Impeachment inquiry targets Giuliani
The White House’s Ukraine crisis deepened this week with revelations that multiple senior administration officials were alarmed by efforts by Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, to seize control of U.S. foreign policy in that country. Fiona Hill, President Trump’s former top Russia adviser, testified to the House impeachment panel that Giuliani muscled aside career diplomats to pressure Ukraine for investigations into Trump’s political rival, Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter. According to Hill, former national security adviser John Bolton shared her concerns over the maneuvering by White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland, reportedly telling Hill, “I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up.” Bolton showed similar scorn for Giuliani, calling him “a hand grenade that’s going to blow us all up.”
Giuliani himself now faces an investigation from federal prosecutors, who are looking into whether he broke lobbying laws through his work in Ukraine, for which he was reportedly paid $500,000. Two of Giuliani’s associates were arrested at Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C., with one-way tickets to Frankfurt, Germany. Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, Soviet-born U.S. citizens who helped Giuliani in his efforts by connecting him with prosecutors in Ukraine, were charged with campaign finance violations for allegedly funneling foreign money into U.S. elections. The men donated $630,000 to Republican candidates and Super PACs, with at least some of the money coming from an unnamed Russian national. Giuliani, who is also reportedly the subject of a counterintelligence investigation, refused to comply with a House subpoena for documents. “If they enforce it, then we’ll see what happens,” he said.
What the editorials said
It turns out there’s more to the Trump administration’s Ukraine scandal than a scheme to corruptly pressure a foreign government to investigate the president’s political rivals, said The Washington Post. In addition to undermining our democracy, the White House had another end in mind: getting rid of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, to serve “shady private interests.” Parnas and Fruman saw the “competent and corruption-fighting ambassador” as an obstacle to their plan to get money from Ukraine’s gas company. And where did they get the money to pay Giuliani and make large Super PAC donations?
“Trump can thank Giuliani” for this mess, said the Washington Examiner. Parnas and Fruman, the shady characters Giuliani turned to in his quest to dig up dirt on Biden in Ukraine, shouldn’t have been allowed in the same room with the president. Giuliani was ostensibly working for Trump pro bono; as we’ve come to learn over and over, though, “If you’re not paying for the service, you aren’t the customer; you’re the product.”
What the columnists said
“Donald Trump’s impeachment blockade has collapsed,” said Kyle Cheney and Andrew Desiderio in Politico.com. Despite the White House’s declaration that it will not cooperate, senior administration officials have agreed to provide testimony. Former ambassador Sondland was expected to testify that a text he sent insisting there was “no quid pro quo” in Ukraine was dictated to him by President Trump—and that he doesn’t know if that was actually true. The investigation is “moving fast,” said Alayna Treene in Axios.com. “The White House is tense—and some aides are frantic.”
We need to know a lot more about these secretive impeachment hearings, said Byron York in the WashingtonExaminer.com. So far, House Democrats have kept their inquiry behind closed doors, with highly selective leaks. Keeping the impeachment “shrouded in secrecy” is unfair to the American people. “Don’t they have the right to know what the president’s accusers say?”
Trump has publicly admitted he asked Ukraine to investigate the Bidens, said Greg Sargent in The Washington Post. The White House’s official defense is that the president did “nothing wrong,” but virtually everyone around Trump “knew that it was grievously wrong.” Trump’s defenders are in retreat, said Matt Lewis in TheDailyBeast.com, saying that his conduct was indefensible, but not impeachable. “If Trump’s behavior isn’t worthy of impeachment and removal, then what behavior would constitute removal?” ■