Trudy Rubin

Trudy Rubin

Finally, one GOP senator had the guts to tweet the obvious: “The President’s brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and to Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is wrong and appalling.”

Thank you, Mitt Romney, but let’s get more specific.

Trump’s shakedown of Ukraine’s president and appeal to Beijing are the acts of an autocrat who disdains the law and twists foreign policy to serve his own vendettas. To heck with our once-proud image as a country where leaders are subject to the rule of law.

Because let’s get this clear. According to U.S. election law, it is illegal for any person to solicit, accept or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election.

And there is no question that Trump has been soliciting — like mad.

Consider what we already know. Despite the claims of the president and his minions — trumpeted in dishonest TV ads — Trump’s squeeze on Ukraine has nothing to do with “corruption.”

In the transcript of his July phone call with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the word corruption is never even mentioned. Instead, the president immediately presses Zelenskiy to investigate a crazy, debunked theory that Ukraine, not Russia, hacked into Democratic emails in 2016 and framed Russia. Then Trump squeezes Zelenskiy to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.

Add to this the fact that Rudy Giuliani and Trump have praised two very corrupt Ukrainian prosecutors who refused to investigate the company on whose board Hunter Biden sat.

To the contrary, Joe Biden, along with the Europeans and the International Monetary Fund, pushed for the firing of one of those corrupt prosecutors.

In other words, the truth is exactly the opposite of Trump’s claims. The U.S. president shook down a Ukrainian leader who desperately needed the defensive weapons Trump was withholding — and is still squeezing Zelenskiy to investigate Biden.

This makes the corruption problem in Ukraine worse.

And then there is Trump’s public appeal to China to “start an investigation into the Bidens.” Again, this has nothing to do with corruption.

“When the only American citizen President Trump singles out for China’s investigation is his political opponent, it strains credulity to suggest that it is anything other than politically motivated,” Romney also tweeted, correctly.

Trump knows full well this echoes his appeal to Russia during the 2016 campaign to “find” Hillary Clinton’s missing emails. On or around the same day as the Trump appeal, Russian hackers started releasing purloined texts from Democratic servers.

Trump cares not. He is willing to request that Beijing — our main strategic rival — do him a favor by digging up dirt on Biden. We already know Trump told Xi Jinping he’d stay silent on Hong Kong while trade talks continued. So what would Trump pay if Beijing complied?

Yet Trump’s twisting of U.S. foreign policy in service of his vendettas doesn’t stop there. He has asked the leaders of Australia, Britain, and Italy to investigate whether their own intelligence services engaged in a plot against the Trump campaign in 2016 by contributing to the Mueller report.

As the Sydney Morning Herald put it, “The idea that Australia was somehow part of a conspiracy to help Mrs Clinton in 2016 is nuts.” But Trump’s nuttiness may make allied intelligence services less likely to cooperate in the future.

Meantime, when I speak with pro-democracy activists from Ukraine, Russia, and elsewhere, they despair at watching Trump besmirch America’s image.

“Putin wants to show the world that officials everywhere are corrupted, and that all the world runs like Russia,” the courageous, and well-known, Russian journalist Yevgenia Albats told me. “Trump has helped Putin’s argument that the United States is no different from Russia.”

The real risk is that a large number of Americans may not care. A 2018 study coauthored by Stanford University’s Larry Diamond found that three in 10 Americans would prefer a more authoritarian form of government in the United States.

Romney has broken the ice, and made clear he opposes Trump’s effort to ignore the rule of law. Will anyone else break the silence of the GOP lambs?

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