Bill Press: Ukraine is the final straw for Trump

Donald Trump didn’t learn anything from 2016. Not only has he still not acknowledged Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign. Not only has he still not admitted his campaign’s multiple contacts with Russian operatives. Not only does he disagree with fellow Republicans who say: “We can’t allow foreign interference in an American election ever again.” Trump welcomed foreign influence in 2016 and now he’s doing his best to make it happen again, in 2020. This time with a different country. Not Russia, but Ukraine.

There’s a lot we still don’t know, but we know enough to be alarmed. Here’s what we know: First, on July 25, President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump DOJ demanded metadata on 73 phone numbers and 36 email addresses, Apple says Putin says he's optimistic about working with Biden ahead of planned meeting Biden meets Queen Elizabeth for first time as president MORE placed a call to Volodymyr Zelensky, the new president of Ukraine. Second, a career, on-duty U.S. intelligence officer monitoring the call was so appalled by what they heard the president say that, on Aug. 12, they filed a whistleblower complaint with the inspector general of the intelligence community. Third, after ruling that the complaint was “credible” and a matter of “urgent concern,” the inspector general referred the case to acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Joseph Maguire.


Fourth, and most significantly, the Wall Street Journal reported that, during his phone call, President Trump eight times — eight times! — told Zelensky, in so many words, that the key to improving relations between the United States and his country was for Ukraine to launch an investigation into actions taken in Ukraine by former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenPutin says he's optimistic about working with Biden ahead of planned meeting How the infrastructure bill can help close the digital divide Biden meets Queen Elizabeth for first time as president MORE and his son Hunter during the Obama administration — an investigation the president’s attorney, Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiGiuliani endorses Republican Curtis Sliwa for NYC mayor The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Democrats' agenda in limbo as Senate returns CNN obtains audio of 2019 Giuliani call linked to Ukraine meddling allegations MORE, has admittedly and repeatedly, pressured Ukrainian authorities to undertake. Fifth, this call came at the same time the United States was withholding a promised $250 million in military assistance to Ukraine.

Meanwhile, to make things worse, even though Trump himself now admits talking to Zelensky about Biden, the White House refuses to release a transcript of the president’s call and acting DNI Maguire has refused to provide Congress with a copy of the whistleblower complaint, which by law he’s expressly required to do.

But here’s where things went off the rails. The media, which sometimes has the intellectual capacity of a gnat, immediately began portraying the incident as just the latest installment in the nascent 2020 campaign. Even the mighty New York Times headlined it as a “major flashpoint in the presidential race.”

No, no, no and no. Of course, the controversy has some political dimension, because it concerns both Trump and Biden. But this scandal’s about a lot more than politics. Or at least should be. This is a lot more serious than any horse race between Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

If the transcript of the call confirms what the whistleblower and the inspector general contend, this is about a president who offered a bribe to foreign leaders, which is illegal. This is about a president who holds military aid ransom in return for help with his political campaign, which is illegal. 

This is about a president who doesn’t just tolerate, but actually invites, a foreign government to interfere in an American presidential election, which is illegal. This is about high crimes and misdemeanors. This is about treason. This is the ultimate impeachable act.

Which makes the silence of congressional Republicans all the more stunning. To date, not one single Republican has criticized Trump for attempting to lure a foreign leader into interfering in American politics. But Democrats can’t wait for Republicans, anymore. By betraying his country, Trump has crossed the Rubicon. Let impeachment hearings begin.

Press is host of “The Bill Press Pod.” He is author of “From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire.”