The story of Donald Trump ’s phone call to Ukraine’s new president is unfolding in the familiar if depressing Trump -era pattern. An accusation leaks from an unidentified intelligence source about the President’s July 25 call, and his political and media opponents immediately conclude he has betrayed America and deserves censure or impeachment. Mr. Trump says the conversation was “perfectly fine and routine.” The public is left to sort the truth from the partisan histrionics.
Mr. Trump acknowledges that he asked Ukraine’s new President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden as part of his effort to clean up corruption. More on Mr. Biden later, but Mr. Trump’s request showed bad judgment. He was trying to draw a foreign leader into the middle of American presidential politics, which can only lead to political trouble. We learned that from the Russia fiasco of 2016.
The request to Mr. Zelensky is worse if it came with a threat to cut off U.S. military aid. Mr. Trump and others say there was no quid pro quo request. But we know the Trump Administration delayed U.S. aid to Ukraine in early July for unexplained reasons. The U.S. released the aid later after bipartisan criticism of the delay. Mr. Zelensky surely understood the potential risk of not complying with Mr. Trump’s request even if Mr. Trump wasn’t explicit.