Why Trump’s first impeachment is relevant to Russia's Ukraine invasion: journalists

Why Trump’s first impeachment is relevant to Russia's Ukraine invasion: journalists

Ukraine was in the news a lot in 2019 thanks to then-President Donald Trump’s first impeachment; now, in 2022, Ukraine is dominating headlines all over the world because of Russia’s brutal invasion of the country, which is Europe’s deadliest, most dangerous military conflict since World War 2. In an article published by Politico on April 13, journalists Kyle Cheney and Andrew Desiderio offers some reasons why the Trump/Ukraine scandal of 2019 and the questions it raises are relevant to the Ukraine invasion of 2022.

“It’s easy to forget, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, that the war-torn country and its suddenly beloved leader were at the center of Donald Trump’s first impeachment in 2019,” Cheney and Desiderio explain. “But that seemingly distant chapter of American politics — when the American president secretly withheld military assistance for Ukraine before asking President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce an investigation of his political opponents — has a direct tie-in to today’s war, according to lawmakers and witnesses central to that first impeachment probe.”

The Politico reporters continue, “At the time, Zelensky desperately needed lethal aid, and a united front with the U.S., as pro-Russia separatists waged war in his country’s east. But Trump had other ideas; though he had previously delivered shipments of anti-tank missiles to Ukraine, he orchestrated a hold on military aid before asking Zelensky to roll out corruption probes targeting President Joe Biden. Zelensky initiated no such probe, and the aid was eventually sent to Ukraine.”

Before the Summer of 2019, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressed no interest in impeaching Trump — even when some progressive House Democrats, including Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, were calling for Trump’s impeachment because of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. But when Trump tried to bully Zelensky into giving him dirt on Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, Pelosi believed that Trump had crossed a dangerous line and became vehemently pro-impeachment.

Trump, however, was acquitted during an impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate, and he was acquitted in another Senate trial after his second impeachment in 2021. Although four U.S. presidents have faced the threat of articles of impeachment — Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton and Trump — none of them were convicted in a Senate trial and removed from office. Nixon, in fact, never even went to trial; he resigned in August 1974, fearing he would face a full House impeachment followed by a Senate trial.

Looking back on the events of 2019, Cheney and Desiderio recall, “The chaos caused by the abrupt pause on aid became an existential crisis for Ukraine — one that bears on the current war, in which aid from the U.S. and western nations has provided a lifeline to Zelensky’s government.”

According to the Politico reporters, a source who was “involved in the first impeachment probe” and “spoke candidly on condition of anonymity, pointed to a particularly salient lingering question left by the refusal of some of Trump’s budget advisers to testify or share documents: the contingency plan drawn up by defense officials to deliver Ukraine its aid — citing legal obligations — over the budget office’s objection.”

“The 2019 impeachment inquiry revealed several facts about Trump’s pressure campaign, including his efforts to enlist U.S. diplomats and outside advisers in his push for Zelensky to announce an investigation into Biden family members based on spurious claims,” Cheney and Desiderio note. “Much of that bid was routed through Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor and Trump’s personal attorney. Trump also repeatedly rebuffed Zelensky’s urgent pleas for a White House visit and discouraged then-Vice President Mike Pence from attending the Ukrainian leader’s inauguration as a signal of U.S. support.”

The journalists add, “Pence is at the center of another lingering mystery of the first impeachment: a September 18, 2019 phone call that he, a key Trump envoy to Ukraine, conducted with Zelensky. Details of the call came days after the withheld aid to Ukraine had been released and impeachment fervor began to take root among House Democrats. They were marked as classified by Pence’s office, leading to protests from Democrats who said the decision to shield the information was unjustified.”

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