US Political Warfare Explodes Over Trump And Ukraine

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Above Photo: LeStudio1 – 2019/Flickr

The Trump White House came under renewed fire this week from Democratic Party opponents and the bulk of the corporate media after it was revealed that Trump had discussed with his Ukrainian counterpart an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter over the younger Biden’s business activities in Ukraine.

The discussion, which took place during a July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, was a blatant effort by Trump to enlist the support of a foreign government in gathering dirt on a Democratic presidential candidate reportedly viewed in the White House as Trump’s most dangerous opponent.

Whether or not such an action is legal, it certainly demonstrates the extraordinary lengths Trump is prepared to go in using the powers of the presidency against his political opponents. And there is the additional charge, even more explosive, that Trump directly threatened Zelensky with a cutoff of US military aid if he did not cooperate in the anti-Biden campaign.

According to press reports based on the initial leaks about the July 25 call, Trump did not discuss the US military aid in the call, but the White House did block the aid—initially approved by Congress last year—until September 12, only 18 days before the end of the current fiscal year. The Office of Management and Budget gave no reason for delaying release of the funds, citing only procedural problems, but the delay led to inquiries from both Democrats and Republicans in Congress and the introduction of legislation to compel release of the funds.

The Trump-Ukraine contact first came to light when an as yet unidentified intelligence officer monitoring the phone call between Trump and Zelensky filed a “whistleblower” complaint with the then-director of national intelligence (DNI), former Senator Dan Coats. The complaint was found to be “credible” and “urgent” by the inspector general for the intelligence agencies, Michael Atkinson, who sought to inform Congress, as required by law, but was blocked by acting DNI Joseph Maguire, who replaced Coats on August 16. Maguire consulted with the White House before taking that action and was backed by the Justice Department.

The complaint was leaked to the Washington Post last week, setting off a feeding frenzy in the media, with further reports, based on intelligence sources, tying the demand for an investigation into Biden and the holding up of US arms aid. By Sunday, the American media was in full flight, with columnists demanding Trump’s impeachment and charging him with extortion against Ukraine.

The White House and its defenders fired back, mainly at Biden and his son. Trump himself confirmed on Twitter that he had discussed the Bidens in his July 25 call with Zelensky, while at the same time declaring that all such president-to-president calls should be confidential—that is, they should not be monitored or screened in any way by US intelligence agencies, which Trump views, with good reason, as a hotbed of political enemies.

There is no question that Hunter Biden sought to cash in on his father’s political prominence during the Obama-Biden administration by serving as a go-between for business deals in China, Ukraine and other countries. Such corruption is standard practice in capitalist politics, emulated by Trump on an even greater scale as his family rakes in millions from foreign governments—and the US military as well—through the Trump Organization’s network of hotels and resorts around the world.

In Ukraine, Hunter Biden was aligned with the same forces as Trump’s own future campaign manager, Paul Manafort—the oligarchs associated with the pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted in a CIA-backed ultra-right coup early in 2014. The billionaire oligarchs sought out US intermediaries to help them reach advantageous business arrangements with the new US-backed government of Petro Poroshenko.

Hunter Biden was hired by a gas mogul, Mykola Zlochevsky, who had been a cabinet minister under Yanukovych. In April 2014, Zlochevsky put the younger Biden on the board of his company, Burisma Holdings, in what was a transparent effort to win favor in both Washington and Kiev. Despite this, the new government initiated a corruption probe into Burisma, one of many such investigations targeting oligarchs in the faction now out of favor.

In 2016, Joe Biden traveled to Ukraine and used the threat of a cutoff of $1 billion in US aid to force the Ukrainian government to sack its top corruption prosecutor. The alleged reason was displeasure in Washington with the slow pace of investigations into the pro-Russian faction. Biden was silent on the fact that one of these investigations might involve his younger son.

The strident Democratic Party-media campaign over the July phone call largely ignores this aspect of the conflict—the blatant influence-peddling by Hunter Biden—while blasting Trump for using the powers of the presidency and enlisting a foreign government to undermine a feared political rival. Biden’s opponents for the Democratic nomination have been vociferous in denouncing Trump, but notably cautious about defending the former vice president.

There is evident nervousness in the Biden campaign about the implications of the renewed media focus on Biden’s son, who has long been viewed as one of the candidate’s principal vulnerabilities. A memo to the press issued by the Biden campaign Saturday concluded with a boldface warning: “Any article, segment, analysis and commentary that does not demonstrably state at the outset that there is no factual basis for Trump’s claims, and in fact that they are wholly discredited, is misleading readers and viewers.”

The predominant line of argument, however, both from Biden and his fellow Democrats as well as their media propagandists, has been that Trump is guilty of an unprecedented act in seeking to recruit a foreign government to do his political dirty work. “This appears to be an overwhelming abuse of power,” Biden said in Iowa. “We have never seen anything like this from any president.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has been blocking a full-fledged impeachment effort by the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement, “If the President has done what has been alleged, then he is stepping into a dangerous minefield with serious repercussions for his Administration and our democracy.”

Many House and Senate Democrats went further, particularly citing the alleged quid pro quo of military aid for collaboration against Biden. “This is all impeachable,” Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) wrote on Twitter. “Not a close call. We need more facts, but we would be derelict in our duties not to pursue the facts wherever they lead.”

In a joint op-ed column in Sunday’s Washington Post, George Conway, the husband of Kellyanne Conway, one of Trump’s closest aides, and Neal Katyal, a former US solicitor general, urged Trump’s impeachment, calling him, using Watergate-style language, “a cancer on the presidency.”

The Post itself wrote in its own editorial: “If the accounts we’ve heard are accurate, Mr. Trump is guilty of a gross abuse of his office… For the president to use congressionally appropriated military aid as leverage to pressure another government to investigate one of his potential opponents in the 2020 election is a blatant misuse of power.”

For all these opponents of Trump within the US ruling class, the Ukraine affair is an opportunity to reassert the claims first made in the course of the anti-Russia campaign that sparked the long-running investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Pointing out Trump’s efforts to obtain the support of the Ukrainian government in the 2020 elections is intended to provide legitimacy for the bogus claim that support from the Russian government was responsible for Trump’s victory in the 2016 elections.

As the WSWS has repeatedly explained, the anti-Russia campaign is a conflict between two equally reactionary factions within the US ruling elite, driven largely by differences over foreign policy. The Democrats, with the backing of much of the military-intelligence apparatus and the press, oppose any lessening of the confrontational posture towards Russia that was adopted during Obama’s second term and found particularly reactionary expression in Ukraine, the Syrian civil war and the NATO build-up across Eastern Europe.

While Trump employs increasingly authoritarian methods of rule, shown in the Ukraine affair but far more ominously in his attacks on democratic rights, particularly those of immigrants and refugees, the Democrats have employed the anti-Russia campaign to push for a crackdown against dissent on the internet, claiming that the social divisions in America are being created by Russian bots and trolls, not by ever-deepening economic inequality in the most unequal of the major capitalist countries.

The new stage in the political crisis opened up by the Ukraine revelations could produce new surprises. Congressional Democrats are demanding the release of the whistleblower complaint that first brought the Ukraine phone call to light, as well as a transcript of the call. Trump is scheduled for his first sit-down meeting with Zelensky Wednesday, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session.

  • voza0db
  • Alan MacDonald

    As I commented today in the “Times”:

    “Emperor Trump has so obviously shown himself to be, and have been acting like an Emperor for this Disguised Global Crony Capitalist EMPIRE!

    I was almost expecting Adam Schiff in his closing remarks about democracy to stand up and shout the riff:

    “Tell me what democracy looks like?”

    “This is what democracy looks like!”

    However, here in the more informed, radical, and anti-Empire / anti-War Popular Resistance, I have to continue and add this:

    The effin battle ain’t over even when this damn Emperor Trump is Dumped — because a substantial, and substantially deluded portion of the old, ‘dollar-drenched’, entrenched, and as Christopher Hitchens said 20 years ago — “the Democratic Party is not so much dead as actually, visibly, and palpably rotting on the slab” — and if the new Bernie, Beto, AOC wing of a truthfully newly-named “democracy party”, almost 180 degrees of of the old not really) Democratic Party and its effin DNC thinks that they are now in charge and ‘the cat’s meow’ — we the American people still need to; Occupy-Against, , ‘expose’, excoriate, and educate the average American public to the fact that one damn Disguised Global Crony Capitalist Empire ‘R’ Vichy party of the Empire has a stake through its dark heart — but that the damned and better camouflaged “smoother-lying” neoliberal-con ‘D’ Vichy Party working for the EMPIRE is still coiled like a rattle snake to strike and inject the same poison of EMPIRE in our hearts.

    Don’t never trust any Democrat unless they foresware EMPIRE AND WAR and join our new democracy party with Bernie, Kevin, Margaret, Paul Street, Chris Hedges, and the rest of the band!

  • Alan MacDonald

    Apparently, Joseph McGuire, seems to be a bit more than the bumbling Admiral dupe of Emperor Trump and the Disguised Global Crony Capitalist EMPIRE.

    McGuire after retiring as a U.S. Navy Admiral, Joe’s first ‘civilian’ job was with Booz Allen, of which Bloomberg wrote and “named it “the world’s most profitable spy organization”.[13] According to an Information Week piece from 2002, Booz Allen had “more than one thousand former intelligence officers on its staff”.[11] According to its own website, the company “employs more than 10,000 TS/SCI cleared personnel”.[14]

    In 2010, Booz Allen went public with an initial public offering of 14,000,000 shares at $17 per share. [15][16] In 2012, Booz Allen purchased the Defense Systems Engineering & Support division of ARINC, adding approximately 1,000 new employees to its roster.[17] In 2014, Booz Allen acquired Epidemico.[7][18] In 2015, Booz Allen acquired the software development division of the Charleston, S.C. technology firm SPARC.[19][20] In 2017, Booz Allen acquired eGov Holdings.[21] In 2018, the SEC awarded both Booz Allen and Attain a $2.5 billion contract to modernize how the SEC purchases IT services.[22]”.

    Which FACTS about senior military men jumping from what I call the ‘militarist-sector’ of the Disguised Global Crony Capitalist EMPIRE, to the ‘corporate-sector’ of the same 7 sectored Empire — which means he was, highly likely to be not only a ‘double-dipper’ in the sense of parlaying his military bona fades for economic value, but possibly fitting the exact model of what John Perkins called in his book “History of an Economic Hit Man” treading a thin line between being an “Economic Hit Man” himself, or perhaps a ‘useful idiot’ as a potential recruiter of ‘Jackals’ from the retired Navy Seals that he knew and commanded.

    John Perkins, himself was a whistle-blower on a similar firm using both ‘Economic Hit-Men’ and ‘Jackals’ for Charles T. Main — another sleazy corporation dealing at the intersection of deceits in both the ‘corporate-sector’ and the rouge ‘militarist-sector’ of this seven-sectored Disguised Global Crony Capitalist EMPIRE, which is only nominally HQed in, and merely ‘posing’ as, our formerly “promising”, and sometimes progressive country (PKA) America.

    I only hope that one or more of the actual new ‘democracy party’ House Reps., like AOC, or an older truth-telling and anti-empire/anti-War Senators, like Bernie Sanders, has enough research skills and courage to ‘expose’ and publicly ‘Shout-out’ the FACT that our entire corrupted, but very well camouflaged, EMPIRE has, like a metastasized into every one of these cancerous sectors of the highly integrated and deadly 7-sectored Disguised Global Crony Capitalist EMPIRE, composed of these; corporate, financial, militarist, media/propaganda/advertising, extra-legal, CFR ‘Plot-Tanks’, and most dangerously this dual-party Vichy-facade faux-democracy of both the “tougher-talking” neocon ‘R’ Vichy Party of the EMPIRE, along with the “smoother-lying” neoliberal-con ‘D’ Vichy Party of the exact effin same EMPIRE.

  • subcomandante Felix

    Of all the crimes that Trump has committed, it is indeed ironic that he may well be impeached over one of the few good things that he has tried to do. An investigation of
    Joey Biden’s role (as part of the Obama regime) into the bloody coup that ousted the democratically elected government of Ukraine and fostered a brutal civil war is long overdue. Those familiar with the violent Euromaidan protests that began in November 2013, know that the trigger for the coup came in February 2014, when snipers attacked both demonstrators and police, killing over a hundred people. The neo-fascist government that came to power as a result, provided a white-wash investigation into the sniper attacks blaming the police.

    Now that a new “reform” president, Zelensky, has been elected on an anti-corruption platform, an impartial investigation into the sniper attacks is much needed. There is
    overwhelming evidence that the sniper attacks were perpetrated by a NATO black-ops ultra-right wing Ukrainian paramilitary group, the Ukrainian National Assembly – Ukrainian People’s Self-Defense (UNA-UNSO). The role of VP Biden in this U.S. backed coup must be investigated. What is known for sure, is that Biden’s son Hunter and John Kerry’s stepson were installed on the board of Burisma Holdings, one of the largest private gas producers in Ukraine, just months after the coup.

  • mwildfire

    And what else has the Democratic Party vilified Trump for? For talking about withdrawing from Iraq, talking about getting along with Moscow, talking to North Korea…oddly, they don’t seem pissed that he hasn’t attacked Iran yet. Of course, they do also scream about his countless actual crimes and misdemeanors.

  • chetdude

    When Nancy Pelosi uses the term “our democracy”, what she really means is the very cozy and mutually beneficial relationship between those in her class (as a Hundred-Millionaire, she’s a card-carrying member of the Point 1 of 1% in the Owner/Donor Class along with The Donald) and their employees in governments at every level.

    As for the other 99% of us, tough sh*t…

  • Alexa Fleming

    You are a journalist. Please strike the use of “monitoring” when you mention the “whistleblower.” This was a second or perhaps third-hand account of the call. Whistleblowers are heroic figures. I think of characters such as Norma Rae. These heroes were witnesses to the situations they protested and fought back against. This person did not witness anything. In a court of law, I am sure the complaint would be deemed hearsay. I think this is especially damning (and ironic) when you realize how many laws and statutes were cited in the complaint letter, both in the body and in the lengthy footnotes. The present POTUS is no angel, but how can he be impeached with such shoddy, corrupt evidence as this?