- - Thursday, September 26, 2019

It began with a whistleblower who obtained a telephone transcript between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that dealt in part with Joe Biden’s son.

The story, broken by The Washington Post, said that Mr. Trump “pressed [Zelensky] to investigate” the matter that Mr. Trump “thought would deliver political dirt” on his possible challenger in 2020,” former Vice President Joe Biden.

Instead, the president’s question has triggered a House impeachment investigation into what Rep. Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, called “the most fundamental betrayal of his oath of office.”

“The descriptions of the call provide the clearest indication to date that Trump sought to use the influence of his office to prod the leader of a country seeking American financial and diplomatic support to provide material that could aid in the president’s reelection,” The Post reported.

The whistleblower turned over what he knew to the intelligence community’s inspector general who, The Post said, has “assessed the whistleblower complaint as credible and a matter of such urgency that it should be disclosed to the relevant committees of Congress.”

When Mr. Trump spoke on the telephone to Mr. Zelensky in late July, the president knew that the Ukrainians were waiting for nearly $400 million in U.S. military aid that had been held up by the White House.

Several days after the two presidents talked, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani “met with an aide to the Ukrainian president in Madrid and spelled out two specific cases he believed Ukraine should pursue,” The Post said.

“One was a probe of a Ukrainian gas tycoon who had Biden’s son Hunter on his board,” The Post also reported on its front page.

The front page stories ran under this headline: “Trump said to have pressed Ukraine on Biden.” Next to that was a related story headlined: “Giuliani helped pressure Kiev to investigate Democrats’ son.”

The headlines tell the story: Mr. Trump’s “Ukraine call fuels impeachment take,” followed by this subhead: “Confident Trump On Defense Once More.”

The lead story recalled an earlier time when Mr. Trump was bragging that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III report didn’t lay a glove on him.

The day after Mr. Mueller testified on his final report, Mr. Trump “crowed ‘no collusion’ and claimed full vindication from accusations he had conspired with Russia in the 2016 election.”

“Then, the very next day, Mr. Trump sought to collude with another foreign country in the coming election,” The Post reported Sunday.

No Russian collusion? How about blackmailing the Kremlin’s threatened next door neighbor,  withholding any defense assistance if it didn’t play ball with Mr. Trump and give him the dirt on the son of a possible Democratic foe in the 2020 presidential election?

“This appears to be an overwhelming abuse of power, to get on the phone with a foreign power who is looking for help from the United States and ask about me, if that’s what happened, that’s what appears to have happened ” Mr. Biden told campaign reporters.

Trump’s doing this because he knows I will beat him like a drum and is using the abuse of power and every element of the presidency to try and smear,” Mr. Biden said.

Most campaign polls show that Mr. Biden is beating Mr. Trump in head to head matchups in battleground states.

Until this week no one has released a transcript of Mr. Trump’s telephone conversation with the Ukrainian head of state — though Mr. Biden had challenged him to make it public.

Then in an interview with White House reporters Sunday, before he left for campaign events in Texas and Ohio, Mr. Trump “appeared to suggest he did speak about Biden with Zelensky,” The Post reported.

“The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, was largely [about] all of the corruption taking place, was largely that we don’t want our people, like Vice President Biden and his son, creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine,” he told reporters.

Then, in Houston, Mr. Trump seemed to backtrack, saying, “certainly I’d have the right to” raise Mr. Biden’s name with Mr. Zelensky.

Then the White House announced it would release a transcript of Mr. Trump’s call on Wednesday, much of which was a summary, scattered with ellipsis marks that signaled the omission of one or more words.

“The other thing, there’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son … and a lot of people want to find out about that, so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great,” Mr. Trump says in the transcript.

Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it … It sounds horrible to me,” Mr. Trump said.

President Zelensky, with nearly $400 million in the balance, said he’d see what he could find out.

• Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.

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