What Mr. Trump does not explain is that he and his lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, have sided with the bad guys in this struggle: the Russians, the oligarchs and the compromised officials. The false stories they tell about Joe Biden and other U.S. Democrats result from this misguided alliance.
Mr. Giuliani has a record of doing business with Ukrainians close to Russia and to former president Viktor Yanukovych, a stooge of Russian President Vladimir Putin who, after being ousted by a popular uprising in 2014, was accused of looting millions of dollars. To obtain his concocted allegations of wrongdoing, Mr. Giuliani relied on two former Ukrainian state prosecutors, both of whom were enemies of the reform movement and were accused by Western officials of blocking anti-corruption investigations.
Viktor Shokin, who was forced out of the job of general prosecutor in 2016 following an intervention by then-Vice President Joe Biden, told Mr. Giuliani that he had been investigating a Ukrainian gas company that had given a position on its board to Mr. Biden’s son Hunter. Mr. Giuliani then fed this story to right-wing media. What was left out of his account was that Mr. Biden’s intervention was part of a broad campaign by Ukrainian reformers, European governments and international financial institutions to oust Mr. Shokin, who was blocking prosecutions of corrupt officials and oligarchs.
The prosecutor who replaced Mr. Shokin, Yuriy Lutsenko, subsequently stated publicly that the gas company was not under investigation at the time of Mr. Biden’s intervention, and that there has been no wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden. But Mr. Lutsenko had his own ax to grind. He, too, was at war with liberal activists, including a nongovernment anti-corruption organization as well as Serhiy Leshchenko, a liberal legislator and journalist. They charged that this prosecutor, too, was blocking corruption probes, and they had the support of the U.S. ambassador in Kiev, Marie Yovanovitch, a career member of the Foreign Service.
Mr. Lutsenko fed Mr. Giuliani another false story: that Mr. Leshchenko, who exposed the illegal payments made by Mr. Yanukovych’s political party to Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, had done so at the instigation of the U.S. Embassy and financier George Soros, among others. He also claimed that the U.S. ambassador, Ms. Yovanovitch, had given him a list of people not to prosecute — a claim dismissed by the State Department as “an outright fabrication.”
Though Mr. Lutsenko produced no evidence, Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Trump have since flogged the claim that the leak about Mr. Manafort was a Democratic plot to undermine Mr. Trump’s campaign. Mr. Giuliani meanwhile embarked on a campaign against the reform camp. He forced newly elected president Volodymyr Zelensky to break his ties with Mr. Leshchenko, and he engineered the early recall of Ms. Yovanovitch.
Mr. Zelensky, a political neophyte, was elected on the strength of a promise to once and for all tackle the country’s corruption. One of his first acts was to request that parliament remove Mr. Lutsenko. By demanding that he investigate the “corruption” of Mr. Biden and Mr. Leshchenko, Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani of course are trying, dishonestly, to damage a potential opponent of Mr. Trump in the 2020 presidential election. But in the process, they also are advancing the agenda of those in Ukraine who seek to defend corrupt oligarchs and block genuine reform.