If President Trump were facing impeachment on suspicion of grand theft auto, it would be compelling and exculpatory if his alleged victim sped to Capitol Hill, jumped out of his car, and told astonished House Democrats and journalists: “President Trump did not steal my wheels. My Ferrari has been in my garage this whole time. In fact, I just drove it here myself, and it’s parked right behind me.”
Trump-hating Democrats would ignore this development. Trump-loathing journalists would cover it up. And the impeachment fires would blaze away, undeterred, while the left tarred Trump as “America’s car thief in chief.”
This scenario mirrors Ukrainegate: The Ukrainians – whom Trump supposedly pressured, quid-pro-quoed, bribed, or extorted – repeatedly insist that nothing nefarious ever happened.
Asked about these numerous denials, former federal prosecutor Doug Burns said Thursday morning on “Fox & Friends”: “The victim wasn’t victimized.”
Consider these pleas from Ukrainians that they never felt abused by Trump and any supposed strings between $391 million in military aid that was temporarily withheld and demands that they investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, his son Hunter, and their ties to the Burisma natural gas company (on whose board Hunter reportedly was paid $50,000 per month to serve) and Kiev’s earlier probes of Burisma.
Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky discussed all of this in a July 25 phone call, around which Ukrainegate revolves.
Consider the following statements:
- “I know what the conversation was about, and I think there was no pressure,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko told the Hromadske news outlet Sept. 21. “This conversation was long, friendly, and it touched on many questions, sometimes requiring serious answers.”
- “Nobody can put pressure on me because I am the president of an independent state,” Zelensky told Russia’s Rossiya 24 news channel Sept. 25 at the United Nations General Assembly. “The only one person by the way who can put pressure on me ... is my son, who is 6 years old.”
- “Nobody pushed me,” Zelensky told journalists at a joint appearance that afternoon with Trump at the U.N.
- “I’m telling you – no, there was no such connection,” between military aid and investigations, a senior Ukrainian official told Time magazine Sept. 25.
- “I was never pressured and there were no conditions being imposed” on military assistance or a meeting between Zelensky and Trump, Ukraine’s president told Kyodo News Oct. 5.
- “There was no pressure or blackmail from the U.S.,” Zelensky said in Kiev during an Oct. 10 “press marathon” with some 300 journalists who took turns interviewing him in small groups. “This call influenced only one thing. We needed to secure a meeting, that it was necessary to meet with the president,” he said. “I wanted to show him our team, our young team. I wanted to get him into Ukraine.”
- “I had no idea the military aid was held up” at the time of the call with Trump, Zelensky said Oct. 10. Much like making a bomb threat while staying silent about the explosive device, it would have been tough for Trump to bribe or extort Zelensky without informing him that this security relief had been paused to ascertain whether Zelensky would keep his anti-corruption campaign promises. Kiev learned about this delay in late August. Zelensky and Vice President Mike Pence discussed this in Warsaw on Sept. 1. The assistance was released 10 days later.
- “And after this meeting, the U.S. unlocked the aid and added $140 million,” Zelensky said. “That’s why there was no blackmail.”
- “I’m against corruption,” Zelensky told ABC News’ Tom Llamas Oct. 10. “This is not corruption, it was just a call.” Zelensky also said: “This has nothing to do with weapons and the Burisma situation.” He added: “There was no blackmail. It was not the subject of our conversation.”
- “There was no blackmail,” Zelensky said Oct. 10. “We are not servants. We are an independent country.”
- “Our calls were not linked to Burisma or military aid,” Zelensky also said on Oct. 10.
- “Ambassador Sondland did not tell us, and certainly did not tell me, about a connection between the assistance and the investigations,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said Nov. 14 about Gordon Sondland, America’s emissary to the European Union. “I have never seen a direct relationship between investigations and security assistance,” Prystaiko said, according to Interfax Ukraine. “Yes, the investigations were mentioned, you know, in the conversation of the presidents. But there was no clear connection between these events.”
So far, there is as much evidence that President Trump bribed or blackmailed President Zelensky as there is that Trump stole Zelensky’s car.
Bucknell University student Michael Malarkey contributed research to this opinion piece.