Trump's Ukraine scandal is snowballing — and it could ensnare more people than any other presidential impeachment

Trump's Ukraine scandal is snowballing — and it could ensnare more people than any other presidential impeachment
Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo watches as President Donald J. Trump addresses journalists in New York, on September 25, 2019, during high-level week of the 74th Session of the UN General Assembly. [State Department photo by Ron Przysucha/ Public Domain]

If Donald Trump goes down, they all will—Trump has made sure of that by running his Ukraine conspiracy throughout his administration. The phone call between Trump and the Ukrainian president that triggered the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry didn't just include a dozen listeners; two of those people were actually his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, and the top national security adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg. So yes, the State Department and the Office of the Vice President, along with Pompeo and Pence, are implicated, not to mention the other officials on the call, who likely include members of the National Security Council.

But it doesn't stop there, because Trump was running a conspiracy on steroids that appears to have also gone directly through the White House counsel's office, White House budget office, Department of Justice, Energy Department, and perhaps other agencies that haven't been publicly implicated yet. In the process, everyone from lawyers to mid-level bureaucrats to intelligence officials detailed to the White House were privy to information regarding Trump’s pressure campaign and may have abetted Trump’s misconduct.

In some ways, it's a double-edged sword, making some implicated officials more likely to stick by Trump's side, while also giving Democrats access to more potential witnesses to wrongdoing. Pompeo, for instance, after initially dodging questions about Trump's Ukraine call, has now fully embraced Trump's conspiracy theory defense after being outed as present on the call.

On the other hand, the sheer breadth of the scandal makes it almost impossible for Trump and his allies to contain it. Career officials in multiple agencies were surely privy to information about Trump's plot to pressure Ukraine for help in the 2020 presidential election. That type of exposure results in people such as longtime U.S. diplomat Bill Taylor sending text messages like, "I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.” It also produces more potential witnesses who will perhaps be willing to come forward with information, such as a second whistleblower who has reportedly spoken with the intelligence community inspector general.

Perhaps the biggest problem for Democrats created by Trump's sprawling conspiracy is that the multifaceted scandal can start to seem more complicated and confusing as it grows over time. “The White House has figured out that chaos is the president’s friend along with misinformation, confusion, and allegations about this and that. As long as they keep the public uncertain about what happened and why it matters, they are advantaged,” observed Paul Light, a New York University professor who specializes in congressional investigations. “The Democrats need to make sure they have a clear message regarding the overall theme of the impeachment proceedings,” Light told Politico.

Indeed. As Trump’s scandal snowballs, Democrats must continually pound home the very basic fact that Trump abused the power of his office for personal gain and threatened U.S. national security in the process.


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