Commentary: Separating facts from fiction in ‘impeachment inquiry’

As a former prosecutor and judge, I know how much facts matter. I know how important it is to make sure you act in good faith, with adherence to the law. The current “impeachment inquiry” (a phrase the Democrats created to sound like impeachment, but isn’t really impeachment) fails in both respects.

What are the facts?

Ukraine and the United States signed a treaty in 1999 pledging to cooperate to fight corruption. There is some legitimate question whether, in the past, authorities in Ukraine have done so. Indeed, there is substantial reason to believe that Ukraine actively meddled in the 2016 U.S. election at the request of a supporter of Hillary Clinton, under contract with the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Recently elected President Volodymyr Zelensky ran on a platform to investigate and prosecute corruption.

For several years, members of both parties have made clear they want to know how our elections were interfered with so we can prevent that from happening again. As has been openly reported in the media, the United States is conducting an investigation into the role of foreign countries in the counterintelligence investigation targeting the Trump campaign. Attorney General William Barr has named United States Attorney John Durham to lead that investigation.

M. Jane Brady

In a July 25, 2019, telephone call between Presidents Trump and Zelensky, and after President Zelensky said that Ukraine is almost ready to order some military equipment from the U.S., President Trump asked a favor of Ukraine — that they assist Attorney General Barr with the investigation, noting that there are those who believe the entire collusion claims originated in Ukraine, and that he determine whether individuals in the country possess the DNC server that was hacked.

Later in the conversation, President Trump also asked that Ukraine look into the termination of an investigation into Burisma, a company on which Board of Directors then-Vice President Biden’s son, Hunter served. President Trump noted that then-Vice President Biden had bragged that he “stopped the prosecution”.

Indeed, there is video footage in which the then-vice president said that he had advised Ukraine that if they did not fire the prosecutor in the matter within six hours, one billion dollars of aid to Ukraine would be withheld. The prosecutor was fired (or resigned so his country could get the aid — there are conflicting stories.) President Trump also offers the assistance of his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, who he says “very much knows what is happening”. Giuliani has said he is helping Ukraine investigate what others are trying to stop.

A whistleblower complaint was filed that makes several allegations. The primary allegation is that the President “sought to pressure the Ukrainian leader to take acts to help the President’s 2020 reelection bid.” The transcript of the call, which has been released in its entirety, reflects no pressure at all. President Trump does ask a favor, noting that our country has been through a lot, that the Russian interference may have all started in Ukraine and that persons in Ukraine may have the DNC server. He asks if Attorney General Barr could call “to get to the bottom of this”. President Zelensky agrees it is an important matter in his country as well, and is open to any future cooperation.

Lost in all of what I have heard is that of the few substantive crimes for which anyone was indicted by the Mueller investigation were a dozen or so Russian officials who, he concluded, interfered with the election. Those cases are still pending and if there is now, with the new administration in Ukraine, an opportunity to get cooperation in compiling additional evidence in these matters, it is more than appropriate to seek it.

The Democrats claim there was a “quid pro quo” – that means “something for something” exchange – that the president demanded action by Ukraine with regard to investigating the Bidens before he would release military aid to the country. In fact, no such statements were made, the aid had been delayed due to concerns about how the new administration would handle corruption within their own country and, as even the decidedly anti-Trump New York Times has acknowledged, the Ukraine president didn’t even know the aid (which has been provided at this date) had been delayed until one month after the call.

Further, it appears that the investigation into Burisma is continuing. Not only did President Zelensky say so in the call, but, in an article on the website of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), a global network of investigative journalists, they report that “Hunter Biden’s work for Burisma, however, still raises eyebrows in Ukraine.” The organization quotes Daria Kaleniuk, Ukrainian Director, Anti-Corruption Action Center, a Ukrainian transparency group. “Shokin [the prosecutor in question] was not dismissed because he wanted to investigate Burisma. Quite the contrary. He was dismissed because of a lack of willingness to investigate this particular case as well as other cases involving high-level associates of [ousted former President Viktor] Yanukovych.”

Kaleniuk is reported to have said Hunter Biden was likely hired simply to impart his famous last name, and that taking the position was “wrong from an ethical point of view”. If the United States has information that may assist the investigation in the Ukraine, we have an obligation, under our treaty, to provide it. Further, the mere fact that Hunter Biden’s father may, at some point, be President Trump’s opponent does not exempt him or the company from investigation.

Impeachment has been a word in many Democrats’ vocabulary since the election of President Trump in 2016. It is unwarranted and unsupported by the facts, but don’t take my word for it. Thanks to the unprecedented transparency by the president, who declassified and released the transcript of the call and the complaint, you can see for yourself that there was no pressure, no demands, no impeachable conduct.

It has been well established that Hillary Clinton, while a candidate for president, and the DNC paid a foreign national, Christopher Steele, to procure opposition research on her opponent, Donald Trump, from Russian operatives. It has further been established, even admitted by then-Vice President Biden, that he withheld financial aid ($1 billion) for Ukraine until their government did what he wanted.

It is inconceivable that the Democrats cannot see the hypocrisy of their actions to impeach.

M. Jane Brady is chairwoman of the Delaware Republican Party.

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