By James Bouffard
Following the Trump-Ukraine scandal can be a confusing task since every day a new bombshell revelation comes out, and keeping track of all of them can be rather frustrating. For the sake of context, here is a brief outline of the events from the beginning up until now.
Hunter Biden, former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, joined the board of directors for the Ukrainian gas company Burisma Holdings in April 2014. Its founder, Mykola Zlochevski, has been accused of corruption several times, even after Biden’s appointment. The Ukrainian Prosecutor-General, Yuriy Lutsenko, has even alleged Joe Biden tried to obstruct investigations into this company in 2016, but the matter was eventually dropped.
Flashing forward to 2018, an interesting situation began to arise. American attorney Rudy Giuliani began having phone conversations with Lutsenko at the end of 2018. These eventually culminated into face-to-face meetings at the beginning of 2019.
Lutsenko claims Giuliani urged him to reopen investigations into Burisma Holdings, and the latter acknowledges ‘the matter was discussed.’
Moreover, Lutsenko did launch investigations into the company and alleged Ukrainian assistance of the Democrats following the 2016 election.
In April 2019, a few important developments occurred: Joe Biden officially announced he was running for president, and Hunter Biden left Burisma Holdings as a result.
Further, Volodymyr Zelensky was elected President of Ukraine. He had a congratulatory phone call with President Donald Trump. The White House originally claimed the call expressed Trump’s goodwill, but a new, non-verbatim transcript indicates the call occurred to facilitate a future meeting.
This did not seem especially scandalous until another call occurred on July 25. Trump allegedly engaged in quid pro quo, or a favor for a favor. In the phone call, Trump told Zelensky, “The other thing, there’s been 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… so if you can look into it … It sounds horrible to me.” Trump’s critics argue this is tantamount to quid pro quo, as the White House delayed military aid to Ukraine.
This military support amounted to around $400 million. Trump officials claim the stalling occurred because of uncertainty about how this spending would benefit American interests.
In mid-August, a whistleblower filed a complaint with the Inspector General about the phone call and other seemingly-shady dealings. It was soon sent to the Director of National Intelligence, and the House Intelligence Committee issued a subpoena for it on Sept. 13.
Within a couple weeks, Trump acknowledged the contents of the phone call, but he defended it saying corruption was a relevant factor in determining whether Ukraine should get aid. These revelations unsurprisingly produced outrage.
The House began formal impeachment proceedings on Sept. 24, but Trump must be tried in the Senate. It is worth noting that no president has ever been removed through impeachment.
Further, 66 senators must support this effort for it to pass. Republicans control 53 seats in the Senate, and they do not seem open to the idea. Mitt Romney (R-UT) is the only Republican who has expressed a desire to vigorously investigate the matter.
Nonetheless, Congressional investigations have revealed some interesting information over the past couple months. Former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch claims she was removed from her position for objecting to her relationship with Giuliani and Lutsenko.
Other diplomats described the peculiar, backdoor relationship between these two. The current ambassador, William Taylor, testified that foreign aid to Ukraine depended upon the investigation Trump and Giuliani pressed for.
We are continuing to discover new information every day, and a relatively clear picture is emerging. Many people are skeptical about the course of this scandal given Russia-Gate’s anti-climactic developments. However, there seems to be a much more concrete basis for allegations this time around. Whether the truth actually produces any political change is another question.