Executive Power

Trump, Ukraine, and Congress's Power of the Purse

If Trump threatened to withhold aid funds in order to pressure Ukraine into investigating Joe Biden and his son, he undermined Congress' power of the purse. It's an important aspect of the Ukraine scandal that has so far been largely ignored.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

President Donald Trump.

Many are advocating impeachment in response to President Donald Trump's apparent attempt to use withholding of $400 million in aid funds as leverage to pressure Ukraine into investigating possible malfeasance by Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. Meanwhile, critics fear that investigation and impeachment could unduly undermine confidentiality of the president's conversations with foreign leaders and his control over foreign policy more generally. Largely overlooked in the debate so far is the fact that, if Trump did indeed try to use the aid funds as leverage, he not only engaged in improper self-dealing but also usurped Congress' power of the purse. That's an important constitutional issue that goes beyond Trump's many personal flaws.

If there is one thing that constitutional law scholars agree on, it is that the spending power is supposed to be controlled by Congress, not the president. Even most of those who otherwise favor very broad presidential power concur. For example, few if any experts have a broader conception of presidential power over foreign affairs than John Yoo, who has argued—among other things—that the president can go so far as to start wars without congressional authorization. But Yoo nonetheless recognizes that Congress has the power to control spending on foreign and defense policy. He even contends (wrongly, in my view) that this power is enough to prevent presidential abuses of the extremely broad war powers he believes the executive is entitled to.

If Trump tried to use aid money allocated by Congress to pressure the Ukrainian government into investigating one of his major political rivals, that would be a blatant effort to use federal funds for purposes that were never authorized by Congress. The legislative branch does often give the executive the power to withhold foreign aid money until various conditions are met—such as assisting US foreign policy goals, combating corruption, or promoting development. There is a longstanding debate over how much discretion the Constitution allows Congress to delegate to the president on such matters. But, in this case, Congress never even came close to authorizing the president to use the aid money as leverage to force a foreign government to try to dig up dirt on the president's own political opponents and their family members.

If the president can threaten to withhold funds authorized by Congress until the intended beneficiaries do him some personal or political favor, he would have acquired a very dangerous power indeed. He would thereby gain enormous new leverage over a wide variety of public and private organizations, both foreign and domestic. It isn't hard to see how such power can easily be abused in a variety of ways.

Even if you believe there is good reason to investigate Joe Biden and his son's dealings in Ukraine (which is not clear), the proper way to do so is to use law enforcement funds properly allocated for such purposes, not use foreign aid money as leverage to get a foreign government to do it for you. You cannot investigate the possible corruption of others by engaging in corrupt self-dealing yourself.

In a recent New York Times op ed criticizing calls for impeachment over the Ukraine issue, John Yoo argues that it would undermine presidential control over foreign policy, and also reassures us  with the suggestion that Congress could eventually get at the truth by using its spending power to  cut "intelligence, military and diplomatic funding" if the administration refuses to disclose relevant evidence.

This overlooks the fact that a potential usurpation of Congress' spending power is precisely the point at issue. As Yoo recognizes in other contexts, Congress is entitled to control over the power of the purse, even when it comes to spending on foreign policy. And the threat to use spending cuts to incentivize  executive cooperation is only likely to be credible if the president knows that efforts to divert federal funds away from their authorized purposes will be properly investigated and punished. Otherwise, he can circumvent future spending cuts he opposes by reallocating funds Congress intended to be used for other purposes.

Given the importance of the power of the purse, Congress has every reason to review what happened here. That includes both considering the transcript of Trump's call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky (which Trump says he will release tomorrow), and the internal whistleblower report that first attracted public attention to this issue. In a rare show of bipartisan agreement, the Senate has unanimously demanded the report's release; Trump should comply [see update on this below]. If there is anything that Congress has the power to investigate, it is whether the funds it allocates are actually being spent for their authorized purposes.

And if it turns out that Trump did indeed try to use these funds as leverage to dig up dirt against a political opponent, that sort of unconstitutional diversion of federal funds for personal gain is exactly the kind of abuse of power that the Founders believed impeachment should be used to curb. It is not merely a form of personal corruption, but a dangerous undermining of the constitutional separation of powers. There is obvious reason to avoid giving any one man or woman the power to use the federal treasury as a piggy bank for their own personal agendas.

It is also worth recalling the Trump administration has an extensive prior history of attempting to usurp Congress' powers over spending. That is evident in the many cases in which both Republican and Democratic-appointed judges have struck down the president's attempts to impose conditions on federal grants to states and localities, that were never authorized by Congress—all for the purpose of coercing them into helping enforce the administration's immigration policies. The same pattern recurs in the litigation over Trump's attempts to divert funds to build his border wall, despite Congress' repeated refusal to allocate funding for that purpose. And there are plenty more examples of Trump playing fast and loose with the spending power.

Trump is not the first president to try to undermine Congress' control over spending. Barack Obama, for example, illegally diverted funds to pay for Obamacare subsidies that were not authorized by Congress. But Trump is unusual for doing it so brazenly and so often. If he manages to get away with it, we will have created a dangerous precedent. Republicans who may support him now are unlikely to be happy when future Democratic presidents use similar tactics.

UPDATE: I have made some minor additions to this post.

UPDATE #2: Politico reports that the administration has indicated it will indeed release the whistleblower's report, though this decision may not be completely final.

NEXT: Bernie Sanders Thinks Every Billionaire Is a Policy Failure

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. From a few months back, here’s John Solomon in an opinion piece for The Hill:

    “…some hard questions should be answered by Biden as he prepares, potentially, to run for president in 2020: Was it appropriate for your son and his firm to cash in on Ukraine while you served as point man for Ukraine policy? What work was performed for the money Hunter Biden’s firm received? Did you know about the Burisma probe? And when it was publicly announced that your son worked for Burisma, should you have recused yourself from leveraging a U.S. policy to pressure the prosecutor who very publicly pursued Burisma?”

    https://thehill.com/opinion/white-house/436816-joe-bidens-2020-ukrainian-nightmare-a-closed-probe-is-revived

    1. Perhaps Chief Justice Roberts, as presiding officer, or at least the Senate Republican majority, can allow some evidence on this subject to be introduced in any impeachment trial.

      1. Brilliant, Eddy! You are probably the first person (but not the last!) to suggest that a Senate impeachment trial be turned into a whataboutery-fest. That would be the best thing ever to rev up the Trump base! They love them some whataboutery, and they don’t give a fig for constitutional norms. You just have to hope nobody but the Trump base would bother to watch a Senate trial of Donald Trump.

        Also? Check with McConnell. I don’t think he is planning to broaden the scope of a Trump trial. More likely, no scope at all, and no trial at all. Nothing to see here folks. Trump is as innocent as he has ever been. We know that going in, so no point getting the public in a lather by giving Democrats a stage to say otherwise. Citizens didn’t deserve Senate attention to a Democratic Supreme Court nomination. They sure as hell don’t deserve Senate attention to a presidential impeachment. Right? So no trial. History will definitely see the wisdom of that.

        1. You’re losing it.

          First you refer to whataboutery, then you bring up Kavanaugh.

          Then you’re outraged at the idea that a defendant facing an accusation of exploiting the Biden scandal should be allowed to present evidence on…the Biden scandal.

          (“If you think that you can think about a thing inextricably attached to something else without thinking of the thing which it is attached to, then you have a legal mind.” – Possibly Thomas Reed Powell)

          1. Eddy, whataboutery is subject changing. Example: Your guy, who is a powerful government official, did something bad. So what. Your guy, who is now out of power, was once a government official, and when he was, he did a different thing bad. That is whataboutery.

            My charge is that McConnell and the Rs, while firmly ensconced in power, keep doing the same bad thing—violating constitutional norms. No subject change. Multiple examples that show the same pattern of behavior by the same people. That is not whataboutery.

            And by the way, the reference was not to Kavanaugh. It was to the Merrick Garland nomination.

            1. In my experience “whataboutery” is just unwanted context. That’s going by usage, mind you, not the formal definition. It usually goes like this:

              “Your shit stinks”
              “Well, so does yours.”
              “Whataboutery!”

              1. Time for another point about whataboutery. It’s tribal. And because of that, whataboutery gets practiced most by especially tribal people. Which in today’s political world means movement conservatives.

                Also, as I said above, whataboutery involves subject changes. Now, let’s add an additional point. The whatabouterist’s subject change is usually two-fold. First, there is the obvious subject change which follows a charge that a member of the whataouterist’s tribe committed malfeasance. The whatabouterist responds, “What about this guy from your tribe, who used to commit malfeasance, too?” Everyone gets that part of it.

                The second subject change takes place in the course of the first one. The second subject change is less obvious, but it accounts for a big part of this wretched rhetorical tic’s widespread use. Make it a point to notice, the art of the whatabouterist is that what began as a discussion of one person, and personal malfeasance, shifts suddenly not only to a discussion of a different person, but also to a different subject, that second subject being tribal virtue.

                The veteran whatabouterist loves this ploy. It gets all discussion of personal malfeasance right out of the picture, and refocuses everyone instead on the hopelessly stupid subject of whose tribe has more virtue. Especially in cases where the whatabouterist’s interlocutor is uninterested in tribalism, the wrenching double subject change proves an efficient conversation stopper.

                Whereupon, the whatabouterist goes away convinced that the interlocutor’s concerns about malfeasance have been answered and overcome. That self-deception protects the whatabouterist’s allegiance to his tribe, while reinforcing his commitment to whataboutery as a useful technique.

                The paradox is that although whataboutery is profoundly stupid and self-defeating, it can seem brilliantly successful among the tribalists who turn to it. Also, it helps them evade focusing on the problem that they can think of nothing better to say.

                1. “Which in today’s political world means movement conservatives. ”

                  LOL. Yes, only conservatives are tribal.

                  1. Obviously. Their opponents aren’t, as they each independently reached the same conclusion from first principles.

                  2. Bob, the subject was whataboutery. Did you notice that you are changing the subject?

                    Perhaps this hint will help. When someone makes a charge in the form, “Your guys do these bad things,” you will always put yourself in danger of whataboutery if the next thing you say is focused on any people except “your guys.”

                    1. I didn’t change the subject from Ukraine to Merrick Garland, I simply suggested that in an impeachment trial where Trump is accused of trying to get the Ukrainians to investigate the charges against Biden, then it would be relevant to consider evidence of these charges.

                      After all, what is there to fear? We’ve been assured by other posters, and the Washington Post, that in fact Biden is an innocent man against whom Trump was trying to dredge up evidence. So if the evidence regarding Biden is relevant in showing how pure and innocent he is, why shouldn’t Trump, in his defense, be able to put in evidence that Biden isn’t as innocent as suggested?

                  3. +1,000,000,000,000,000!!!!

                2. Again – you want to discuss a topic which is integrally related to the Biden scandal, without discussing the Biden scandal.

                  A previous U. S. administration got the investigation into Biden, Jr. shut down, and you’re talking about the supposedly impeachable way in which a later administration tried to revive the investigation. Yet you would hermetically seal those topics off from each other.

                  And mentioning Garland meets your own definition of “whataboutery.”

                  1. A previous U. S. administration got the investigation into Biden, Jr. shut down,

                    No.

                    1. Sorry, they got the investigator into the company that hired Biden Jr. fired. The same company that suddenly hired Biden Jr (despite his complete lack of experience in energy or Ukraine), and ended up paying Biden Jr over $3.2 Million….

                    2. @Armchair,

                      “Sorry, they got the investigator into the company that hired Biden Jr. fired.”

                      Right, this is very different than (1) getting the investigation shut down at all, or (2) getting the non-existent investigation into Hunter Biden shut down.

                    3. Sorry, they got the investigator into the company that hired Biden Jr. fired.

                      Almost, but no. The former investigator would make it mostly accurate. (Although from all reports it’s not clear the guy ever actually conducted an honest investigation.)

                    4. A number of posters have asserted that there was no investigation into the Ukrainian company of which Hunter Biden was a Director, when Joe Biden was urging the Ukrainian prosecutor to fire the prosecutor. There have also been claims that he was fired because he was not doing enough to investigate that company.

                      They may be right, of course. But here is an actual Witness Statement by the actual Prosecutor who says different.

                      https://www.scribd.com/document/427618359/Shokin-Statement#fullscreen&from_embed

                      And the money shots :

                      The truth is that I was forced out because I was leading a wide-ranging corruption probe into Burisma Holdings (“Burisma”), a naural gas firm active in Ukraine, and Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, was a member of the Board of Directors…….

                      On several occasions President Poroshenko asked me to have a look at the criminal case against Burisma and consider the possibility of winding down the investigative actions in respect of this company, but I refused to close this investigation. Therefore I was forced to leave office under direct and intense pressure from Joe Biden and the US administration. In my conversations with Poroshenko at the time, he was emphatic that I should cease my investigations regarding Burisma. When I did not, he said that the US (via Biden) were refusing to realease the USD$1 billion promised to Ukraine. He said that he had no choice, therefore, but to ask me to resign.

                      He may of course be lying. But then again maybe he isn’t.

                3. In terms of electoral politics, any request that some candidate be evaluated in light of something is, inherently, an evaluation relative to some other candidate. So it is inherent that, when you accuse candidate A, whether candidate B, the alternative to candidate A, has done something of the same nature, will be relevant.

                  One doesn’t say to somebody, “Your shit stinks!” just as a casual observation. It carries with it an implied, “And mine, of course, does not, which is why I’m better than you.” It’s perfectly appropriate to refuse to leave that implication unchallenged.

                  1. Brett,
                    “It carries with it an implied, “And mine, of course, does not, which is why I’m better than you.”

                    No. This is a discussion in terms of whether the President of the United States abused the powers of his office. There is nothing implied about whether Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama, or any current candidate for president is better or worse than Trump. (Other than, I suppose, the fact that the Presidents who completed their terms either were or were not impeached raises an implied comparison when someone asserts that this President should be impeached. But a diversion into the substance of whether any former President is better or worse would still be off-topic and very likely whataboutism if engaged in for the purpose of off-ramping into a discussion of which party is dirtier.)

                    The question is whether the President’s actions were appropriate or involved an abuse of his office for his own personal advantage. Eddy is engaged in whataboutism. Stephen perfectly explained why his reference to McConnell’s consistent pattern of conduct is not whataboutism.

                    1. “Eddy is engaged in whataboutism. Stephen perfectly explained why his reference to McConnell’s consistent pattern of conduct is not whataboutism.”

                      The charges that Trump improperly pressured the Ukrainians into investigating the Biden allegations.

                      Yet to say that the Senate should hear evidence on those very allegations – is totally wrong! What do the allegations against Biden have to do with Trump pressuring for an investigation of the allegations against Biden? Those are two separate subjects!

                      However, Merrick Garland is always relevant to everything. Heck, feel to bring it up if someone criticizes your cooking (“funny, you never complained when McConnell cooked the process against Merrick Garland!”)

                4. “Whataboutery” is the term used by idiot liberals when their hypocrisy is pointed out. Usually followed by a particularly execrable chunk of diarrhea of the mouth (or keyboard).

                5. although whataboutery is profoundly stupid and self-defeating

                  I beg to differ. It may be profoundly stupid etc, or it may not, depending on the circumstances.

                  In the right circumstances it’s a perfectly reasonable way to analyse the general principle behind an argument made in a particular case.
                  Thus ;

                  “millions of babies are heartlessly slaughtered by abortionists”

                  “whatabout the even more millions of tiny cell clumps (which you call “babies”) which die of their own accord in utero, and which you never shed a tear for”

                  Though there is much more to both sides of that argument, this whataboutery is a perfectly rational rejoinder to join battle on the question – “so what is it then, this thing that is killed off during an abortion ? And can it really be the precious bubble of God’s creation that you claim, if there’s millions like it that you don’t seem to worry about ?”

                  It’s simply argument by analogy, which is good sound arguing if the analogy is apt, and tiresome low grade sophistry if the analogy is inapt.

                  In this Trumpy / Bideny thing we seem to have folk that think T was bad , but B was good; and other folk who think T was good and B was bad. No doubt in part for tribal reasons. Hence I should have thought that a comparision of the two cases would help to clarify precisely what is the evil and what is the reasonable justification, on a common standard.

                  1. “clarify precisely what is the evil and what is the reasonable justification, on a common standard.”

                    I am fully onboard with the principle that if a U.S. official threatens to withhold aid to a foreign government in order to get the foreign government to take action for his/her own personal interest (helping his 2020 campaign, protecting his son), that is serious misconduct that is worthy of impeachment/disqualification from high office.

                    Where do you stand? Interesting you just discuss the need for clarity without taking a position yourself.

                    The only ones I see really disputing this are Trump apologists who, instead of arguing whether Trump did that, want to get into the weeds as to whether Biden also did it to distract from the question of whether Trump did it.

                    Therefore, as to me, whether Biden did it and whether Trump did it are two independent questions. Answering the charges against Trump with “But Biden” is useless whataboutism.

                    1. Well I’ve made a comment or two elsewhere on possible grey areas here. but I can’t expect you to chase them down and I can’t be bothered to do that myself. But here’s a for instance or two.

                      I agree that withholding goverment aid for your own personal interest is bad. But it is not so clear that the following things are 100% bad or even 50% bad

                      (a) withholding government aid to get a corrupt prosecutor fired, as a part of your perfectly proper US government objective of dissuading foreign governments from tolerating corrupt prosecutors, even though the corrupt prosecutor happens to be investigating your son

                      ie if you have a good official reason, plus a personal benefit reason, where’s the line ?

                      (b) withholding government aid to get a foreign prosecutor to resume an investigation into one of your political opponents, where that investigation has been closed down previously because of threats by that very same political opponent

                      ie is trying to correct past corrupt US interference with a foreign prosecutorial process a good thing per se, or a bad thing per se, or is it generally a good thing but becomes a bad thing if it benefits you ? Where’s the line ?

            2. There’s no subject changing here though. It’s the same subject.

        2. There is a problem. It’s not “whataboutery”. It’s necessity. If Trump can state that he exerted political pressure because it was the only way to remove corruption, then yes, it’s justified. He did the minimum action necessary to resume the investigation with the minimum political fuss.

          Finally, there’s precedent. Just in casual memory I can remember holding aid in exchange for various conditions as a matter of routine. It is bragged about in speechs. None of Trumps predecessors have even gotten pushback. The policy must be changed before Trump can be prosecuted on this. No post-facto laws.

    2. Also John Solomon is a serial fabricator. Check out his wikipedia entry, it’s pretty savage. And, it brings citations.

      1. Well, here’s Biden on the same subject. Is he a serial fabricator, as well?

        https://www.c-span.org/video/?c4818429/biden-ukraine-cfr

        1. From the right-wing cesspool, Vanity Fair:

          “In a move sure to trigger 2016 P.T.S.D., The New York Times has published a nearly 3,000-word tale of intrigue involving the Biden family’s various entanglements in Ukraine. In short, the story is this: in the final year of the Obama presidency, Vice President Joe Biden “threatened to withhold $1 billion in United States loan guarantees if Ukraine’s leaders did not dismiss the country’s top prosecutor”—Viktor Shokin—“who had been accused of turning a blind eye to corruption in his own office and among the political elite.” The pressure campaign also just so happened to benefit Biden’s younger son, Hunter, who was then getting paid as much as $50,000 to sit on the board of Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian energy company that was in Shokin’s sights. The question the Times raises, but does not answer, is: were Joe’s and Hunter’s overlapping interests in Ukraine coincidental, or corrupt?”

          https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2019/05/biden-ukrainian-gas-company

            1. That’s nice, but I was responding to the claim that John Solomon was not a reliable source, so I used other sources instead.

              Indeed, the suggestion seems to be that Solomon made up the stuff about Biden doing something wrong. So I provided links which don’t rely on Solomon.

              1. When they have nothing else, they just use ad hominem attacks.

              2. Your link doesn’t show that Biden did anything wrong, either. It’s just a video of Biden talking about getting Shokin ousted. You do realize that there are a lot of claims in The Hill article unrelated to Biden’s assertions in the video?

              3. That’s nice?

                It largely refutes all your talk about Biden, and you have no response?

                I thought better of you.

                1. I thought you were going to explain why the Washington Post trumps (ha!) Vanity Fair and the New York Times.

                  1. But if there’s nothing there, then no harm with having the Senate investigate it…it will simply confirm that Trump was trying to persecute poor Biden with a phony investigation!

                    1. Eddy,

                      The NYT article does not support the accusations against Biden. It reports the now well-known facts about his connections with Burisma, and provides a lot of background. Nowhere does it support the allegations of corruption.

                      Indeed, it contains this:

                      Concerns about Mr. Shokin notwithstanding, the cases against Burisma had high-level support from the Obama administration. In April 2014, it sent top officials to a forum on Ukrainian asset recovery, co-sponsored by the United States government, in London, where Mr. Zlochevsky’s case was highlighted.

                      Can the Senate investigate Biden? Sure. They can investigate you and me if they want to. Would you consider there to be no harm in that, if we haven’t done anything wrong?

                      I suspect they don’t really want to, since they know they would embarrass themselves and Trump. And you know, it’s funny that this business was ginned up by Trump and Giuliani only recently, as the Presidential campaign started. It’s bogus, Eddy.

                    2. Bernard,

                      Why did Burisma hire Biden Jr, and end up paying him over 3.2 Million US dollars, even though he had zero experience either in Ukraine or Energy Affairs.

                      Why was Biden Jr getting rides on Air Force Two?

                      Why is it that once Biden Jr was hired, suddenly the investigation against Burisma became less urgent, and wound down?

                      Isn’t there a conflict of interest if Biden Jr’s father is taking lead on actions in Ukraine, especially “getting the lead prosecutor fired”….less than a year after he had an investigation into Biden Jr’s new company?

                    3. “Can the Senate investigate Biden? Sure. They can investigate you and me if they want to. Would you consider there to be no harm in that, if we haven’t done anything wrong?”

                      If the President is to be impeached for persecuting you or me on phony charges, then he (the Pres) would have the basic right of self-defense to have the Senate look into the charges against us, to rebut the claim that the charges were phony.

                  2. The Washington Post article includes facts such as: Shokin had already dropped the investigation of Burisma when the pressure to oust him commenced, the ouster of Shokin for rampant corruption was supported by all the Western European countries who weighed in. From the article, quoting the New York Times: “The United States and other Western nations had for months called for the ousting of Mr. Shokin, who was widely criticized for turning a blind eye to corrupt practices and for defending the interests of a venal and entrenched elite.”

                    The timing doesn’t work and there were serious reasons (rampant corruption) having nothing to do with an already ended investigation for ousting Shokin and the ouster was strongly supported by many parties having no interest in the Biden matter.

                    1. Like I said, “if there’s nothing there, then no harm with having the Senate investigate it…it will simply confirm that Trump was trying to persecute poor Biden with a phony investigation!”

                    2. “Shokin had already dropped the investigation of Burisma when the pressure to oust him commenced,”

                      Really? It was never dropped by Shokin. It was dormant. A full timeline of what happened with this investigation into Burisma and when would be very informative. I wonder if it was dormant soon after May 2014? I wonder if any pressure was applied to Shokin about the case.

                    3. “A full timeline of what happened with this investigation into Burisma and when would be very informative.”

                      Here’s your timeline:

                      https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-05-07/timeline-in-ukraine-probe-casts-doubt-on-giuliani-s-biden-claim

                    4. The actual prosecutor who was fired disagrees

                      https://www.scribd.com/document/427618359/Shokin-Statement#fullscreen&from_embed

                      He may of course be lying. As could all sorts of other folk.

                      Inerestingly, reading his witness statement, it’s almost an exact copy of the story told by the fired Canadian AG, who says she was pressured by Trudeau to cave in a prosecution of a Quebec. company.

      2. “Also John Solomon is a serial fabricator.”

        You picked that up word for word from DMN. Are you boys running your own little Journolist now? You’d never even heard of John Solomon until this afternoon.

    3. Was it appropriate for your son and his firm to cash in on Ukraine while you served as point man for Ukraine policy?

      What does “appropriate” mean? Even if you consider it unseemly, is there an allegation that it was illegal? And if we are going to start investigating people for cashing in on family government connections let’s look at all of them, including the Trump family, Elaine Chao’s family, etc. Republicans have been remarkably silent there.

      What work was performed for the money Hunter Biden’s firm received?

      See above.

      Did you know about the Burisma probe?

      And if he did?

      1. bernard, If it’s ok for Biden to coerce Ukraine into firing their attorney general (who was investigating his son), then it’s ok for Trump to politely ask them to cooperate with an investigation.

        The Democrats threatened Ukraine regarding cooperation with the investigation of the made-up Russia hoax. If it’s ok for them to do that, then . . .

        1. What is it you think the President was trying to do, here? Did you read the memorandum? I will quote it for you:

          “Good because I heard you had a prosecutor [Shokin] 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 [Shokin] down and you had some very bad people involved. Mr. Guiliani 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, [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.”

          Besides the fact that “Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution” is an outright lie, what is it you think the President is interested in, here? Why is the President calling Shokin a “very good prosecutor” when that isn’t the case?

          And what was that weird shit about Mueller? What do you think that’s about, exactly?

        2. If it’s ok for Biden to coerce Ukraine into firing their attorney general (who was investigating his son)

          Except the Ukrainian AG wasn’t investigating Biden’s son.

          Biden’s efforts were part of a multi-national effort to push Shokin out because he wasn’t investigating corruption. It had the support of the EU and the IMF, among others.

          “He was investigating Hunter Biden” is a lie, plain and simple. You know, you don’t actually have to repeat it, just because Trump wants you to.

          1. He was investigating the company that had just hired Hunter Biden, and ended up paying Hunter Biden millions of dollars….

            And then strangely, Shokin got fired, under US pressure….. And threats of withholding hundreds of millions in loan guarantees. And Hunter’s father was making the threats….

            That looks like a conflict of interest.

          2. Actually, it’s not quite a lie.
            In an interview with Shokin, he explicitly says he was going to interrogate Hunter Biden Jr. on the Burisma case.

            “That is, in the “Burisma case” the prosecutors were not going to “turn on the back”?
            “No, we were going to interrogate Biden Jr., Archer, and so on.”
            – What got in the way?
            – Did not have time. The President told me repeatedly that Biden demanded that they remove me. A report was prepared on my work, it was sent to the deputies, posted on the GPU website. If you take these reports – they are many times different from what my predecessors could do. There were no objective grounds for dismissal.”

            This is quite a bit worse. Hunter Biden was going to be brought in for interrogation regarding his conduct in the Burisma case, but before he could be brought in, Joe Biden blackmailed the President of Ukraine into firing Shokin. That’s a direct interview.

            I think that’s grounds for further investigation, don’t you think?

        3. If it’s ok for Biden to coerce Ukraine into firing their attorney general (who was investigating his son),

          Again: no.

          At no point was Biden’s son ever being investigated. At one point Burisma was being investigated, but that investigation had been abandoned by Shokin which is why everyone wanted him fired.

          1. The investigation went dormant. Why did it go dormant? Did it go dormant because of the pressure brought by the US government, led by Joe Biden?

            Did the investigation get picked up again once Shokin was fired? No? Interesting that…. Why not??? If that’s the reason everyone wanted him fired…

            1. “Did the investigation get picked up again once Shokin was fired?”

              Yes. It ended in December 2017, with Burisma paying millions in back taxes, in a settlement with prosecutors approved by a Kiev district court. Shokin was let go in March 2016.

              1. I think you are mistaken, I think it was January 2017. The publication you linked below seems to use the Day/Month/Year convention for its story dates.

      2. “What does “appropriate” mean? Even if you consider it unseemly…”

        I’d say “unseemly” approximates “inappropriate.” You seem to think “inappropriate” has to be illegal.

        1. donojack,

          bernard used inappropriate and unseemly pretty interchangeably. The point is that something might be unseemly, e.g., having a consensual sexual relationship with your assistant while married to someone else, but not be illegal and thus not something worthy of criminal investigation. The fact that the children of powerful people tend to get cushy jobs does not mean it ought usually be investigated. Eddy and you have to do more than “Hunter got a cushy job”, unseemly as that might be, to move the ball on the assertion that it is not an abuse of power for the U.S. President to praise an extremely corrupt foreign prosecutor (Shokin) and push for a foreign investigation into a political opponent while withholding Congressionally authorized aid to that foreign country.

          1. “The fact that the children of powerful people tend to get cushy jobs does not mean it ought usually be investigated.”

            The son of a powerful politician getting a highly-paid consultancy for a company whose activities might attract prosecutorial attention is might simply be “honest graft” as George Washington Plunkitt famously called it. It’s a perfectly common insurance policy.

            And the guy who investigated that company may be a crooked prosecutor who deserved to be fired under pressure from the U. S. and Europe, based on a high-minded anti-corruption campaign which was spearheaded by the dad of the person who benefits from the honest graft.

            Everything is possible.

            Presumably, President Trump’s intervention was the equivalent of “honest graft” – restarting an investigation which needs to get done, but doing the investigation from bad motives.

            I personally believe there are honest people in government, there are honest people everywhere, but as far as high-level policymaking goes, I’m not expecting honesty, just checks and balances – the crooks on one side investigating and exposing the crooks on the other.

          2. “The fact that the children of powerful people tend to get cushy jobs does not mean it ought usually be investigated. ”

            Yes and oligarchs routinely give cushy jobs to know-nothing, cokehead kids in exchange for absolutely nothing. This isn’t about Michelle’s little 300k sinecure, this is about selling access at the very least.

            1. donojack,

              I am all for workable methods of cutting that sort of thing. But rather than moving that ball forward, it seems Republicans are all in on eroding prior norms of avoiding such conflicts (i.e., divesting oneself of your business when your business becomes running the country). But, I find the whole “donate to my charitable fund” “give my kid a high-paid, do-nothing job” gross and would love some workable standards to change that incentive structure. But letting Trump get away with more corrupt behavior because a prominent Democrat’s child has a golden parachute of sorts, well, that really does the opposite of solving that problem. It actually just makes it worse.

              As others pointed out upthread, there are plenty of creepy politicians profiting in shady ways. If that justifies your leader’s actions, then it ratchets norms in the wrong direction. Hold your leader accountable, it ratchets them in the right direction. Yeah, plenty of people you hate will have gotten away with things, but rest assured that plenty of people you like also got away with things. But drawing the line at very open and obvious abuse of power, it may not hold the line, but maybe helps stem the flow.

  2. Didn’t Biden abuse the power of the purse in the same way Trump is accused of doing?

    1. Biden was trying to get Ukraine to rig the presidential campaign?

      1. Of course he was: This one. Do you imagine that in 2016 Biden was planning on retiring from politics? Or maybe you think a very public scandal concerning his son would not have reflected on him?

        It was preemptive rigging.

        1. Oh bullshit.

          The facts here are clear. There was no active investigation on going for Biden to squelch. There was never an investigation of Hunter Biden to squelch. Joe Biden was part of an international effort to get Shokin fired for not investigating corruption.

          You guys are swallowing a load of BS from, probably, Fox and other right-wing media liars.

          1. Be fair, Bernard. They are also making a lot of it up on the fly.

            1. OtisAH,

              Lol. Well played. And sadly exactly right.

          2. And yet, when Shokin was fired, the investigation into Burisma wasn’t picked back up. Why not?

            1. “Why not?”

              Perhaps because the evidence didn’t warrant further investigation?

              Or, there is rampant corruption in Ukraine, so maybe the ultra rich Zlochevsky still had some cover from a better but not perfect successor of Shokin.

              In either case, it simply does not appear that anything Joe Biden did had any negative effect on the investigation which had already gone dormant and according to other Ukrainian officials had not revealed any wrongdoing (much less wrongdoing that implicated the Board of directors and so might have involved people like Hunter Biden).

          3. bernard : The facts here are clear. There was no active investigation on going for Biden to squelch…..

            Shokin says different.

            https://www.scribd.com/document/427618359/Shokin-Statement#fullscreen&from_embed

            He may be lying, but when the actual prosecutor says he was investigating and he was fired for refusing to close his investigation because of threats from Biden to pull financial aid, it seems to me that “the facts here are clear” has taken on a rather postmodernist tinge.

        2. Since that aided Biden, and a national invesigation by Ukraine has a tremendous monetary value, I’m gonna bet Biden didn’t list it as a campaign contribution and therefore he violated law.

          Now I think this, and payments to silence a prostitute, are not campaign contributions in the sense it was made illegal, but hey, weaponization of the misuse of laws to get your political opponents, in opposition to constititional design principles, is fun, ain’t it?

          1. Krayt,

            “Since that aided Biden”

            Except, as noted repeatedly, the investigation into Burisma had already concluded, so Biden wasn’t pressuring anyone to drop an investigation. Also, Biden was not alone in wanting Shokin sacked because Shokin was insufficiently aggressive in pursuing corruption investigations. In fact, the IMF and basically all functioning European democracies also wanted Ukraine to sack Shokin due to his own corruption and ineptness in combating others’ corruption.

        3. Do you imagine that in 2016 Biden was planning on retiring from politics?

          Yes. (You may have missed it, but he didn’t run in 2016.)

      2. Biden was trying to get his son from being investigated –
        It helps his election chances in 2020
        It helps Hillary’s election chances since it would taint the obama administration and the Democrat party,

        The second point – A politican exposing corruption will also help his election prospects, A bonus in this case since Biden was the current front runner at that time. Though Biden would be the easist to beat.

        1. No, actually, Biden was advocating the firing of a prosecutor who had already dropped the investigation of Burisma, arguing that the prosecutor wasn’t doing enough to go after corruption. If anything, what Biden did made it *more* likely that Burisma would be (further) investigated.

          1. That is inconsistent with Biden’s public statement where he bragged that he got the prosecutor fired who was investigating Hunter.

            1. Nope. Here’s the statement:

              “I remember going over, convincing our team … that we should be providing for loan guarantees. … And I was supposed to announce that there was another billion-dollar loan guarantee. And I had gotten a commitment from [then Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko] and from [then-Prime Minister Arseniy] Yatsenyuk that they would take action against the state prosecutor [Shokin]. And they didn’t…They were walking out to a press conference. I said, ‘Nah, … We’re not going to give you the billion dollars.’ They said, ‘You have no authority. You’re not the president.’ … I said, ‘Call him.’ I said, ‘I’m telling you, you’re not getting the billion dollars.’ … I looked at them and said, ‘I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money.’ Well, son of a b—-. He got fired [a few months later]. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time.”

              I see no bragging about the prosecutor investigating Hunter.

              1. I see no bragging about the prosecutor investigating Hunter.

                Because there is none.

                Joe made that part up.

                1. But the prosecutor WAS investigating Hunter, and was going to bring him in for interrogation.

                  1. He, but not his successor or contemporaneous documents (it appears), says. His successor says there was no there there and there is no public evidence of anything pointing to Burisma, much less its Board, much less Hunter. The evidence suggests there were primarily national/institutional interests driving the ouster of Shokin (UK, EU, IMF, etc., all wanted the ouster and presumably they weren’t all just helping Biden). Doesn’t Shokin have a bit of an axe to grind at this point? I mean, it doesn’t mean he’s lying, but wouldn’t you want some corroboration of Shokin’s allegations that he was very much going to investigate Biden? (And he doesn’t even say that, just that he was going to interview him in connection with investigating Burisma which, if true, isn’t nothing, but also isn’t targeting Hunter.)

            2. Yes, it’s completely inconsistent with something that you just made up.

          2. Does is it seem credible that Biden would push to get an investigator fired because he wasnt investigating the company that was paying obscene amounts of money to a person – and that person was your son.

            It doesnt pass the smell test

    2. Trump was withholding federal funds to pressure Ukraine to pursue an investigation into Trump’s domestic political enemy.

      To the extent Biden participated in withholding funds, it was to pressure Ukraine to remove a corrupt prosecutor who the EU, IMF, and basically all interested Western democracies agreed needed to go because of his corruption. In other words, in the Biden case, the pressure was in the service of the U.S. interest in promoting democracy and combating corruption, generally. There is no indication it had any benefit to Biden personally, particularly as the investigation into the company with which his son was associated had already ended with no finding of misconduct.

      (In other words, Shokin came to a conclusion favorable to Biden and then Biden supported Shokin’s ouster. The pro-Trump anti-Biden narrative doesn’t even make sense.)

    3. Upon review, no it’s actually substantially worse.

      Many outlets are ignoring the direct interview with Shokin. Where he says he was going to bring in Hunter Biden Jr. for interrogation, but Joe Biden got the President of Ukraine to fire him first. Here’s the excerpt

      “That is, in the “Burisma case” the prosecutors were not going to “turn on the back”?
      “No, we were going to interrogate Biden Jr., Archer, and so on.”
      – What got in the way?
      – Did not have time. The President told me repeatedly that Biden demanded that they remove me. A report was prepared on my work, it was sent to the deputies, posted on the GPU website. If you take these reports – they are many times different from what my predecessors could do. There were no objective grounds for dismissal.”

      Joe Biden blackmailed a foreign government, using the the US government to prevent an interrogation of his son? That’s what it looks like. That’s also a direct interview from Shokin.

      You may not believe it. You may think Shokin’s lying. But that’s grounds for an investigation. If it happened any other way (IE, if Ukraine was going to bring in Ivanna Trump for Investigation, but Trump got the investigator fired before it could happen), there would be hell to pay.

  3. Prediction #1: Nothing like that happened.

    Prediction #2: It won’t matter to Trump haters whether it happened or not. Goalposts aren’t so much moved as projected like a rainbow. Good luck ever getting to the end.

    Prediction #3: This bit of drama will make it much easier for Trump to win reelection. The case for or against his Presidency will already have been decided by the public before the summer 2020 campaign starts. The public will decide that impeachment is a farce and the people pushing it are unfit.

    Prediction #4: Added political capital and more congressional allies in Trump’s second term. Impeachers will be talking about Orange Man Bad, their election opponents will be talking about jobs.

    Prediction #5: Public dislike for the news media grows and becomes vitriolic hatred. They’ll genuinely be in danger in some places. And yet they will learn nothing.

    All predictions. Could turn out wrong.

    1. Prediction # whatever: If Republicans are smart – and I have my doubts on this point – then they’ll be able to use any impeachment trial to highlight Biden’s corruption. Roberts (as presiding officer) might try to be swamp-ish and prevent this, but the Republican majority, if it has intelligence and guts, would be able to overrule Roberts.

      Of course, I’m not particularly confident in a prediction based on the Republicans having intelligence and guts. They are basically crooked and are quite tolerant of Biden-style corruption, plus they might be more worried about making old Roberts look bad than about exposing the truth about the Biden scandal, if the Democrats are silly enough to bring up that scandal as a subject.

      Bear in mind that Biden is a former long-serving Senator, and as Vice-President he was the Senate’s presiding officer, so there’s also an institutional benefit in the institution policing its own.

      1. More brilliance!

      2. There is not going to be a trial. Motion to dismiss on first day.

    2. 1. My pet conspiracy theory is that Pelosi et all are just letting the kids run off steam and have given up on 2020 and are waiting for 2024 because the Republicans have no natural successor to Trump. Trump was elected because he is not a typical mealy-mouthed politician. Any successor would not excite the same crowd.

      2. If impeachment proceeds, Biden will be the big loser. Impeachment will tar him with the corruption brush for sure; it may or may not tar Trump, and there’s a good chance the Republican Senate will refuse to convict Trump. But Biden’s loss may suit Pelosi at al just fine, since they want the kids to flame out and leave 2024 to the adults.

      3. The Biden evidence has to be string and reliable, or none of this would be happening. The Trump evidence is another matter, and impeachment is practically guaranteed to galvanize the Trump crowd; impeachment without conviction is would not enflame the Democrats any more than they already are.

      4. If Trump is convicted, Pence is a poor substitute, but there are no good substitutes. I would not put it past the Republicans to run Trump+Pence in 2020 just to rub it in the Dems face.

      5. Pelosi et al would accept a Dem win in 2020 if Trump is convicted, but they wouldn’t be happy, because they are realists enough to know any Green New Deal would kill the Dems for 2024.

      6. I think I’m going to enjoy politics all the way til election night.

      1. If Trump were convicted, be sure that his right to run in 2020 would be challenged in court, and he’d stand a good chance of losing. The impeachment clause does say something about disqualification for future office, after all.

        But I don’t really see how he gets convicted.

        1. I agree it is inconceivable that the Senate would convict, but ultimately the audience for the investigation and trial would be the voters, not the Senators. I suppose if Pelosi felt there were a strong case she would try to complete the trial before the election so that voters could also judge Senators that vote against conviction, but I think it could be quite difficult to get to that point in the next 13 months if the Senate drags its feet.

          1. I think Pelosi is riding the tiger, and if the tiger has decided to run towards a cliff, well, staying on its back is still safer than dismounting.

            The Democrats have been attacking Republicans in general as monsters for several generations now, and Trump in particular as Literally Hitler since he secured the nomination. Pelosi might just be serving the Koolaid, but too many of the party activists have been drinking it. Now they can’t refrain from acting as though they have, too, or they’ll be accused of collaborating with the enemy.

        2. Pelosi knows the Republicans won’t vote to convict. It doesn’t matter. Republicans now have a choice: endorse/excuse Trump’s corruption, or become the subject of a million R tweets, and most likely (for senators, at least) a primary challenge. Have fun, guys!

          1. The Democrats were stupid enough to pick a charge where Republicans have a third option: Demonstrate that Biden’s family were profiteering off his official position, and Trump was just assuring Ukraine that they’d no longer be punished if they investigated it.

            Really stupid to pick something like this to impeach over, where the road to acquittal goes straight through the reputation of the likely Democratic nominee.

            1. Brett, that is a nice, concise illustration of the points made in my discussion of whataboutery above.

            2. Brett,

              Trump, with the help of Giuliani, Fox, and the rest, will find plenty of ways to smear whoever his opponent is. It doesn’t matter who gets the Democratic nomination. They are going to make up a ton of crap and spread it vigorously.

              And you’re going to believe it, no matter how patently ridiculous it is.

          2. The problem with valuing “millions of tweets” regardless of observed trends is that Twitter is a closed echo chamber formed of a minority of all Americans.

        3. “The impeachment clause does say something about disqualification for future office, after all.”

          Has to be specifically voted on. Alcee Hastings was removed as a judge 30 years ago but since the Senate failed to do so, he could get elected to Congress.

          Fun fact, Hastings supports Trump’s impeachment.

      2. My pet conspiracy theory is that Pelosi et all are just letting the kids run off steam and have given up on 2020 and are waiting for 2024 because the Republicans have no natural successor to Trump. Trump was elected because he is not a typical mealy-mouthed politician. Any successor would not excite the same crowd.

        I’m not sure this is much of a conspiracy theory. Most of the policies the current bout of candidates are proposing are unattainable, uneconomical, and/or just plain unpopular.

        I’d add that this is not just about letting the kids run off steam. The far-left elements of the DNC are trying to gain control of the party and push out the more center-left elements of the party.

        I expect the idea that the centrists are taking is that the more unhinged elements of the DNC make their policy positions more reasonable to ordinary Americans.

        Anyway, that’s why Trump is going to win in 2020 and unless the DNC is able to move back towards the center the Republicans will hold the White House in 2024.

        1. “unpopular” to whom?

          The core Dem base is drinking the Kool aid…

    3. Looking good for Prediction #1 so far.

      If you make up an elaborate conspiracy story you can convince yourself otherwise. That’s what we see happening now, so Prediction #2 is also looking better.

      You’d think people would give up on making up stories like that. It clearly doesn’t make them happy. They should be able to see how making up and then believing stories makes them an objectively worse human being as well. I don’t really understand why they keep doing it. My only guess is that these people have never spent a moment thinking about themselves or the world outside the context of layers and layers of made up stories. So reality isn’t a thing to them at all. But that’s just a guess.

  4. Nope.

    This is all a Witch Hunt by Leftists, initiated by a Leaker from the Globalist Deep State, and the narrative of the Fake News and so-called “reporters” suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome. Democrats, still angry and whining because Hilary Clinton lost, are now Virtue Signaling to what’s left of their Socialist base. Sad.

    Did I get it all in there?

    1. And augmented, as always, by rabid TDSer Somin.

      1. Oh dear, I think you’ve taken satire seriously.

        1. have you seen the commentariat around here, it’s hard to tell sometimes

    2. You forgot to mention that the whistleblower was not actually a witness to the phone call, and had a documented anti-Trump animus.

      1. Another made up claim. The whistleblower’s identity is anonymous.

        1. The OLC’s legal opinion on whether this is an “urgent concern” states :

          The complainant alleged that he or she had heard reports from “White House officials” that, in the course of a routine diplomatic communication between the President and a foreign leader…

          and

          …the ICIG’s preliminary review found “some indicia of an arguable political bias on the part of the Complainant in favor of a rival political candidate..”

          So made up by the OLC then.

  5. It seems like people are ahead of their skiis again. If all Trump did was lean on Zelensky to investigate an issue that he felt was of legitimate concern, then we got dick.

    If there’s evidence that Trump pressured Zelensky for a particular outcome of the investigation, that would be more serious.

    1. With a powerful, but circumstantial, case that Trump pressured Zelensky, would you vote to convict?

      1. Circumstantial in the sense that anybody who’d already hated Trump, and wanted him removed from office, would think it obvious? Or in the sense that somebody who actually liked Trump, and would rather he remained in office, would think it plausible?

        It makes a difference; From the first perspective, every time he draws a breath you’ve got a circumstantial case against him.

        1. I had no idea that only supporters of an officeholder were qualified to vote on impeachment of said officeholder! You learn something new every day.

          1. If the only people you can convince that somebody is guilty are the people who already hated him, you’ve got no case. That might not matter if there are enough people who hated him on the jury to convict, but that’s not the Senate.

            1. If the only people who you can convince that someone is innocent are those who worship him, then you don’t have a very good defense, though in this case there are enough Trump lickspittles in the Senate to get him off.

              1. Well, I’ve now read the call transcript, and it strikes me as rather innocent. No threats to withhold a billion in loan guarantees if there isn’t compliance, certainly. Just an offer to help with Ukraine’s efforts to police corruption.

                1. I read it too. Certainly, Joe Biden explicitly threatened to withhold funds if Ukraine didn’t fire their attorney general (who was investigating Biden’s son). Trump on the other hand did not do anything so explicit. Instead he politely asked them to cooperate with an investigation.

                  1. Nope. Investigation into Burisma had already been dropped when Biden contacted Ukraine. If anything, pushing Ukraine to fire a prosecutor for his failure to investigate corruption cases made it more, not less, likely that the investigation would be reopened.

                    1. “Investigation into Burisma had already been dropped when Biden contacted Ukraine. ”

                      No it wasn’t. Bloomberg reported that, according to one (1) person in Ukraine, the investigation was “dormant” at the time (not “dropped”). That tiny bit of reporting has been echoed and distorted throughout the media. But there are other persons who contradict the claim, such as Shokin himself, and the attorney general’s files on the matter.

                      “The general prosecutor’s official file for the Burisma probe — shared with me by senior Ukrainian officials — shows prosecutors identified Hunter Biden, business partner Devon Archer and their firm, Rosemont Seneca, as potential recipients of money.

                      Shokin told me in written answers to questions that, before he was fired as general prosecutor, he had made “specific plans” for the investigation that “included interrogations and other crime-investigation procedures into all members of the executive board, including Hunter Biden.””

                    2. ML,

                      That matches what I’ve found in Shokin’s interview. Shokin was planning on bringing Hunter in for interrogation.

                  2. You’re a liar, M.L.

                2. It’s not a transcript, Brett. It’s a memo about the call, with items quite possibly eliminated. And it’s not innocuous.

                  Would you buy a used car from Donald Trump?

                  Let’s see the whistleblower report, and get an actual transcript if there is one, not a document prepared by Barr.

                  1. I agree . . . so long as we also have transparency regarding the Bidens.

                    1. “so long as we also have transparency regarding the Bidens.”

                      What an unwise rule. It ensures corruption never gets punished.

                      “I will fight to the death to protect my guy from a legitimate and complete investigation unless all the people who I think might be corrupt on the other side are also investigated.”

                      Just agree unconditionally. You may also advocate for further investigation into Biden’s conduct.

                      Linking the two just makes it more likely no one is held accountable. And it starts to look like that’s your point (and the point of Trump apologists, generally).

            2. True! But Sens. Collins, Gardner, et al. are still gonna be in a hell of a box when it comes time to vote. Whitewash Trump’s corruption, or invite a primary challenge? Oh, my heart bleeds for those folks.

      2. “With a powerful, but circumstantial, case that Trump pressured Zelensky, would you vote to convict?”

        I think you need evidence that Trump didn’t feel that the incident didn’t need investigating, our that he sought to effect the outcome of the investigation.

        1. “I think you need evidence that Trump didn’t feel that the incident didn’t need investigating, our that he sought to effect the outcome of the investigation.”

          Your double negative says the opposite of what I think you meant. You really seem to mean that “you would need evidence that Trump felt that the incident didn’t actually need investigating” but wanted it investigated anyway for his own political gain.

          At any rate, if Trump’s subjective belief as to whether Biden “needed” to be investigated is all that matters, then a President is more insulated from impeachment the more he conflates his own interests with what “needs” to be done. And, given that Trump seems to see no difference between his own interest and that of the U.S., Trump can commit no wrong under your standard. He will always think his political opponent (Hillary, Biden, SNL) “needs” to be investigated. That doesn’t mean his directing someone to prosecute SNL, for instance, wouldn’t be an abuse of power.

          And the evidence about Trump’s motivation is evident from his focus on Hunter Biden rather than on Burisma. If he was concerned about corruption generally, then he would want Burisma and all the Board members and other potentially interested parties investigated. Instead, he is hyper-focused on Hunter Biden. That is the evidence you seek. You’ll very likely never get more direct proof of his, or any other President’s, motivations.

          1. raping a dead thread, but I had this thought about this:

            At any rate, if Trump’s subjective belief as to whether Biden “needed” to be investigated is all that matters, then a President is more insulated from impeachment the more he conflates his own interests with what “needs” to be done.

            And yet, that is exactly how our system is designed to be run. The Executive receiving all manner of input from the three branches as well as the voters, within the bounds of the Constitution, implements his own version of foreign and domestic policy and making those decisions on whether his needs (approval rating) are met by doing so.

            I submit that every elected official, many appointed officials, most bureaucrats and me all make all our decisions as best we can to fulfill our personal needs. For everyone above but me, their primary need is to remain in office to implement their policies. All of their decisions are predicated on that, bending to the cost of approval to continue their policies.

            In the original version of our system, the Executive was never supposed to have these many powers. What we want to change is what decisions do we want to limit the executive (elected officials) to? I’ll offer
            this as a starting point along with the first 13 amendments. The rest have to be renegotiated.

    2. Good luck getting people to buy that the legitimate concern is purely coincidentally Biden.

      1. It makes a pretty big difference whether there’s actually a case against Hunter and his father for corruption; It’s quite possible to do the right thing for ulterior motives, it doesn’t stop being the right thing.

        1. Well, to support that inference, we have that long record of Trump fighting corruption in other countries…dang, where’d I put it? It’s around here somewhere.

        2. If it were legitimate, would you make your personal lawyer the point man?

  6. To be clear – America disgraced herself in the eyes of the world when a U. S. envoy – that is, Biden – used bullying tactics to get a prosecutor fired who by coincidence was investigating the envoy’s family, then the envoy boasted about it publicly (leaving out the coincidence about the investigation of his family).

    The message the world will get is that America throws its weight around in the world, not for the world’s good as we pretend, but to line the pockets of our officials and their families, just like any other gangster-state.

    Now when a new American administration allegedly wields pressure to correct this international embarrassment – maybe seeking justice from impure motives, who knows – then suddenly we’re all violated virgins gasping in horror at Trump’s unique wickedness?

    1. Eddy, look up the timeline here – you have what Biden and why he did it pretty wrong.

      1. Great – Biden is innocent, there’s no need for an investigation, Vanity Fair and the New York Times were wrong, so in any impeachment trial of Trump for his intervention in the Biden scandal, the Senate should strictly exclude any evidence of the Biden scandal – that’s how confident you are in his innocence.

        Anyway, what about the ordeal of poor Merrick Garland?

    2. Eddy,

      Read what sarcastro said. Your claims are simply wrong as a factual matter.

      To start with, Shokin was not investigating Biden’s son, and there are other inaccuracies as well.

      1. Joe Biden disagrees with you, on video. He said he, Joe Biden, got the guy fired.

        Are you calling him a liar?

        1. But not because he was investigating Biden’s son.

          Ee know this because he wasn’t investigating Biden’s son.

          Do you just lie relentlessly and unashamedly, about everything, like your Leader?

          1. Shokin claims he was investigating him. Others claim he wasn’t. That’s it. You have no actual proof of anything.

            But try to convince people that Biden was so concerned about corruption in the Ukraine that he wanted someone in there who would root it all out, even if it implicated Hunter. Yes that is going to very convincing. Biden is toast.

            1. EU countries and the IMF also supported the ouster of Shokin because he was not pursuing corruption aggressively enough (if at all, really). It is entirely plausible that Biden wanted someone to pursue corruption investigations in Ukraine as that is what every other interested Western democracy also wanted and there is no indication that Hunter is or would have been implicated in any corruption investigation. If Biden was concerned as you propose, presumably he wouldn’t have joined all these other countries who very clearly were interested in reducing/eliminating corruption in Ukraine.

              1. No one knows at this point what Shokin was actually doing or not doing. But the fact that everyone on your side is content to look at the arrangement with Burisma and conclude that it was hunky-dory speaks volumes. Biden had an interest in protecting Burisma from investigation, that much is clear. He’s been going all over the world selling Hunter’s “expertise” to the highest bidder, and if that doesn’t stink of corruption to you then you must be hard of smelling.

              2. Using the leverage of our loan guarantees to get an official fired, who obviously the host government didn’t want fired, is still interfering in the internal workings of a sovereign nation.
                Is it the Trump hater’s claim that getting a sovereign nation to do “what every other interested Western democracy also wanted” is what our money should be used for?
                Even if, as you clowns falsely claim, Biden wasn’t trying to protect his son, he still used dollars, the US Congress allocated, to exert influence on the government Congress said should get those loan guarantees.
                P.S. Trump using pressure to get the Ukraine to investigate is something that his detractors can only claim is implied, because, unlike Biden’s boast, it is not stated. You wouldn’t be able to convict on an implied threat in a real court of law.

                1. Using the leverage of our loan guarantees to get an official fired, who obviously the host government didn’t want fired, is still interfering in the internal workings of a sovereign nation.

                  That’s called foreign policy when you’ve got an economic empire. I don’t disagree it’s bad policy, but it’s not illegal or even untoward, it’s standard procedure.

                2. retiredfire,

                  “Using the leverage of our loan guarantees to get an official fired, who obviously the host government didn’t want fired, is still interfering in the internal workings of a sovereign nation.”

                  The U.S. has promoted democracy and battled authoritarianism, corruption, and human rights abuses quite publicly (and, unfortunately, quite the opposite too many times covertly) since before WW2. Do you have a problem with U.S. efforts to promote democracy and combat authoritarian governments? Are you upset at the tariffs on Chinese goods or our economic sanctions against Iran? All using economic power to try to influence the actions of sovereign nations (including explicitly advocating regime change in Iran). The problem is most definitely not “interfering in the internal workings of a sovereign nation.” As Sarcastro says, that is ordinary foreign policy, though I disagree with him that linking aid to removal of officials who are universally regarded as corrupt is unsound policy. It seems quite sound. A nation is often, if not always, justified in using the sticks and carrots at its disposal to advance its national interests, particularly when those interests involve promoting democracy, good governance, and freedom and to oppose authoritarianism and corruption.

                  The problem is that Trump used U.S. power to advance his own personal interests.

                  “getting a sovereign nation to do “what every other interested Western democracy also wanted” is what our money should be used for?”

                  Sometimes yes, sometimes no. In fighting corruption to help Ukraine become a functioning democracy moving toward the EU and west and away from Russia is very much in the US and free world’s interest.

                  “You wouldn’t be able to convict on an implied threat in a real court of law.”

                  You must not be an attorney. People are convicted on implied threats all the time. Plus, the request by Trump that a foreign government investigate a political rival is highly troubling even without offering a quid pro quo. But the quid pro quo is about as clear as it is ever likely to be. Only really careless criminals make their illegal threats explicit.

                  “unlike Biden’s boast”

                  Whataboutism is rampant when the substance is so against you.

                  Biden boasted that he got a corrupt prosecutor sacked in favor of a more aggressive anti-corruption prosecutor much to the benefit of Ukraine and the international freedom-loving community. There is no indication that his son was in any personal danger which cuts heavily against the Trump-apologists’ narrative and the timing doesn’t fit the Trump-apologists’ narrative.

          2. In an interview, Shokin says he was going to bring Hunter in for interrogation.

            That generally counts as enough evidence (direct interview testimony from the prosecutor on the case) to at least look into the matter more.

            1. If anything, the U.S. and U.K. were pressing for more aggressive investigation of Burisma and its principal (Zlochevsky).

              https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-05-07/timeline-in-ukraine-probe-casts-doubt-on-giuliani-s-biden-claim

      2. Reading the President’s phone call transcript, what’s really got the Democrats unhinged is the prospect that Shokin is looking to be replaced with somebody who actually WILL investigate Biden’s son.

        1. But . . . they are saying Joe Biden got Shokin fired because he wasn’t doing enough in his investigation of Barisma’s corruption. So they should be really happy now that Trump made this request?

          1. Yes nothing Joe wants more than a corruption-free world. Even willing to sacrifice his son if need be.

    3. America disgraced herself in the eyes of the world when a U. S. envoy – that is, Biden – used bullying tactics to get a prosecutor fired who by coincidence was investigating the envoy’s family, then the envoy boasted about it publicly (leaving out the coincidence about the investigation of his family).

      Eddy, you are spreading a lie.

      It’s disgusting.

      1. I *said* it was a coincidence, what more do you want, fool?

        1. As a matter of fact, bernard11, the only thing I spread was your mother’s fat legs when I gave her a pity fuck.

  7. I was a bit surprised to find out some (most? all?) people think refusing to spend allocated money is a violation of the purse power. I’d never thought of it because the idea of any President refusing to spend money seems so loony. Diverting allocated money, sure. Unallocated money, sure. But who’d’a thunk any President would refuse to spend money?

    What I wonder is what really happened — obviously allocated money isn’t spent the minute the President signs a spending bill (or Congress overrides a veto). How much time does it usually take? Normal budgeting makes me think it would have to be over the course of an entire fiscal year. Allocating $100B for the F-35 program, or $10B for a carrier, doesn’t spend it all instantly and at once.

    So doesn’t foreign aid also have a full fiscal year to be spent, or at least a few weeks to get ducks in a row? I’ve seen nothing saying how long Trump delayed it. I think that point alone is an obvious defense.

    1. None of this was up in the air. The dates were sent. It was time to send the money and the Whitehouse held it up. Trump finally talked with Zelenskyi (whom Trump had been messing with for a while) and a couple of days later, the money was sent.

      1. As the executive (the one carrying out the law), if the law doesn’t state explicit payment dates, he should be ok in delaying.

    2. There is a long of people with their hands trying to make their budgets (contracts) from the promised (and promised date) outlay. Everyone knows the date the money is supposed to hit the banks and everyone has kited purchases and made further contracts based on that date.

      So, the delay of the release day by even hours can be catastrophic for individuals. I remember waiting for the Federal budget to be passed to know whether we would go back to work or looking for work.

      All of that doesn’t matter. The President is in charge of foreign policy and if it behooves him to steer that policy one way or another is his prerogative. We have always used tax money to steer policy objectives that further the continuance of policies (reelection).

  8. Largely overlooked in the debate so far is the fact that, if Trump did indeed try to use the aid funds as leverage, he not only engaged in improper self-dealing but also usurped Congress’ power of the purse.

    Well,

    (a) maybe, maybe not, as to improper self dealing

    The US government has a legitimate interest in foreign governments investigating US citizens for corruption (if there are reasonable suspicions.) If Trump had urged the Ukrainian government to investigate, say, Manafort, no one would argue that was even slightly improper. And even less so if Trump had merely urged the Ukrainian government not to be deterred in its investigations by threats from other US sources. The US’s legitimate interests are no different as to a Ukrainian investigation into Biden or Manafort.

    So to conclude that there is “self dealing” we have to infer that Trump’s motive was to benefit himself in the 2020 election, rather than the pure motive of cracking down on US citizens’ corruption overseas. Indeed even if Trump had the slightly less pure motive of “look, he’s at it, they deserve some of their own medicine” that is not an illegitimate motive. Always assuming that there is some reasonable basis for suspicion. If you imagine that Trump wouldn’t have been keen to sic the Ukrainians on Hillary, even though she is totally irrelevant to Trump’s 2020 election prospects, you need to get out more.

    Justice should be served up to all, and Trump’s adversaries should not be exempt simply because they are Trump’s adversaries. This of course echoes the investigation into Trump by the Obama DoJ in 2016. If – we must stipulate – there were reasonable suspicions constituting sufficient justification for a counter-intelligence investigation into Trump, they wouldn’t stop being sufficient justifications just because he’s the opposing party candidate.

    (b) as to the usurping of Congress’s spending power

    No.

    First, it depends on whether the authorised funds are authorised unconditionally or not. Perhaps someone knows. But t certainly wouldn’t be strange for Congress to authorise funds subject to some Presidential discretion. For example, demonstrating that there were controls to stop the funds being stolen by corrupt officials.

    But second, even if the funds are authorised unconditionally, threatening to withhold them doesn’t impinge on Congress’s spending power. Only actually withholding them would do so. Obviously threatening to do something the folk you’re threatening know you can’t do isn’t much of a threat. But it’s not hard to imagine the Ukrainian government being a little hazy as to precisely what the President’s legal powers might be. Because haziness of the law may be familiar territory in Ukraine; and because its not unknown in the US system, otherwise it would not be necessary to have 85 mllion lawyers within the US population of 300 million or so.

    So a mere threat to withhold funds doesn’t cut the mustard.

    1. https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-joint-resolution/31/text

      (2) UKRAINE.—Of the funds appropriated by this Act under titles III and IV, not less than $445,700,000 shall be made available for assistance for Ukraine.

      (b) Limitation.—None of the funds appropriated by this Act may be made available for assistance for a government of an Independent State of the former Soviet Union if such government directs any action in violation of the territorial integrity or national sovereignty of any other Independent State of the former Soviet Union, such as those violations included in the Helsinki Final Act: Provided, That except as otherwise provided in section 7047(a) of this Act, funds may be made available without regard to the restriction in this subsection if the President determines that to do so is in the national security interest of the United States: Provided further, That prior to executing the authority contained in the previous proviso, the Secretary of State shall consult with the Committees on Appropriations on how such assistance supports the national security interest of the United States.

      “Shall be made available for assistance for Ukraine” suggests that the President has some discretion regarding how the money is spent.

      There are restrictions (“cannot be used for X”), but I don’t see any instruction that the money must be distributed.

      1. “None of the funds appropriated by this Act may be made available for assistance for a government of an Independent State of the former Soviet Union if such government directs any action in violation of the territorial integrity or national sovereignty of any other Independent State of the former Soviet Union, ”

        As a follow up to the limitation – Temporarily withholding funds pending an investigation into corruption that may affect the other former soviet states would certainly fall within the discretion allowed under the statute.

      2. Didn’t see any date there. How can they be delayed when no date is mandated? I’d guess end of fiscal year in the absence of a specific date.

  9. You realize, Ilya, that you don’t at this point have a particularly good track record at identifying when Trump is exceeding the bounds of his statutory authority, right? Maybe at identifying how random 5th circuit judges will rule on the topic, but not how the Supreme court is going to view it.

    I think it’s because you’re not applying yourself to the other side of the two part exercise; First you reason out how what Trump is dong is illegal, then… you stop. You don’t try to figure out how it might be legal.

    1. I don’t think Ilya has been attempting to predict exactly how far the Supreme Court will go to excuse stuff Trump does.

      1. When he’s expressing his professional opinion about the state of the law, it’s pretty relevant that he’s fronting for a position that only one or two circuits take seriously, and gets slapped down by the Supreme court.

  10. The working theory here is that the President may not exercise his Constitutional power to deal with foreign nations when it might reduce the expenditure of money that was authorized by Congress?

    We did not really need more evidence that Ilya Somin is more “never-Trump” than “libertarian”, but we certainly have it.

    1. That is sometimes true, in the sense that sometimes Congress affirmatively directs that certain money be spent, and, per the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974, Presidents have quite limited power to refuse to spend it.

      On other occasions Congress merely authorizes spending, without ordering it, or by some other statutory provision lets Presidents exercise discretion.

      So it really requires more analysis than Ilya bothered engaging in. He does seem to have a reflexive conviction, that any time Trump does something he doesn’t like, it must be illegal. As though Trump doesn’t actually have a good team of lawyers advising him.

      1. “per the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974, Presidents have quite limited power to refuse to spend it”

        How can an act overrule the Constitutional power of the President to direct foreign affairs?

        1. Well, he doesn’t have a free floating “Constitutional power to direct foreign affairs”, would be the answer. He has several specific powers in that area. Yeah, it would probably be questionable if Congress ordered him to spend money negotiating a treaty he was opposed to.

          1. “he doesn’t have a free floating “Constitutional power to direct foreign affairs””

            Well, the Supreme Court disagrees. Absent a specific grant to Congress or part of Congress, foreign affairs is the President’s area.

            That certainly is not conclusive, the Supreme Court is wrong more than right. But its consistent with the very limited powers given to mainly the senate.

            1. The Supreme court frequently disagrees with the Constitution. That’s nothing new. The point is, the President doesn’t have any explicit power “to conduct” foreign affairs”. So the Constitution doesn’t actually prohibit Congress from legislating in that area, even if it does annoy the Court.

  11. Pelosi says no one is above the law. Except illegal immigrants in her own sanctuary state. They are cool. And Biden who can facilitate the firing of a prosecutor looking into his corrupt kid. That is fine. And deep state leakers. They are saving the country by fighting Trump. Other then these people no one is above the law.

    1. For the millionth time, the investigation into Burisma was already over when Biden intervened. “Fire the prosecutor who once investigated my son but isn’t doing so now” wouldn’t register on the corruption meter even for an ordinary president, and the idea that Trump, who embraces corruption wherever he finds it, would act on that basis doesn’t pass any sort of laugh test.

      1. And for the millionth time, the investigation was not and is not “over.” It was dropped because the prosecutor was corrupt and that’s why Ukraine is re-opening the investigation. It was fishy af before Joe Biden got involved and only became compounded when he threatened to withhold aid if said prosecutor was not fired.

        1. In short, Ukraine was already corrupt long before any Bidens got involved. Shokin was corrupt, but he was corrupt for the wrong guys. Biden needed someone corrupt for his son and that’s why he put pressure on Shokin. This is incredibly common behavior in failed nation states. Use the government to persecute your opponents in the name of ending corruption, but really you’re just eliminating the competition.

        2. You have a weird idea of how improper pressure works. “Fire the prosecutor who dropped an investigation into my son’s company, and put in place a better prosecutor who will go after corruption harder” is not generally how it goes.

          1. Historically speaking, that’s actually exactly how it works. You get someone with the appearances of a reformer, but really they’re just a wolf for the most corrupt of all who realize they can weaponize the government in their favor. Go after enough bad guys to keep up the facade but never go after your boss.

            Look at any narco state in central/south America if you want some good examples.

      2. Hunter Biden’s job itself was corrupt. We don’t need any investigation to tell us that. The only question is whether it was illegal.

        1. Hunter Biden’s job itself was corrupt. We don’t need any investigation to tell us that. The only question is whether it was illegal.

          I think my favorite part of this whole thing is those who are outraged to think that cushy jobs and other benefits are given, unearned, to the relative of a famous, rich, or otherwise powerful person.

          Zounds! It’s almost as though the rich aren’t actually better than us!!

          1. Why are these benefits given ? Folk are just star struck ?

            “Y…y..you are Hunter Biden ? Oh my ! I’ve always wanted to meet you. Please take this $1 million a year sinecure. It would make me so happy if your rear end could shine one of our boardroom chairs three times a year”

            It’s almost as though the rich aren’t actually better than us!!

            1. Well on average they are (in the sense of more competent than us) because a good fraction of them make their own money from their own businesses. (Though the proportion of 1s to 3s is much higher the more capitalisty / free markety the place is.)

            2. But obviously some make their money from pure good luck (eg lottery winners, folk whose marginal farm just happens to be sitting on a valuable mineral deposit etc)

            3. And some make their money from graft, parasiting away on government money or shakedowns

            4. And some get their money by inheritance, either directly from the parents, or by “other benefits” afforded by third parties who wish to bribe their powerful parents

            1. Part of it is the benefit of having a big name on your board, part of it rich people being kind to rich people. Some if it is certainly hoping to be looked upon favorably by the principle relative. It’s not seemly, but that is not a bribe – no explicit quid pro quo. (For an explicit quid pro quo, look at Trump in etc. etc.)

              Surely you know you can’t res ipsa loquitor yourself into a corruption charge.
              Will Smith’s kid was had a hit song based just about entirely on her parents’ connections. Do you think we should go arrest them both?

              You admit rich people often get stuff based not on merit. You list some of the ways this is true. You call it corruption. But then you say well maybe some of them earned it. A significant fraction, even. Based on nothing. Incoherent.

              1. This is pathetic, even for you.

                1. You’re the one only just now discovering how our system works.

                  1. Yes I must be very naive. I think that the Clinton Foundation was all about charity, that the guy who runs Burisma could as easily have chosen Taylor Swift to be on the board, that Joe really cares about corruption, and that you and your buddies actually believe what you say.

              2. Once the “principle relative” finds themselves in a position to “look favorably” on something the relative should deal with objectively, you create the epitome of a conflict of interest.
                Officials, representing a government, especially one as powerful as ours, must avoid such situations, not keep on keeping on and using threats of what our taxpayers dollars will be used for.
                Once Hunter got hired at the company, that would benefit from actions his father could take, daddy should have recused himself from that position to avoid the conflict of interest, or appear corrupt.

                1. You’re mixing up how it should be with how it is.

                  How it should be is indeed better than how it is, but it is how it is. Or do you deny that power begets power?

              3. part of it rich people being kind to rich people.

                Stop doing that. It hurts when my jaw keeps hitting the floor. This must be the dumbest thing you’ve ever written – from an impressive portfolio. Rich people are kind to other rich people simply because they’re rich !?@?!

                That is totally insane.

                Rich people who are nice people are nice to rich and poor alike, cos they’re nice.

                Rich people who are not particularly nice, but who feel under some moral duty to help others – eg the poor and the sick and those who could make use of opportunities they lack. They don’t help other rich folk. Cos the other rich folk can help themselves.

                And last but not least, indeed probably most – rich people help people who they think will be able to help them back. Whether those other people are rich, poor or middling. The criterion is “useful.” Of course on average rich people are more useful than other people because on average they’re rich because they’re useful. But there are countless exceptions. In this, rich people are not unusual. Everyone helps people who may be useful to them.

                Rich people being kind to other rich people ? Simply because the other people are rich ? What planet did you say you were from again ?

                Surely you know you can’t res ipsa loquitor yourself into a corruption charge.

                There’s (much) more to corruption than explicit quid pro quos. Obviously. Although this wonderfully detailed article describes what was almost certainly an explicit quid pro quo :

                https://www.nationalreview.com/2016/06/hillary-clinton-cattle-futures-windfall/

                it also includes this great line about less direct trades :

                “The great grafter does not buy government officials after they are elected, as a rule. He owns them beforehand,”

                You admit rich people often get stuff based not on merit. You list some of the ways this is true. You call it corruption. But then you say well maybe some of them earned it. A significant fraction, even. Based on nothing. Incoherent.

                You’re a “you didn’t build that” guy ? Wow. Rubbing jaw one more time…

                …..back on Planet Earth (subdivision – US) , yes, the great majority of first generation rich folk made their money without graft. Sure, once a business gets to a certain size, if you don’t visit K Street, your competitors who do will get you closed down. But most people who create a business and sell it for $25 to $100 million are not in that league.

                Most successful businessfolk are smart, very hard working and driven and single minded – they don’t have a lot of time for outside interests. Dumb, lazy, distracted folk who like to be on vacation all the time that they’re not propping up a bar don’t tend to create businesses they later sell for $50 million.

                So, as a matter of fact, “they did build that.”

      3. So it isn’t the President’s job to chase after corruption that doesn’t rise above the “base level”?

        What about other politicians that act like they are above the law. Or “sanctuary cities” that flaunt the law? Maybe we should start putting these people in jail too.

        1. Out of all the corruption out there, he’s targeting the kind that is unproven and includes his political opponent?

          You really believe that?

          1. Only unproven to those who refuse to look at the facts.
            As much as you want to ignore the words of the prosecutor, nothing you have said can be said to have any proof behind it.
            Got some documents, or an announcement that the Burisma investigation was closed?
            And ipulleditoutofmyass, dot, com doesn’t count.

            1. Only unproven to those who refuse to look at the facts

              The facts you laid out are that there is the appearance of a conflict of interest. Like it or not, rich failsons being on international corporate boards isn’t considered corruption.

              In fact, there is no evidence Hunter is guilty of anything.

              Got some documents, or an announcement that the Burisma investigation was closed?
              NToJ’s comment above, September.26.2019 at 10:24 am.

              Y’all are basically lying at this point.

              1. In case somebody says there is no link, here’s the news source.

                1. Interesting link.

                  Basically Burisma announcing that all investigations into it have been closed.

                  The story is dated 12 January 2017, which is 9 months after Shokin was fired. Thus :

                  (a) either the investigations were still open when Shokin was fired, or
                  (b) Burisma waited more than 9 months after the closure of the investigations before announcing that fact

                  Who’s betting on (b) ?

                  1. I don’t think there’s any question that the investigations were still open when Shokin was fired. The allegation (here) is that Shokin wasn’t prosecuting corruption investigations, or was actively stymieing them.

                    The main problem with Shokin’s investigation is backwards looking. The UK began an investigation into Burisma’s owner in 2012 and 2013. UK prosecutors needed information from the Ukraine to aid that investigation. But Shokin’s predecessor (Yarema) did not provide the assistance, although he did open an investigation on the same matters. There’s no evidence that Shokin did anything to lift a finger to further that investigation, despite having it in his office during the entire year he was prosecutor general. The retiring Kasko (above) said that the investigation went dormant prior to Biden’s involvement. That’s the same conclusion reached by Geoffrey Pyatt (former US ambassador to Ukraine) in 2015. And the same conclusion reached by Daria Kaleniuk (ED of Ukraine’s Anti-Corruption Action Center).

  12. TiP, you must hail from warm climes.
    One should always be ahead of one’s skiis.

    1. True, I don’t ski.

  13. I live in Ukraine, follow our relationship closely and I thought it was weird that Ukraine wasn’t getting money that Congress authorized. This country that is dying to be an ally and has what it takes to be a good one (global positioning, lots of resources, wanting to be more like the west, well educated, hard working people etc) and needs to be treated decently. Trump is playing unconstitutional games that could hurt our relationship with Ukraine in the long run. If he’s allowed to continue, what other countries will he try this with? First time I’ve said but impeach him!

    1. I would suspect that you would also prefer to stop the corruption regardless of the political party

    2. As an American, let me say up front that many of us don’t want to have a confrontation with Russia that could lead to war, or a proxy war, over whether Russia has a warm water port or not.

      I wish Ukraine the best, they deserve their independence, but there isn’t much at stake for the U.S. in Putin’s imperial ambitions in that region.

    3. Trusting Clinton on nuclear weapons in Budapest was worse than anything Trump will or can do.

      Thanks for the ally proposal but we have enough military worthless allies in Europe already.

      1. That’s for sure. Like our guarantees are worth a bucket of warm spit. Even the Presidents who give them can’t be trusted to keep them, you sure can’t count on subsequent administrations to keep these promises.

  14. I think the overall thrust of the main post is quite correct, but have to say 3 things. One, the ship has largely sailed on the impeachment-ability of Trump’s usurpation of the power of the purse. Two, whether he actually usurped the Congress’ power of the purse is going to depend upon a closely-parsed analysis of both the language of the relevant appropriation authorization and the statute(s) underlying/creating the foreign aid program at issue and of the actual conversation between Trump and the Ukrainian government official(s) on the call. Moreover (and now I speak as an attorney who does work in both English and a foreign language, analyzing and reviewing both legal and business documents for content, relevancy and so on) the quality, accuracy and understandability of any and all translations as well as what was really understood by the participants in any conversation, is going to wind up being critical. And three, there is little doubt that both Bidens’ conduct in regard to dealings with Ukraine as establishing what was acceptable for governmental officials in dealing with that government. Moreover, (again) Greg Craig’s behavior in representing clients in and around the Ukrainian government will also be dragged in as some level of precedent, as will the fact he was acquitted.

    1. Two, whether he actually usurped the Congress’ power of the purse is going to depend upon a closely-parsed analysis of both the language of the relevant appropriation authorization and the statute(s) underlying/creating the foreign aid program at issue….

      In other words, did Congress
      (1) “authorize” spending $x million on aid to Ukraine without conditions, or
      (2) “require” spending $x million on aid to Ukraine, or
      (3) “authorize” spending $x million on aid to Ukraine subject to conditions (and, of course, who then decides whether the conditions are/were met and how do they decide), or
      (4) “require” spending $x million on aid to Ukraine subject to conditions (and, again, who decides if the conditions are/were met and how do they decide).

      How much discretion the President had, and the criteria (if any) the relevant statutes applied to cabin his discretion are going to wind up being critical. And it’s entirely possible (I’m not taking a position one way or another) he was within (or outside) the scope of his discretion when he did what he did.

      1. 5) Was there a specific date by which the funds had to be handed over to the Ukraine, or did it just fall back on end of fiscal year or some other standard fall-back date?

      2. What still has to be proven is the connection between Trump’s suspension of the spending and the conversation, that apparently preceded the lifting of the suspension.
        Did nothing else happen in the interim of suspension and the lifting?
        In a real court of law, the implied threat argument would go nowhere.

        1. In a real court of law, the implied threat argument would go nowhere.

          Seems to me you’re wrong about that.
          Not my area of law, but there are lots and lots of attorneys all over the media saying it’s an open and shut case with all the elements.

          And you seem kinda biased.

  15. “It got almost no attention, but in May [2018], CNN reported that Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) and Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) wrote a letter to Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Yuriy Lutsenko, expressing concern at the closing of four investigations they said were critical to the Mueller probe. In the letter, they implied that their support for U.S. assistance to Ukraine was at stake. Describing themselves as “strong advocates for a robust and close relationship with Ukraine,” the Democratic senators declared, “We have supported [the] capacity-building process and are disappointed that some in Kyiv appear to have cast aside these [democratic] principles to avoid the ire of President Trump,” before demanding Lutsenko “reverse course and halt any efforts to impede cooperation with this important investigation.”

    -seems folks are more sanguine when the D’s do this stuff, that is pressure foreign countries wrt domestic political gain.

    1. Wait, they’re not allowed to express concern about Trump manipulating foreign policy for his own political ends? Because that’s what I see here.

      1. It’s the same thing. They implied financial support was on the line if Ukraine didn’t investigate, same as some claim Trump did.

        1. No, actually, they’re upset that Ukraine appeared to have made decisions about what to investigate in response to pressure from Trump. And getting from claiming to be “strong advocates” for ties with Ukraine to “we’ll yank your aid if you don’t” is a big stretch.

          1. Likewise, and right back atcha.

          2. What Thrax2 said, plus the Democratic trio were open and aboveboard, posting the letter they sent on the Internet. Whereas Trump concealed what he was doing. At the time, and afterwards. And the Democratic trio were speaking of Ukraine cooperating with a formal U.S. government investigation, whereas Trump was sending his private lawyer Rudy Giuliani to work on behalf of Trump, not the U.S. And Trump actually withheld aid to coerce them, while the Democratic trio didn’t do anything like that.

          3. The letter from the Senate communists says “to avoid the ire of President Trump”, which you conflate with “in response to pressure from Trump”.
            Not the same thing.
            Typical redefinition by the communist left

    2. A letter from Congressmen is not the same as money from the President whose asking ‘do me a favor.’

      1. Please, go into depth as to why the letter from the Congressmen demanding an investigation into Trump is different from the transcript of the conversation Trump has with the Ukrainian President.

        1. 1) It didn’t come from anyone with any power
          2) It was concerned about an article saying that Ukraine was jiggering with it’s internal polices to cozy up to Trump during the campaign. Nothing about ‘hey, do me a favor and investigate Trump’

          Trump, on the other hand
          1) had power, and used it to threaten
          2) was concerned about finding ways to tar his political opponent

          DMN and Thrax both have separate ways to distinguish as well. It’s a pretty bad analogy. But it’s the frantic poo-throwing portion of the GOP response.

          1. That’s just idiotic.

    1. Did he do it to try to force them to make up fake scandals about one of his electoral opponents?

    2. Your complete failure to address the improper purpose that is the core of the issue here is amazing. No one is unhappy Trump withed foreign aid; it’s about why he did it.

      Were you just desperate to post something that seemed on point, and did it too fast? Are you so blind that you see only bitter Dems and haven’t bothered to see what they were talking about? Did you manage to convince yourself that intent does not matter for humans culpability?

  16. Distributing or withholding appropriated tax dollars to pursue or further the policies and goals of the USA is a legitimate use of power.

    Distributing or withholding appropriated tax dollars to pursue or further personal electoral goals is an legitimate abuse of power.

    The first is acceptable, unimpeachable, and a legal use of authority. The latter is none of those things.

    1. So you support impeaching senators Robert Menendez, Richard J. Durbin, and Patrick J. Leahy who threatened Ukraine with witholding aid money if it didn’t continue probes they felt were important with the Mueller probe?

        1. Otis, at times one has to use absurdity to illustrate it in others.

          1. You’re absurd, alright. I’m not arguing.

            1. Oh, the wit. It stings me. Whatever shall I do…except note that you don’t seem to get the joke is on you.

              Seriously. Have you read the transcript? It proves my point, that this whole thing is absurd. Just another example of hyperventilating and “bombshells” that end up being duds.

      1. 1) Senators can’t be impeached.
        2) They didn’t do any such threatening.
        3) They actually asked the government of Ukraine to cooperate with the United States government, not with their own private matter.

        1. 1) Article 2, Section 4: “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.
          That includes Senators
          2) They threatened just as much as you say Trump did.
          3) They were trying to get dirt on their political opponent. The fact that they weren’t potentially facing him, directly in an election, is irrelevant. Trump wasn’t facing Biden, either.

          1. OK, so you’re not actually an attorney, then. Because this is really bad.

          2. 1) Since the Senate is in charge of impeachment proceedings, the Senate gets to decide if Senators are “civil Officers of the United States” under Article 2, Section 4. In the only instance of a Senator’s impeachment, the Senate expelled him under Article I, Section 5 instead. So: “Blount’s impeachment trial–the first ever conducted–established the principle that Members of Congress and Senators were not ‘Civil Officers’ under the Constitution, and accordingly, they could only be removed from office by a two-thirds vote for expulsion by their respective chambers.”
            2) So you agree that they did not threaten anybody?
            3) The President is facing Biden in the next election, by all indications.

    2. If you believe that an investigation of the Bidens furthers Trump’s electoral goals, you are already admitting that they are crooks. Thanks for clearing that up.

      1. Come on, man. Investigations can be an electoral issue regardless of guilt or innocence.

        Check out what your GOP majority leader said about the endless Benghazi investigations that found nothing.

        1. Your idea of “finding nothing” and what about half of the country think, is diametrically opposed.

  17. Could this be a way to raise the Burisma mess to hurt Biden as well as to hurt Trump?

    1. What is this, the new “DNC screwed Bernie”?

  18. That is inconsistent with Biden’s public statement where he bragged that he got the prosecutor fired who was investigating Hunter.

    1. Stop. Lying. Shokin was not investigating Hunter.

      1. David, what you are saying is the lie.
        The prosecutor, in his own words, said he was investigating.
        Do you have some evidence that he is not telling the truth?

        1. That’s not what Shokin said. He said he planned to interrogate Hunter Biden, as part of the investigation of Burisma (which he never prosecuted). That’s not the same thing as saying he was investigating Hunter Biden.

  19. https://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2019/09/analyze-this-39.php

    Powerline just posted the transcript of the telephone conversation.

  20. From the far-left Washington Post:

    “It got almost no attention, but in May, CNN reported that Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) and Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) wrote a letter to Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Yuriy Lutsenko, expressing concern at the closing of four investigations they said were critical to the Mueller probe. In the letter, they implied that their support for U.S. assistance to Ukraine was at stake. Describing themselves as “strong advocates for a robust and close relationship with Ukraine,” the Democratic senators declared, “We have supported [the] capacity-building process and are disappointed that some in Kyiv appear to have cast aside these [democratic] principles to avoid the ire of President Trump,” before demanding Lutsenko “reverse course and halt any efforts to impede cooperation with this important investigation.”

    So, it’s okay for Democratic senators to encourage Ukraine to investigate Trump, but it’s not okay for the president to allegedly encourage Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden?”

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/09/24/democrats-investigation-might-do-more-hurt-biden-than-trump/

    1. Man, you guys must be getting your talking points from the same place!

  21. Depending how this plays out it may become appropriate to draw parallels between Donald Trump and Rod Blagojevich.

    And parallels head in the same direction.

    1. Parallels also head in opposite directions, even unto infinity.

      What they don’t do is intersect.

  22. I’ve seen it reported elsewhere this morning that a transcript of the call in question between Trump and Ukraine officials has been released and that there is no mention of aid funds at all, much less withholding said funds if they don’t reopen the investigation in to Biden’s son.

    1. And even if there had been, “withholding funds” can simply translate into “I’ll do whatever I can in order to legally withhold funds from you”. This may or may not require congressional authorization, but he could have sought that.

      Of course, we should really go back to the pre-Nixon situation where the president could impound at will.

    2. Not a transcript. A summary.

      1. More terrible fiction from DMN. Sad!

        1. Even if you weren’t already informed, and even if you were one of those people who refuses to believe things people smarter than you tell you, you should be able to read. The document itself says that it isn’t a transcript.

  23. Here’s a tip for saving time in an increasingly hectic world: Is the story you’re about to read written by someone named “Ilya?” If so, do something else.

  24. It’s been largely “ignored” the same way you largely “ignored” it until Trump MIGHT have done it. Yet another double standard. Trump can’t compel Ukraine to investigate corrupt actions of previous admin, but previous admin can use the same tactics to maintain their corruption. Peak TDS.

  25. Let me translate this for you: “If you don’t comply with US policy, I’ll go back and ask Congress to revoke your appropriation.” Get it, honeybuns?

    In addition, impoundment of funds is traditionally a presidential power; it was limited only in the 1970’s, but those limits should be removed. Not spending money is a power the executive should have, as well as the power of threatening people with not spending money.

    1. The key is if the purpose isn’t about policy but rather more personal.

      1. Can you read? That isn’t Somin’s point at all. He says that for the President not to spend appropriated money for any reason is a Constitutional violation.

    2. it was limited only in the 1970’s, but those limits should be removed. Not spending money is a power the executive should have,

      If a president doesn’t want to spend money, then he should veto the law requiring him to spend money. He should not sign it and then disobey it, in effect issuing a sub silentio veto.

  26. This post, and many of the comments on it, have not aged well–remarkable really, since that took significantly less than a day.

    1. Yeah kind of a moot point.

  27. Sorry, as a Libertarian longer than most of you have been alive, I find it dangerous that Libertarians and Reason writers are becoming lite democrats. Yes, Trump is far from ideal as President but would you have preferred the clearly fascist Clinton? I voted for Johnson but the election is long over and Trump won. We should oppose him of Libertarian and reasonable grounds. We should not be opposing him for trying to get evidence of the obvious corruption of a top democrat, who is one of the least freedom loving persons in the US. He is a long time member of the aristocracy and has enriched himself and his family by sending our money to tinpot dictators for forty years. The great thing about the Trump presidency is that even the aristocracy is opposing the deep state and the power of the presidency now. Support that effort but don’t play with into the dirty hands of the democrats,

  28. Trump is not the first president to try to undermine Congress’ control over spending. Barack Obama, for example, illegally diverted funds to pay for Obamacare subsidies that were not authorized by Congress. But Trump is unusual for doing it so brazenly and so often. If he manages to get away with it, we will have created a dangerous precedent. Republicans who may support him now are unlikely to be happy when future Democratic presidents use similar tactics.

    It seems the dangerous precedent had already been created.

    Also, Obama threatened to withhold federal funding from universities who used a stricter standard than preponderance of the evidence in disciplinary hearings regarding sexual harassment.

    1. Whattaboutism isn’t a precedent. That’s not how rules work.

      1. “Whattaboutism” is the cry of the proven hypocrite.

        1. That’s. Not. How. Rules. Work.

          Crying ‘not fair’ doesn’t change a thing.

          1. Surely you have heard of the concept of precedent.

  29. Congress has the “power of the purse”, but that power lies in the unity of a majority, which is non-existent today. The President has “veto power” and that power lies in one man’s pen. That is why and how Presidents thwart Congresses power.

  30. It’s already a matter of public record that the Ukrainians were unaware Trump had suspended their aid at the time of the call in question. Go home, Ilya, you’re drunk.

Please to post comments