Impeachment investigation should focus on more than Ukraine

Impeachment investigation should focus on more than Ukraine
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In his recent phone call to newly elected President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky, President Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump opens new line of impeachment attack for Democrats Bloomberg to spend 0M on anti-Trump ads in battleground states New witness claims first-hand account of Trump's push for Ukraine probes MORE spent most of his time urging Zelensky to investigate alleged corruption related to Joe BidenJoe BidenBloomberg to spend 0M on anti-Trump ads in battleground states New witness claims first-hand account of Trump's push for Ukraine probes Obama cautions 2020 hopefuls against going too far left MORE, Trump’s political rival. He then went on in the call to empower Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrGOP eager for report on alleged FBI surveillance abuse DOJ watchdog won't let witnesses submit written feedback on investigation into Russia probe: report Bill Clinton advises Trump to ignore impeachment: 'You got hired to do a job' MORE and personal lawyer Rudi Giuliani to represent him in the investigation of Biden with the Ukrainians.

The issue of millions in U.S. military assistance being held up by Trump’s administration was never discussed in the call. Trump didn’t have to bring it up.

The newly released whistle-blower report is more broadly detailed and more alarming than the phone call transcript — implicating Attorney General Barr in the scheme to smear Biden.

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Donald J. Trump as a champion of a legitimate anti-corruption campaign in Ukraine is about as realistic as my son’s Labrador Retriever becoming responsible for food security in the kitchen. If the consequences of the president’s alleged actions weren’t so serious, the image of Trump fighting against corruption in Ukraine is worthy of a “Saturday Night Live” skit.

The level of naivety that Trump and his supporters expect from the American people is breathtaking.

His strategy is to launch a tirade of lies, half-truths and accusations and to use media energy to cast his political opponents as being as sleazy and corrupt as he is. This is a new low standard for American political behavior, but Trump has been getting away with it, at least with his adoring, fact-adverse, political base that terrifies the Republican Party.

Trump’s “perfect phone call” to Zelensky raises extremely serious allegations as to whether a U.S. president engaged in a raw attempt to use taxpayer money to bribe a vulnerable national leader to support Trump’s future personal presidential campaign.

Consider the Ukraine matter in the context of a normal person: A second party controls your money, but he does not release it to you, although you need it badly. That person calls you — but does not discuss your money; instead, he raises — over and over — something that he wants from you. Can there be any doubt about what the caller intended? Of course not.

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Ukraine is plagued with corruption as a carry-over from the Soviet days, but it is hardly alone. If Trump is the champion of anti-corruption, he should take on Russia, China and other totalitarian states, which are corrupt to the core. That is not going to happen.

Trump as a standard bearer for global anti-corruption measures would be an international embarrassment to the U.S.

The use of an official position in government for personal gain is corruption. Every senior career professional in the Executive Branch knows that — from years of ethics training. Career professionals must expose their personal finances every year to ethics officials for evaluation of ethics compliance. The president pays no attention to these standards.

Instead of “draining the swamp,” the Trump administration may well be the most corrupt of any in U.S. history. In addition to Trump’s admission of harassing women, paying them off to protect his political campaign, benefitting from foreign officials and lobbyists staying at his hotel properties, hawking the use of those properties as a venue for international meetings, five cabinet secretaries have been run out of office for unethical behavior.

Trump is a master of deflecting, obscuring and hiding the truth about his actions, and he gets Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinOvernight Defense: Ex-Ukraine ambassador offers dramatic day of testimony | Talks of 'crisis' at State Department | Trump tweets criticism of envoy during hearing | Dems warn against 'witness intimidation' | Trump defends his 'freedom of speech' Highly irregular: Rudy, the president, and a venture in Ukraine Biden responds to North Korea: 'I wear their insults as a badge of honor' MORE’s help. As the internet is ablaze with Russian trolls attacking Trump’s opponents and defending Trump, the president, with the help of Attorney General Barr, blocks every legitimate attempt to get at Trump’s finances or to allow aides to testify openly before Congress. What is he so desperate to hide?

Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSpeier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump Gowdy: I '100 percent' still believe public congressional hearings are 'a circus' Comey: Mueller 'didn't succeed in his mission because there was inadequate transparency' MORE exposed a massive Russian attack on American democracy in 2016. However, Mueller left a glaring, unexplainable, hole in his report by avoiding critical questions related to Trump’s financial relationship to Russia. I have been writing for months that no investigation of Trump is complete without following the money —  especially the Russian money. Congress must give priority to the investigation into the details of this relationship.

Trump is a threat to American democracy and to the security of this country.

This is not the time for political weakness. Congress should stop the political handwringing and second guessing and aggressively conduct an open impeachment investigation of Trump before the American people — and let the facts and the truth decide the future of both Donald J. Trump and the nation.

James W. Pardew is a former US ambassador to Bulgaria and career Army intelligence officer. He has served as Deputy Assistant Secretary General of NATO and is the author of Peacemakers: American Leadership and the End of Genocide in the Balkans.