In the days after major news outlets peddled two damning stories about Justice Brett Kavanaugh that imploded upon a few hours of follow-up research, the largest newspapers published a story emanating from deep state operatives about supposed misdeeds of President Trump regarding Ukraine.
This may be a massive Trump scandal. It also may be a scandal about the Biden family. Maybe it’s a minor issue. Maybe it’s nothing.
The sad thing is that neither we nor any other media outlet can tell at the moment.
America is suffering the fallout of decades of norm-shredding by politicians, the administrative state, including intelligence officials, and news media. So, in the current Trump-Ukraine-Biden flap, we can’t trust intelligence sources, news organizations, Joe Biden, or the shifting denials and defenses of the White House.
The public and Congress deserve clarity about U.S. contacts with Ukraine, both this year and when Biden visited. Leaks and denials won’t provide it. Transparency will help.
That transparency should start with the president. Trump says he did nothing wrong in his conversations with Ukraine’s president. Accordingly, he should release the whistleblower report that his White House has supposedly bottled up.
At least one intelligence official says he found Trump’s phone conversations to be inappropriate. Exactly how much that official knew and exactly what his reasoning was is still unclear.
Some reports say Trump pressed eight times for Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. That suggests, but does not prove, Trump used presidential powers to hound an opponent. Trump has said he more broadly brought up corruption. More transparency here is the only way we’ll know. Let us see the source documents.
The public also would benefit from seeing transcripts from the phone call. We understand that diplomacy cannot function under 100% transparency. Foreign leaders need to be able to speak candidly with U.S. leaders, and U.S. leaders also need room for such candor. So we wouldn’t call for release of the entire transcript.
But Trump has already answered questions on his corruption-related discussions with Ukraine. So, let’s get the transcript of those portions, perhaps getting agreement in advance from Ukraine.
Biden, too, owes the public more forthrightness than he’s provided. So far, he’s given us characteristic bluster. Biden has admitted to doing what Trump is accused of doing: making a quid pro quo demand on Ukraine. He admits he demanded Ukraine fire a prosecutor internationally excoriated as corrupt.
But since Biden’s son had a very shady job for an oligarch-connected oil company that faced investigation, a prudent administration would have had Biden sit this one out.
Biden ought to disclose the records showing the Obama administration’s decision to send him to chase out the prosecutor. More importantly, Biden should push his son to disclose everything about his business dealings in Ukraine.