Kerri Kupec, a spokesperson for the DOJ announced on Wednesday morning that, following a review by the DOJ criminal division, it was determined that President Trump did not violate any campaign finance laws and has “concluded the matter.” This decision has Trump critics up in arms. I can see how it might complicate things for House Democrats who probably should have waited to see the transcript before announcing their plans to impeach the President.
After the transcript of President Trump’s July 25th phone conversation with Ukraine’s new President Volodyrmr Zelensky was released, the Dow Jones Industrial average jumped 150 points.
Although Trump has been cleared of wrongdoing, the release of the transcript sets an ominous precedent. No president should have to worry about his private comments to world leaders being made public. World leaders will hesitate to share honestly with a U.S. president in the future if they think there’s a chance they will be broadcast. But, for Democrats, nothing matters more than taking down Trump.
The full transcript can be viewed here.
Trump and Zelensky appeared to get along famously. It was a very friendly phone call. At one point during the call, Trump did ask Zelensky to look into the Biden affair. He does so once, not eight times as it was initially reported. Here is what President Trump said:
Good, because I heard you had a prosecutor who was very good and he was shut down and that’s really unfair. A lot of people are talking about that, the way they shut your very good prosecutor down and you had some very bad people involved. Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man. He was the mayor of New York City, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you. I will ask him to call you along with the Attorney General. Rudy very much knows what’s happening and he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him that would be great. The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news, and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news, so I just want to let you know that. The other thing, 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.
Burisma’s leaders weren’t hiring Hunter Biden because they thought he was experienced or capable. He was neither. He was hired because he was the son of the Vice President of the United States and company leadership believed that his connections would be helpful, even profitable for them.
Trump also asks Zelensky to look into what sounds like a reference to the DNC server. This is unclear. Trump may have heard a report or a rumor that the server is located in the Ukraine. This might be information that AG William Barr or prosecutor John Durham are looking for in their investigations of the origins of the Russia probe.
The President: I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike…I guess you have one of your wealthy people…The server, they say Ukraine has it. There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation…I think you’re surrounding yourself with some of the same people. I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it. As you said yesterday, that whole nonsense ended with a very poor performance by a man named Robert Mueller, an incompetent performance but they say a lot of it started with Ukraine. Whatever you can do, it’s very important that you do it if that’s possible.
Neither of these comments, by any stretch of the imagination, could constitute a basis for impeachment.
But that’s not stopping Democrats from trying. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said the transcript “confirms” the need for an impeachment inquiry for a President who “has tried to make lawlessness a virtue in America and now is exporting it abroad.”
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) had an equally ludicrous response. He said, “This is a classic Mafia-like shakedown of a foreign leader.”
And CNN’s headline says “Transcript shows Trump pushed Ukraine to investigate Biden.”
Fortunately, The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley Strassel injects some sanity into the coverage. Via twitter, she writes:
Having read DOJ’s Trump-Ukraine release, here’s the real story: This is another internal attempt to take out a president, on the basis of another non-smoking-gun.
As to call transcript itself: Trump’s actual “favor” is that Ukraine look backward, to what happened in the 2016 election. This is a legitimate ask, since election meddling looks to have come from both Russia and Ukraine.
(Indeed, this is a big enough issue that we find out this morning that U.S. Attorney John Durham is looking at what role the Ukraine played in the FBI investigation.)
It is actually Zelensky who brings up Rudy Giuliani—saying they can’t wait to “meet him.” And it is Zelensky who references “that investigation,” as he goes on to promise that “all investigations will be done openly and candidly.”
Trump says “good” and expresses worries that a “good” prosecutor was “shut down.” Mentions “Biden’s son” and that Biden bragged he “stopped the prosecution.” Ends that bit with “It sounds horrible to me.”
Trump’s several references to Giuliani are mostly to say what a great guy he is. He says he will have Giuliani and AG Barr call. He asks Zelensky to speak/work with both.
And, never mind, because: DOJ in statement says the President has not spoken to AG about investigating Biden and has not asked the AG to contact the Ukraine. Also, Barr has not communicated with Ukraine—“on this or any subject.”
Meanwhile, the IG back in August referred this to DOJ as potential violation of campaign finance law, based on whistleblower complaint. Criminal Division evaluated and determined no violation: “All relevant components of the Department agreed with this legal conclusion.”
Whistleblower? Look at this nugget, referenced in the OLC opinion. The IG’s review found “some indicia of an arguable political bias on the part of the Complainant in favor of a rival political candidate.”
Media got all this so wrong. And Democrats look all the more partisan and radical to have moved toward impeachment.
Looks like all is well between President Trump and President Zelensky.
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) September 25, 2019