When I was a teenager, I played basketball. I was a two guard, and one of my defensive tricks was to feint with my left hand at the opposing guard’s right dribble and then try to flick the ball away behind his back with my left when he turned away. One game the whistle blew, foul on me. I turned to the ref and said, “I never touched him.” The ref said, “Yeah, but you were going to.” I objected to this nonsense vociferously enough that I spent the rest of the game in the locker room.
This is essentially what is happening to Donald Trump in the Ukraine impeachment inquiry. The central allegation against the president is that he told President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine that if he didn’t investigate Joe Biden’s son, his country would not receive the funding Congress had approved. Much like my phantom foul, what Democrats are alleging against the president flat-out didn’t happen, even if he wanted it to.
Today Trump scolded the Republicans on Capitol Hill, telling them to stop engaging in a fight over the process of impeachment and start fighting on the merits. He’s exactly right. “Quid pro quo” has become the mantra of the mainstream media — “this for that.” But “this,” the aid to Ukraine, flowed without “that,” the investigation into Hunter Biden, being promised. So what exactly is the problem here?
Democrats would have us believe the problem is that Trump wanted a quid pro quo. So what? Did he float the idea to his advisers? Maybe. Did he say, “Hey, I’ve got some questions about Ukraine: Is it rife with corruption? Is Europe paying its fair share to defend it? Did it give Joe Biden’s son a pass?” At this point, career officials got nervous. Presidents aren’t supposed to ask questions like this. They are just supposed to hold state dinners and let unelected officials do their jobs.
So let’s ask ourselves a question. Why do Democrats in Congress want so much access into the decision-making process behind releasing — again, emphasis on releasing — aid to Ukraine? The answer is pretty simple. The transcript of the call between Trump and Zelensky makes it as clear as the summer sun that at no point did Trump directly tie aid to investigating Hunter Biden. The alleged crime never happened, but did Trump want it to?
Here it is reasonable for people on all sides to admit that Trump might have wanted something to happen that was unethical and illegal. It’s not the first time. When Trump wanted his counsel Don McGahn to fire Robert Mueller, he was told he couldn’t do that. And he didn’t. There is a reason that a president, especially one without political or legal experience — perhaps elected because he didn’t have legal or political experience — has advisers and lawyers. He asks questions, and they give answers. Isn’t that what supposedly happened here?
The bottom line is that Donald Trump did not do the thing Democrats want to say he did. He released the aid. That is why he is absolutely correct in wanting to fight the case, not the process. House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff, CNN, and the harpies of the Never Trump movement might want to bemoan that a president would even consider what Trump considered. But who cares? It didn’t happen.
What did happen is what is supposed to happen: The president sought advice, received it, and acted accordingly. Ukraine got its aid, and all lived happily ever after except for Democrats, embarrassed by the failure of the Mueller investigation and desperate for some pretext to impeach a duly elected president.
The only law that was broken here was the unwritten law that unelected diplomatic officials get to determine United States foreign policy without accountability to voters. That kind of unwritten law is exactly what Donald Trump was elected to undo. This is why he wants to fight on merits and why Republicans should be on board for that fight.
There was no crime here. Let me say that again — there was no crime here. There were conversations that made unelected people uncomfortable. Well, Trump was at least in part elected to make unelected people feel uncomfortable. Just like my fake foul so many years ago, the Democrats are seeing what they want to see, not what is there. But unlike me, the president will not be ejected. Rather, he will continue the game stronger than ever.