I can just see the Orange Julius Caesar rubbing his hands together with glee, and clinking a glass with his hatchet man—I mean, ‘personal attorney’ Rudy Giuliani after they heard the news from Ukraine. Friday morning brought the payoff from months of illegal, impeachable actions taken by The Man Who Lost The Popular Vote. Just about every news site had the story at or close to the top of their website after it broke.
The New York Times (the ones who brought you breathless coverage of the “but her emails” faux scandal three years ago) ran a story with this headline: “Ukraine to Review Criminal Case on Owner of Firm Linked to Biden’s Son.” Here’s CNN’s headline: “Ukraine will review probe into gas company linked to Biden’s son.”
As these and other articles explained, Ukraine’s top prosecutor, Ruslan Riaboshapka, announced that his office will be conducting an “audit” of 15 cases “which were closed or investigated by the previous leadership.“ The cases relate to an energy company, Burisma, on whose board Hunter Biden served. However, as the prosecutor noted, Hunter Biden is not being investigated. Furthermore, when Riaboshapka was queried about any evidence of wrongdoing by any Biden, this was his reply: “I have no such information.”
In the reality-based world, this announcement should mean absolutely nothing. However, we know that won’t stop it from being blasted out across Trumpworld—especially on social media—as evidence that there really might be some smoke there, that the Bidens might really be corrupt. And that, above all, is how Trump tries to defend his indefensible actions, namely by claiming he’s trying to uncover corruption:
As the President of the United States, I have an absolute right, perhaps even a duty, to investigate, or have investigated, CORRUPTION, and that would include asking, or suggesting, other Countries to help us out!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 4, 2019
Never mind that there’s much more evidence of Trump’s baldness than there is that either Hunter or Joe Biden did anything illegal or corrupt. The announcement of this “audit” or whatever it is will give an opening to Trump and his defenders to say “See, we told you so.”
One question of vital importance I want to explore in-depth is the degree to which the mainstream media will, in its Pavlovian desire to show that it is ‘even-handed,’ help Trump by not telling the full story in an accurate way. So far, at least in the first few hours, the media is off to a decent start.
I say decent, rather than good, because even the headlines themselves are problematic. If one doesn’t read the article and get the full context, it will be far too easy to just read the headline and say, “Holy shit, Biden’s under investigation.” And of course, it’s even easier for those who want to destroy American democracy, i.e., Trump partisans, to simply share such a headline on Facebook and/or pump it up with Twitterbots in order to have it go viral.
The articles themselves, and I read a bunch, are overall pretty good as long as one reads them from beginning to end. In The New York Times, the first paragraph summarized the prosecutor’s announcement and, of course, mentioned the connection to “a son of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.” But the second and third paragraphs read:
The development came amid an impeachment inquiry against President Trump connected to a request he made to the Ukrainian president asking him to investigate Mr. Biden, a Democratic presidential candidate, and his son’s work in Ukraine.
The timing raised questions about whether Ukraine was, in effect, bowing to public and private pressure from the president of the United States, on which it has depended on for millions of dollars in aid.
The one in the Times, as well as most of the other articles I read, also noted that on the infamous July 25 call with Trump, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that the prosecutor he was about to appoint at that time would be “100 percent my person” and would “look into the situation.” The “situation” refers to the investigation Trump was pressuring Ukraine to conduct.
A couple of paragraphs below this, the Times article also reported the prosecutor’s claim that his work was “beyond politics” and his statement that: “No foreign or domestic politicians, officials or people who are not officials called me and tried to influence my decisions on specific criminal proceedings.” Still, the article does a good job of giving the reader the knowledge necessary to question Riaboshapka’s claims of being beyond politics or pressure. For anyone who missed it, here’s the full comment by Zelensky to Trump on July 25 about the person who would soon hold the office now held by Riaboshapka (to clarify, this full quote did not appear in Friday’s NYT article):
I wanted to tell you about the prosecutor. First of all I understand and I’m knowledgeable about the situation. Since we have won the absolute majority in our Parliament, the next prosecutor general will be 100% my person, my candidate, who will be approved by the parliament and will start as a new prosecutor in September. He or she will look into the situation, specifically to the company that you mentioned in this issue.
The Times article also directly stated: “No evidence of wrongdoing by Mr. Biden or his son has emerged, and the elder Mr. Biden has denied the accusations.” It added that on Thursday, i.e., just before the announcement of the “audit” of these cases, the Trump Administration approved the purchase by Ukraine of 150 Javelin missiles and other “related equipment.” Although the Times didn’t remind its readers, I’ll remind you that President Zelensky had brought up his desire to buy the Javelin missiles on the July 25 call with Trump. Trump’s immediate response was: “I would like you to do us a favor though.” [Emphasis added] He then asked Zelensky to do his bidding and investigate his political opponents.
The other articles I read offered a similar level of context. CNN, for example, had this section four lines into its piece, right after the lead that summarized the announcement from Riaboshapka:
US President Donald Trump pressured Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate both Bidens during a phone call on July 25, setting off an impeachment inquiry into whether Trump abused the power of his office in order to damage a political rival.
Quid pro quo translates most directly as: “something for something.” Ukraine just gave Donald Trump something. Was it worth it, Donny? Was the something they gave you worth the something you were offering? More importantly, was the payoff—meager though it is in reality—worth what it will cost you, now that we know what you did to get it? We may not know the full answer to that until after Election Day in 2020, but my hope is that Trump gets his comeuppance far sooner than that.
For now, the media must continue to make sure they don’t fall into Trump’s trap, and blindly blather about ‘investigations’ of Hunter or Joe Biden being conducted by a Ukrainian government that clearly has President Individual 1’s hands around its throat. They can’t do to Biden what they did to Hillary Clinton.
And here’s video of me on France24 News discussing the long-term, polarizing impact Donald Trump is having on our country, and why it is so important for us to defeat Trumpism (my appearance begins at 2:10. Unfortunately, the audio wasn’t working during my first few seconds, but it will come on, so please keep watching):