Many of the relevant details surrounding Donald Trump’s Ukraine scandal may seem complex, but the core allegations of presidential wrongdoing are entirely straightforward. Former Solicitor General Neal Katyal told the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank, “This is a really simple case…. A sitting president secretly tried to get a foreign government to announce an investigation into his chief political rival. In essence, Trump was using the awesome powers our Constitution gives presidents not to benefit the nation, but to benefit him personally.”
Milbank added that the case against Trump can be reduced to just seven words: “He abused presidential powers for personal advantage.”
Well, sure, when one puts it that way – which is to say, accurately – it doesn’t sound great. In fact, literally everything we know suggests the president is quite guilty: there is little doubt he extorted a foreign ally to advance his interests above the nation’s interests.
But David Ignatius looked at this from a slightly different angle in his latest column, noting the life-and-death cost for those on the other end of the Republican’s scheme.
As the House opens public impeachment hearings into the Ukraine scandal, the bottom-line question is dead simple: Did President Trump, for political reasons, manipulate military aid to an ally in a war that has cost 13,000 lives?
When you think about the Ukrainian soldiers on the front lines of this nasty proxy battle against Russia, the debate becomes more visceral and perhaps less confusing. As Ukrainians were struggling with near-daily shellfire, Trump appeared to treat military aid appropriated by Congress as a personal political tool.
Quite right. Ukraine has been the target of Russian aggression, up to and including Russia taking a chunk of Ukraine by force. It is not an exaggeration to say Ukrainians were desperate to receive American support.
The United States committed military aid to our ally; Congress approved the aid; Ukraine was waiting for the aid; and officials throughout the U.S. government were eager to deliver the aid, knowing lives depended on it.
And then there was Donald Trump – who saw political value in delaying the aid, indifferent to the real-world effects of his abuse.
“As you watch the impeachment hearings,” Ignatius concluded, “remember this basic fact: While Trump was playing politics on Ukraine, people who depended on U.S. military aid were getting killed and wounded.”