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Trump’s Big Mouth

ABC News reports that today, Kurt Volker provided to Congress what appears to be an encrypted text conversation among US diplomats, in which the top American diplomat in Ukraine protested against Trump using military aid to compel Ukraine to help out his political campaign.

Meanwhile, this:

President Trump on Thursday publicly called on China to investigate a political rival, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., in an extraordinary presidential request to a foreign country for help that could benefit him in the 2020 election.

“China should start an investigation into the Bidens,” Mr. Trump said Thursday as he left the White House to travel to Florida where he was expected to announce an executive order on Medicare.

Note well:

Look, Trump has a point about the Bidens. The New Yorker did a really good profile of Hunter Biden back in July, focusing on the hot mess of his failson life, and what a drag it could be on his father’s run for the presidency. Look at this passage:

In 2012, Archer and Hunter talked to Jonathan Li, who ran a Chinese private-equity fund, Bohai Capital, about becoming partners in a new company that would invest Chinese capital—and, potentially, capital from other countries—in companies outside China. In June, 2013, Li, Archer, and other business partners signed a memorandum of understanding to create the fund, which they named BHR Partners, and, in November, they signed contracts related to the deal. Hunter became an unpaid member of BHR’s board but did not take an equity stake in BHR Partners until after his father left the White House.

In December, 2013, Vice-President Biden flew to Beijing to meet with President Xi Jinping. Biden often asked one of his grandchildren to accompany him on his international trips, and he invited Finnegan to come on this one. Hunter told his father that he wanted to join them. According to a Beijing-based BHR representative, Hunter, shortly after arriving in Beijing, on December 4th, helped arrange for Li to shake hands with his father in the lobby of the American delegation’s hotel. Afterward, Hunter and Li had what both parties described as a social meeting. Hunter told me that he didn’t understand why anyone would have been concerned about this. “How do I go to Beijing, halfway around the world, and not see them for a cup of coffee?” he said.

Hunter’s meeting with Li and his relationship with BHR attracted little attention at the time, but some of Biden’s advisers were worried that Hunter, by meeting with a business associate during his father’s visit, would expose the Vice-President to criticism. The former senior White House aide told me that Hunter’s behavior invited questions about whether he “was leveraging access for his benefit, which just wasn’t done in that White House. Optics really mattered, and that seemed to be cutting it pretty close, even if nothing nefarious was going on.” When I asked members of Biden’s staff whether they discussed their concerns with the Vice-President, several of them said that they had been too intimidated to do so. “Everyone who works for him has been screamed at,” a former adviser told me. Others said that they were wary of hurting his feelings. One business associate told me that Biden, during difficult conversations about his family, “got deeply melancholy, which, to me, is more painful than if someone yelled and screamed at me. It’s like you’ve hurt him terribly. That was always my fear, that I would be really touching a very fragile part of him.”

The dodgy relationship between the vice president and his lobbyist/investor son is completely legitimate as a political target. But you don’t ask a foreign government to launch an investigation into your rival! You especially don’t do it when you are about to undergo an impeachment investigation for having asked the Ukrainian president to do the same thing, and having done so under an appearance of a quid pro quo.

China is not Ukraine. Ukraine was at least not a hostile country to the United States. China is our chief adversary on the world stage. And now the President of the United States has appealed to our chief adversary to investigate his top political rival. And worse, the US is now in extremely important trade negotiations with China. The president has just signaled to the Chinese that it would please him if they would investigate his political rival and his rival’s son’s business dealings in China.

It is arrogant, and it is foolish, and it might be illegal. Trump is daring the Democrats to impeach him. And he is putting his defenders in an impossible position. He did not have to do that. He and his media team could be talking about Hunter Biden and China nonstop, and compelling the media to cover it … but he did not have to appeal to China like this.

He couldn’t help himself. Because he’s Donald Trump, and he’s reckless as hell. This is the same man who, one day after dodging a Russia collusion bullet on the Mueller Report, was on the phone with the Ukrainian president asking him to investigate the Bidens.

Where does it stop? Is there anything he won’t do, or won’t say? If this is what Trump is saying in public, what is he doing behind the scenes?

Trump is making it clear why there need to be impeachment hearings. I am not saying that there should be an impeachment conviction. I don’t know yet; I’ll wait for the hearings. But he has to be reined in. This kind of conduct is disgusting.

A reader writes, in defense of Trump:

So egregious have these affronts to obvious reason become, so insistently have the progressives demanded that we compliment the emperor’s clothes, that many people have given up on whataboutism—in other words, “you might have facts on me, but I’ve got facts on you that are more important, damning, legitimate, etc.”—and instead simply rejected the narratives altogether, with no regard for whether they are factual or not.

And that is where we find ourselves with Trump today.  Maybe there was a quid pro quo.  Maybe there wasn’t.  Maybe it was inappropriate to broach investigating a political opponent with a foreign leader.  Maybe it wasn’t.  But the gap between sides is so wide, that whether Left or Right, it really doesn’t matter anymore.  Whether the emperor is naked or not no longer matters.  Truth doesn’t matter.  Only Us against Them, and for Us to win, They must lose.  Impeach, lie, make it all up if you have to, because make no mistake, this is a religious war with Sacred Cows on the line, knives already at their throats.  What this means is that going forward, reasoning will no longer be effective, because we don’t reason when our core identity is threatened.  We, as a people, will pursue our ideologies independent of facts, reason, legality, propriety, ethics, or anything else.  Think this is far fetched?  What do you imagine will happen when or if RGB is replaced and SCOTUS overturns Roe v Wade, which is now considered on the Left to be the full embodiment of a woman’s right to exist?

In the immortal words of Bachman Turner Overdrive, “Baby, you ain’t seen nothing yet.”

If this is true, and if Trump truly can’t do anything to merit impeachment, because this is an existential fight, then the country is already a thing of the past.

On the assumption that we still have a constitutional system to defend, let me say what we cannot carry on with a president who feels at liberty to publicly (or privately) invite countries doing business with the United States to investigate his political rivals. Especially a totalitarian police state like China, which is the No. 1 adversary of the United States. 

What does this guy have to do to earn even a rebuke from Republican senators? If he shot Hunter Biden in prime time on Fifth Avenue, would that do it? At this point, I don’t think it would.

UPDATE: This. Guys on the Right, get out of your bubble long enough to understand that the 2020 election will be decided by a very small number of votes. Trump is making it harder for the sliver of undecided voters to break his way. And he’s doing it for no good reason whatsoever. He could have pointed out the sleazy Hunter Biden in China behavior without also calling for the Chinese government to investigate it.


about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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