Get ready for it – a reprise at Donald Trump rallies. Only this time, they’ll be chanting, “Lock him up!” – directed, of course, at “Crooked Joe.”
And as there was in Mr. Trump’s 2016 election campaign against Hillary Clinton, expect a little foreign content to be thrown into the mix, as well. Only this time, make it collusion with Ukraine.
When Joe Biden was vice-president, he threatened to withhold US$1-billion in loan guarantees if Ukraine didn’t fire its top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin. Never mind that many European countries were pressing the government to get rid of Mr. Shokin; the real reason Mr. Biden wanted him fired, according to Mr. Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, is because Mr. Shokin had launched an anti-corruption investigation into Ukrainian oligarch Mykola Zlochevsky, the owner of Burisma Holdings. The company employed Mr. Biden’s lobbyist son, Hunter, at a reported fee of $50,000 a month.
There is no evidence of any illegalities on the part of either Biden. But that, of course, hasn’t stopped Mr. Trump. The corruption is so bad, he says, that Joe Biden should be facing a maximum sentence.
“What Biden did is a disgrace. What his son did is a disgrace,” Mr. Trump said this week. “If a Republican ever did what Joe Biden did, if a Republican ever said what Joe Biden said, they’d be getting the electric chair right now.”
Many Democrats think the hot seat should be reserved for the President himself.
Get me some dirt on Mr. Biden, Mr. Trump is alleged to have told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in July. If you do, you’ll get the hundreds of millions in military aid you were asking for.
According to media reports, he told his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to hold back almost US$400-million in military aid for Ukraine as he prepared to put pressure on Mr. Zelensky to investigate Mr. Biden.
Mr. Trump has admitted to talking to the Ukrainian President, and after some back-and-forth, has tweeted that he will release the full transcript of his conversation with Mr. Zelensky on Wednesday. He has said before that he sees nothing wrong with seeking help from foreign leaders to help him beat his opponent.
Still, this allegation – which originally came from a whistle-blower – is seen as extraordinary skulduggery even by Trump standards, and it has the Democrats up in arms. Amid calls to take action from presidential candidates and from Democratic members of Congress, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Tuesday afternoon that the U.S. House of Representatives will begin a formal impeachment inquiry.
Harvard University law professor Laurence Tribe says that if Mr. Trump went through with soliciting Ukraine’s help as described, it would constitute a transgression more serious than any he has committed thus far. Others aren’t so sure; David Rivkin Jr., a lawyer in previous Republican administrations, argues that the United States “routinely pushes foreign countries to launch broad anti-corruption initiatives, as well as to undertake criminal investigations or prosecutions of specific persons, both Americans and foreigners.”
Mr. Trump’s move against Mr. Biden is a sign that he is more worried about him becoming the Democratic nominee than he is about anyone else. In hypothetical polls, Mr. Biden does very well against Mr. Trump.
Mr. Biden says Mr. Trump has cooked up the charges “because he knows I will beat him like a drum and is using the abuse of power and every element of the presidency to try to do something to smear me.” Having his name dragged through the mud is also music to the ears of Mr. Biden’s Democratic rivals.
As per usual, Mr. Trump’s shamelessness knows no bounds. On the matter of profiting from family ties, CNN’s Jake Tapper put this question to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin: “So it’s okay for Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump to do business all over the world, so it’s okay for Ivanka Trump to get copyrights approved all over the world while Trump is President – but while Biden was vice-president, his son shouldn’t have been able to do business dealings?”
Mr. Mnuchin had no comeback other than to say he did not want to get into details. But he didn’t have to worry. In the facts-don’t-matter universe that Mr. Trump has created, truth and logic are moving targets. He was able to get his followers to believe Ms. Clinton was crooked. Now, he wants them to believe Mr. Biden is the same. He escaped any charges with respect to Russian collusion. No doubt he thinks that, impeachment inquiry and all, he can do the same with Ukraine.
Keep your Opinions sharp and informed. Get the Opinion newsletter. Sign up today.