Photo: US President Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani, his personal attorney and former mayor of New York City
By Mike Talavera
The impeachment inquiry that began last week based on a singular allegation from a whistleblower about a phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will pick up speed this week as the House Intelligence Committee subpoenas Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and also expects to interview the unidentified whistleblower directly.
The whistleblower’s complaint, filed on August 12, accuses Trump of “using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election.”
“This interference includes, among other things, pressuring a foreign country to investigate one of the President’s main domestic political rivals,” the document continues, the main domestic political rival being former vice president Joe Biden. “The President’s personal lawyer, Mr. Rudolph Giuliani, is a central figure in this effort. Attorney General Barr appears to be involved as well.”
On September 24, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has long resisted other Democrats’ calls for impeachment, announced that a formal impeachment inquiry was being launched, because the president had betrayed his oath of office, national security, and the integrity of US elections. Soon after, the White House released the record of the July 25 conversation in question, which was based on notes and recording devices within earshot. The actual transcript, the whistleblower claims, had been proactively concealed by officials.
After discussing the sale of military weapons and emphasizing the role of the US in supporting Ukraine, Trump asks Zelensky on the call to look into “Crowdstrike,” the cybersecurity firm that the Democratic National Committee hired to uncover the breach of its server in the lead up to the 2016 presidential election. The company had concluded, as did the US intelligence community, that two Russian intelligence groups had conducted the cyberattack which resulted in the leaking of over 150,000 emails and other personal information, including that of Hillary Clinton’s campaign team which damaged her chances of winning.
“I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike,” Trump said on the phone call. “The server, they say Ukraine has it. There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation. I think you’re surrounding yourself with some of the same people. I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it.”
In other interviews, Trump has condoned a rightwing conspiracy theory that Crowdstrike colluded with the DNC to concoct the narrative that Russia was responsible for the leak and has withheld a server from the FBI.
“I guarantee as the President of Ukraine that all the investigations will be done openly and candidly. That I can assure you,” Zelensky responded.
“The other thing, there’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son,” Trump said later in the conversation, “that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great.”
Here, Trump is referring to Biden’s diplomatic efforts in Ukraine after the Russian annexation of Crimea in early 2014 and his son Hunter’s recruitment by Ukrainian gas company Burisma Holdings not long after. The military intervention was the latest peak in the inter-imperialist contest over Ukraine between the European Union (backed by US imperialism) and Russia. Geopolitically, Ukraine functions as a conduit for Europe’s natural gas supply, with one third of Russia’s exports to the continent flowing through Ukraine in 2018.
Biden’s mission had been to consolidate pro-US allies in Ukraine’s government following the overthrow of Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych and his administration by the uprising commonly known as Euromaidan. The protests began in November 2013 when Yanukovych’s government decided to make moves towards associating with the Eurasian Economic Union instead of the European Union.
There was a Ukrainian investigation into Burisma, but it did not press charges against Hunter as the former prosecutor Yuri Lutsenko has recently clarified.
Democrats like Pelosi and representative Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, have described Trump’s phone call and his actions since then as “dishonorable” and a “cover-up.” Trump’s carelessness may exceed that of past presidents, but his devious scheming is par for the course in US bourgeois politics.
The Democrats and Republicans differ in whose individual interests they serve, but they are alike in that they serve the interests of individuals. Where private property reigns, so too does the unashamed pursuit of personal gain. In Washington, loyalty is fleeting, and treachery customary.
While not irrelevant, preserving national security is not the win-condition in this battle between Democrats and Trump. It is the 2020 presidential election which will determine which bourgeois factions have access to the levers of state power to maximize their profit margins over the next four years.
Trump is seeking to minimize the Democrats’ chances, crossing lines when he thinks the risk is worth it, just as the Democrats are seeking to minimize Trump’s chances, pushing for an impeachment that has virtually no chance of removing him from office but will negatively affect his popularity leading up to 2020. Both sides are disingenuous, and both are willing to double cross to get what they want, because they both follow the narrow and reactionary ideology of self-interest.