Home/Daniel Larison/A Necessary Remedy for Brazen Corruption

A Necessary Remedy for Brazen Corruption

More evidence has emerged from the record of U.S. officials’ text messages to support the charge that the president was conditioning U.S. military assistance on Ukrainian cooperation with politically-motivated investigations:

“Are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigations?” U.S. Charges D’affaires in Ukraine William B. “Bill” Taylor texted to Sondland on Sept. 1, after Trump skipped a trip to Poland where he was meant to visit with Zelensky. Sondland swiftly moved the conversation from text messages to a phone call.

“As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign,” Taylor later texted Sondland on Sept. 9, complaining that the Trump administration’s decision to withhold congressionally approved military aid to Ukraine had already created a “nightmare scenario.”

Even if the military assistance hadn’t been linked to the corrupt favor that the president wanted, asking the Ukrainian government for help against a political rival is an egregious abuse of power. That it also apparently involved manipulating U.S. policy for the president’s personal benefit makes it that much worse. This would hardly have been the first time that the president has committed an abuse of power, but it is one of the clearest examples of abusing the power of his office for his own gain. Using public office for private benefit is the very definition of corruption, and it is what impeachment was created to punish and deter.

Yesterday, the president just blurted out more requests for foreign interference in the 2020 election:

President Trump on Thursday publicly urged China to investigate Democratic challenger Joe Biden, a new request that a foreign government assist his reelection campaign adding to the extraordinary pattern of conduct at the center of a fast-accelerating impeachment inquiry.

With his brazen and direct appeal to the Chinese, delivered before journalists assembled on the South Lawn of the White House, Trump seemed to make a mockery of the charge that he abused the power of his office by pressing his Ukrainian counterpart to examine unfounded allegations of corruption by Biden and his son Hunter.

If it weren’t so serious, it would almost be funny that the supposed nationalist is asking for foreign governments to help him against his domestic rivals. It isn’t really surprising that someone as venal as Trump would put his own interests ahead of the country’s, but it is still striking to see how shameless he is when he does it. It is Trump’s brazenness and shamelessness that make the argument for impeachment and removal that much stronger. We are not looking at an isolated incident, but a pattern of behavior that stems from the president’s lack of integrity and his willingness to abuse his position to extract personal favors to the detriment of our system of government. If he doesn’t face any consequences for this, we know that he will do more of the same, and future presidents will conclude that they can get away with similar behavior. The president has violated the public’s trust, and he has made clear that he intends to keep violating it. He should no longer be in a position to continue those violations.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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