but prosecutors concluded last week that the conduct was not criminal, according to senior Justice Department officials.

Trump might have never explicitly said in so many words that there would be no aid without dirt on Biden. But that is not required to make out a case that he improperly and unconstitutionally sought a foreign government’s help for political advantage and, in any case, he leaves little doubt that there is a connection between the two. When Trump reminds the Ukrainian leader of the importance of U.S. aid and in the same call brings up Biden’s name, it is hard to miss the implication that Trump is tying the two together.

Former prosecutor Mimi Rocah tweets:

Moreover, given the Justice Department’s explicit role in approving this eye-popping betrayal of the American electoral system, Attorney General William P. Barr must be recused from further involvement and should himself be the subject of an impeachment inquiry. Remember, Barr intentionally mischaracterized the Mueller report to protect the president; now he has been caught enabling Trump’s enlistment of a foreign power.

It appears that Trump is taking the “Emperor Has No Clothes” to a whole new level, attempting to persuade the country that such conduct, plus the enlistment of his private attorney to dig up dirt on a political opponent, is perfectly fine. It is not.

Constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe had the following reaction via email, which is worth relating at length:

The transcript is horrible for the president. Right after Zelensky says “we are almost ready to buy more Javelins from the United States for defense purposes,” Trump says “I would like you to do us a favor though” and launches into a request that Zelensky “get to the bottom of” what he called “this whole situation with Ukraine,” before jumping to an attack on the “very poor performance by a man named Robert Mueller,” which he blames on “Ukraine.”
Zelensky’s response moves quickly to the fact that one of his assistants “spoke with Mr. Giuliani just recently” and suggests that Giuliani come to Ukraine again. Trump’s response touts how “highly respected” Giuliani is and says he’ll ask Giuliani to call Zelensky “along with the Attorney General” and says that, if Zelensky “could speak to him that would be great.["] Then comes the money shot: “There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it… It sounds horrible to me.”
Zelensky promises that the next “prosecutor general will be 100% my person, my candidate” and says “he or she will look into the situation, specifically to the company that you mentioned in this issue.” Trump says he’ll have Giuliani and AG Barr call and says “I’m sure you will figure it out.” His closing remarks in that paragraph are chilling: “Your economy is going to get better and better I predict. You have a lot of assets. It’s a great country" like “It’d be a shame if anything happened to it,” though he doesn’t expressly say that. As the call ends, Trump’s exit line is that he’ll “tell Rudy and Attorney General Barr to call.”
The upshot is that the call begins with Ukraine’s president expressing the urgency of getting more United States military equipment “for defense purposes” and our president transitions immediately to saying he’d “like [Zelensky] to do us a favor though,” by which he makes clear that he is requesting help to Giuliani and Barr in going after Biden.

This, in Trump’s own words, is collusion. Trump used the power of his office, dangling U.S. aid, to cajole a foreign government into electing him. This is the smoking gun Robert S. Mueller lll did not have.

Tribe concludes: “The transcript comes closer to linking the quid to the quo than I would have anticipated, and, given that there’s no need for that kind of link in order to establish that Trump was using the power of his office to turn on or off the spigot of our military assistance to a beleaguered ally while asking that ally to help him, the Attorney General, and his private lawyer to go after his leading rival for the 2020 election.”

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) has already called for Barr’s recusal. If Barr did approve Trump’s actions on the call, he will face impeachment as well.

We should also remember that there might be even more incriminating evidence in the whistleblower’s complaint. One can hardly imagine more damning evidence, but considering what we already know, there is no reason for the House not to immediately proceed to impeachment. Trump has been caught red-handed. It is a measure of his ignorance that he did not recognize how damning this is.

If he is not impeached and removed, we do not have a democracy in which the American people are the sole arbiters of our elections.

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