The facts of the case now moving forward in the impeachment of Donald J. Trump are clear, documented, and confirmed by numerous witnesses. Trump solicited interference into U.S. elections by foreign officials, not just once or twice, but repeatedly. In particular, he sought announcements meant to support a pair of conspiracy theories that could be used to demean and persecute Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. These actions were not just meant to provide Trump with an edge against particular politicians that he saw as threats to his power, but to exonerate Russia, implicate the DNC in its own hacking, repudiate all the findings of the Mueller report, and demolish the credibility of the U.S. intelligence community.
This is more than a constitutional crisis. It’s an essential crisis of democracy. Benjamin Franklin’s reply about “A republic … if you can keep it,” has been much in the news lately for good reason. This is the moment where we determine whether that is still possible. Can a republic, shaped to fit a tiny, young, isolated nation in an age of broadsheets, stand up to the pressures generated by and against an expansive world power picked over by a hideously wealthy few, when those few are aided by rampant propaganda delivered from every screen and speaker?
Trump isn’t just asking a foreign power to interfere in an American election against a single candidate. He’s asking that they participate in a scheme to discredit an entire party and the entire intelligence community. This is a make or break moment for the United States, and the fact that Rudy Giuliani is, at this moment, back in Kyiv openly working with ousted criminal pro-Russian forces to forward those same conspiracies says it all … they believe they can break it. They believe they already have.
In this triumph of propaganda and ignorance, the United States is far from the only victim. Not even close.
First off, this whole action, from start to finish, is absolutely destroying Ukraine. The July 25 phone call wasn’t the beginning of the plot. It certainly wasn’t the end. Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates … are all just part of a stream of Republicans who have been scouring former Soviet republics for the same reason as Russian oligarchs — these fledgling nations offer opportunities for theft, corruption, and personal enrichment that are open to anyone willing to crush nascent ideas of freedom and human rights. And they are.
Paul Manafort managed to turn Ukraine into a pipeline that directed at least $17 million to his pocket and generated not just a wardrobe of ostrich-skin coats and a driveway full of Mercedes, but allowed him to scam banks, distort real estate prices, dodge taxes, and generally live the life of an oligarch. Everyone in New York pays higher rent and higher taxes because Manafort, Trump, and others have abused lax real estate regulations to disguise money-laundering operations and inflate the apparent value of apartments and condos. They profit from this. Everyone one else picks up the check.
People in Ukraine also pick up that check. They pick it up by surrendering freedoms. By living in a place where they have to bribe Trump and Manafort and Giuliani’s pals just to get through a day. They pay for it with Russian troops not just on their border, but in their country. They pay for it with their lives.
In the hearings just past, Republicans made a point of saying that Donald Trump’s next statement after “I want you to do me a favor, though” didn’t mention Joe Biden. It didn’t — Biden came a few breaths later. But what Trump asked for next was not a generic “look into the 2016 election” as both Republicans, and Republican witness Jonathan Turley, have maintained. Trump directly, and specifically asks for President Zelensky to back up the “Crowdstrike” conspiracy theory, which is an attack on Hillary Clinton, the DNC, and U.S. intelligence agencies. It’s far worse than if he had just immediately gone on to Biden.
That’s what Rudy Giuliani is doing in Ukraine—looking for people who will blame their own country for interfering in the last election, because they’re perfectly, perfectly willing to weaken democracy in exchange for personal wealth and power. He’s searching out people who, with Russia daily nibbling away at their territory, are still willing to exonerate Vladimir Putin and indict their own officials. People who want to maintain corruption, because they are corrupt.
There are people on both sides of the Atlantic who like Ukrainian corruption. People who depend on Ukraine being weak, being in turmoil, and being always open to a juicy bribe. Those people include not just Trump and Manafort, but a long line of Republican lawyers, like Giuliani, whose job it is to remove people like Marie Yovanovitch and smear people like Hillary Clinton.
Because its only when both ends of the pipeline are open, that the money flows through.