That echoed a point made by Pamela Karlan, one of the constitutional scholars called by Democrats last week, who said: “When President Trump invited — indeed, demanded — foreign involvement in our upcoming election, he struck at the very heart of what makes this country the ‘republic’ to which we pledge allegiance."
This most certainly is ongoing. Even as impeachment hearings were underway, Trump’s “lawyer” Rudolph W. Giuliani traveled to Ukraine in yet another attempt to manufacture dirt on Joe Biden.
This is one of the most remarkable things about this whole scandal: Trump is like a bank robber who says on the witness stand, “You can’t touch me for robbing that bank, and by the way, once I get acquitted, you know what I’m going to do? Go rob some more banks.”
An ordinary president in Trump’s position might decide that, with impeachment looming and extra scrutiny on the possibility of getting foreign assistance in 2020, they should be extra careful to avoid anything like what got them in so much trouble the first time around. But getting caught will not deter him, any more than it did when he got caught cheating on his wives or cheating on his taxes.
Which is why it’s so important to understand that despite the revelation of his effort to coerce Ukraine to aid his reelection campaign, despite how his vulgar corruption has been exposed, and despite his now-inevitable impeachment, in 2020 Trump will attempt to once again get foreign help to win an election campaign. It is a certainty.
It’s plainly obvious that Trump hasn’t given up on the idea that Ukraine will supply him with ammunition against Biden. Even after he got caught demanding an investigation of Biden on his call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump reiterated to reporters that Ukraine “should investigate the Bidens.”
But we have to widen our view beyond Ukraine, which is almost certainly not going to give Trump what he’s after. It never wanted to in the first place, as the testimony of numerous diplomats and administration officials revealed. And now, with the scandal so public, not only is it better able to resist him, but anything it did give him would be treated very differently — not as evidence of wrongdoing on Biden’s part, but as evidence that it had knuckled under to Trump’s pressure.
But is that going to stop Trump? Not on your life. At some point he’ll realize that Ukraine can’t give him what he wants, and he’ll begin looking elsewhere (if he hasn’t already). Don’t forget that he has never allowed that it would be improper of him to seek or accept aid from a foreign government for his reelection. Never.
Indeed, just six months ago, while his pressure campaign on Ukraine was already in progress, Trump was asked what he would do if a foreign government offered information on his opponent. He responded: “I think I’d take it.”
As shocking as it was that he’d say so publicly, it’s actually vital to the enterprise that he make his views on this matter known to the world. If some foreign government has any doubt that an attempt to aid his campaign — say, North Korea hacking Democrats and sending Trump what they found — would be welcomed and rewarded, he has told them that it would.
Some countries might watch the impeachment inquiry and decide it isn’t worth the heightened risk of exposure to help Trump’s 2020 campaign. Others, like China, may see themselves as powerful enough not to worry about blowback; they just have to decide if they’d prefer that Trump be reelected (and yes, he has specifically asked for China’s help).
And then there’s Russia, which probably sees no risk at all. Even if its efforts are exposed in detail, it would probably only serve the goal of destabilizing the American political system. Which is why it never stopped its disinformation campaign; the only question is how exactly it will try to help Trump.
Some have raised the concern that once the Senate acquits Trump, he will feel emboldened to repeat his misdeeds. That is entirely possible, but Democrats could shut down impeachment tomorrow and the same thing would happen. Either way, he will seek foreign help because he is utterly amoral, because he believes that “I have the right to do whatever I want as president,” and because he is certain that even if he does get caught it won’t matter.
Trump’s entire life is a story about escaping accountability, about using his money, influence and fame — not to mention the power of sheer brazenness — to move through the world unconstrained by rules, norms and laws. He always believed he was above the law because in practical terms, he was.
Becoming president only deepened that conviction. And every country in the world that thinks it would be to its advantage to see him gain another term knows that if it can find a way to heed his call to destroy his opponents and assist his reelection, he’s eager for the help.