You Scratch My Back...

I ran into a friend of mine and the topic of the President’s alleged offer to release military aid to the Ukraine in exchange for information about Joe Biden, and/or his son, entered the conversation. It appears to be the thrust of the present efforts toward impeachment.  

As to whether it is an impeachable offense, that is something the Congress will have to charge and the Senate, ultimately, will have to resolve. In any event, it can’t be resolved within the editorial page of the Jackson Times-Voice.

Then my friend said, “…besides, I have looked at the transcript of the conversation which was declassified and released and Trump never expressly said I will release military aid to the Ukraine in exchange for its digging up dirt on one of the Bidens.” While I agree the transcript is devoid of those exact words, was it an inference Trump intended President Zelenskyy draw? Let’s take a closer look at that issue.
 
Now, we don’t have the space in our newspaper to print the entire transcript of the conversation as it was declassified and released to the public. It can be accessed through the internet by anyone desiring to read and review it. 
 
I concede you may read it and come to a completely different opinion than I. However, I am the Editor of this newspaper and it is standard practice in the newspaper industry for the Editor of a paper to give his or her opinion on topical issues in an editorial. By definition, that is exactly what an editorial is, and has always been, since the dawn of the conveyance of the printed word.
 
Many of you aren’t going to like my impressions of the conversation and what was meant to be the inference drawn or what the President may or may not have been implying. Many of you will say I am quoting the conversation out of context
 
To make up your own mind about the proper inference to be drawn, I encourage each of you to read the conversation for yourself. As for what the President was attempting to or actually implying, that is something only he may answer definitively. 
 
In the transcript, and during the phone call, the President exchanges pleasantries and discusses President Zelenskyy’s performance leading Ukraine. After the warm-up, Trump says, verbatim, “…the United States has been very very good to Ukraine. I wouldn't say that it's reciprocal necessarily because things are happening that are not good but the United States has been very very good to Ukraine…” Emphasis Added. 
 
Now what are those things the President is implying aren’t good which comprise the Ukraine’s failing to treat the US as well as the US has treated the Ukraine in Trump’s opinion? The President of the Ukraine didn’t voice the least bit of curiosity about what matters were being referenced. Zelenskyy seemed aware of exactly how the Ukraine has failed to reciprocate the US’s fine treatment. 
 
After saying this, the President of the Ukraine, Zelenskyy, says, among the other comments, “…I would also like to thank you for your great support in the area of defense. We are ready to continue to cooperate for the next steps specifically we are almost ready to buy more Javelins from the United States for defense purposes.” 
 
Now there is some context here which is important which may (or may not) shed light on the import of Zelenskyy referencing specifically the great support in the area of defense. The Washington Post reported, on or about September 23, 2019, in an article written by Karoun Demirjian, Josh Dawdey, Ellen Nakashima, and Carol Leonnig, that Trump had told his Chief of Staff to hold back from dispensing to Ukraine military aid totaling some $400 million approximately one week prior to the phone call. 
 
This money had been approved by the US Congress, and earmarked for Ukraine, and the President was specifically asked about withholding it, and candidly admitted it, in a press conference. The Post article links you to the press conference.
 
Right off the bat, there is a problem with what the President requested of his Chief of Staff. There is an immediate “red flag” waved here. Constitutionally, the President had no right to do it. 
 
Congress—and in particular, the House of Representatives—is invested with the “power of the purse,” the ability to tax and spend public money for the national government. It has always been that way owing to the principle the representatives are, essentially, “the people” and “the people” ought to hold the purse-strings to the federal government’s money. 
 
So was the President implying, investigate my political opponent and give us dirt on either his son or him and you will get the aid (Congress has already approved you getting)? If the President of the Ukraine were to draw such an inference, would that inference be a fair and reasonable one? 
 
Immediately after the exchange where the President reminds President Zelenskyy of America’s generosity toward his country, and Zelenskyy specifically mentions America’s great support of Ukraine’s defense, Trump then says “I would like for you to do us a favor…” The favor he craves appears to be two-fold. 
 
One, there is a server which our President believes contains missing emails which Trump also believes Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian government to possess. Trump specifically requests Ukraine do “[w]hatever [it] can do…” to find it and give it over to him. Trump indicates it is “…very important.”
 
Secondly, Trump specifically references his belief a former prosecutor was shut down by Joe Biden from properly investigating Biden’s son. Trump tells Zelenskyy he will have the United States Attorney General contact him or his people to “…get to the bottom of it…” and reminds Zelenskyy that “…[w]hatever you can do, it’s very important that you do it, if that’s possible.” 
 
Trump specifically mentions “…[t]here’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…”
 
So America, here we are. We have money appropriated by the US Congress to aid Ukraine admittedly withheld, per Trump’s admission and instruction to his Chief of Staff. We have a phone call where aid and, specifically, military aid and its continued provision appears to be fairly “danced all around,” in our view. 
 
We have a reminder to Ukraine of how good The US has been to Ukraine and how much better we have supported Ukraine than our European contemporaries. We have a reminder and assertion (which went un-rebutted by Zelenskyy) that Ukraine hasn’t been as nice to the US as the US has been to Ukraine. After setting the table as above set forth, Trump hits Zelenskyy with words to the effect of we need you to do something for us, only if you can and if you are sufficiently willing. 
 
So no, Trump didn’t come out and say Hey Zelenskyy, if you want your money I am withholding from you (unconstitutionally), then I am going to need some dirt on the Bidens. His saying those words, or words close to them on a phone call he knew was being transcribed, would have been inexcusably reckless and, frankly, stupid. 
 
However, the question remains whether the above is basically the gist of what Trump hoped Zelenskyy would infer? Was that what Trump was implying?  
 
How plainly spoken are we going to require the President of the United States to be before his actions are sanctionable? History is waiting on our response. 
 
What we say now will become an example which will be followed tomorrow. Our Country’s response to this situation will be eternally drudged up as a measurement of what is acceptable for the underlying conduct of future Presidents in dealing with other future world leaders. 
 
Think about this…the next time this occurs, the President may not be in a political party aligned with your way of thinking. Take it for what it is worth….BUT THAT IS THE LONG VERSION!

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