Since the release of the astonishing transcript of the call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky, Democrats have, as one would expect, zeroed in on the multiple legal problems Trump created for himself.
Former vice president Joe Biden released a statement, which included this:
The 2,000-word summation of a 30-minute phone call released by the White House makes clear that days after the President ordered the delay of Congressionally-appropriated military assistance to Ukraine, he implored the President of Ukraine to work with his personal attorney to manufacture a smear against a domestic political opponent, using a malicious conspiracy theory that has been universally debunked by every independent outlet that has looked at it.
He added, “We also learned that he planned to involve the United States Department of Justice in this scheme — a direct attack on the core independence of that department, an independence essential to the rule of law.”
Other news reports suggest the Justice Department signed off on the call, finding no illegality. That makes Attorney General William P. Barr a key witness, and if he participated, a potential target of impeachment. In a tweet, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) reminds us that she asked Barr, testifying under oath, whether he had been instructed to investigate anyone. He hedged and hemmed and hawed. She now calls for him to return to testify under oath.
The Justice Department is trying to deny Barr has any role in this fiasco. (“An initial Justice Department statement on Barr’s role issued at the same moment the call notes were made public seemed only to rule out the attorney general being asked to work with Ukraine on such a probe, but a subsequent clarification broadened the denial to cover any presidential request to Barr to launch an inquiry into Biden.”) Even if this is true, the Justice Department found there was nothing wrong with Trump’s conduct. Are we to believe Barr didn’t know about that either? Constitutional scholar Larry Tribe tells me, “It’s inconceivable that Barr didn’t know, and the decision to treat the president’s manifestly criminal conversation with Ukraine’s leader, a mix of bribery and extortion, as not worthy of a referral for further investigation seems to me inexplicable unless one assumes either corrupt motives or gross stupidity or both.”