It was last Tuesday, Sept. 24, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) launched the impeachment process against Donald Trump, following revelations that he tried to coerce Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into helping his 2020 campaign. One day later, the Republican sat down with Zelensky at an event in New York.
A reporter asked the American leader, "Would you like President Zelensky to do more on Joe Biden and the investigation?" Trump replied, "No, I want him to do whatever he can."
It was hard not to do a double-take. Facing impeachment over pressuring a foreign leader to assist his political scheme, had Trump just done it again? This time, on camera?
This morning, the American president abandoned all subtlety.
President Donald Trump said Thursday the Chinese government should investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden over the latter's involvement with an investment fund that raised money in the country. [...]Speaking to reporters outside the White House, Trump said that, "China should start an investigation into the Bidens."
So, on the one hand, Trump and his team are engaged in intense trade negotiations with China. On the other hand, Trump is now publicly calling on China to dig up dirt on one of his domestic political rivals. Indeed, within a minute of seeking Beijing's 2020 help, Trump added, "I have a lot of options on China, but if they don't do what we want, we have tremendous power."
Daniel Dale joked, "If a whistleblower had come forward to say Trump had privately told Xi he should launch an investigation into the Bidens, it'd be a huge story. That's what Trump just did publicly."
In case that weren't quite enough, during the same brief Q&A, the American president again called on Ukraine to go after the Democratic presidential hopeful. "I would say that President Zelensky, if it were me, I would recommend that they start an investigation into the Bidens."
Subtlety has been thrown out the window. Trump is now doing publicly what he's being impeached for doing privately.
At the least the cover-up phase is over: accused of privately pressing foreign officials to target an American opponent, Trump has decided to publicly press foreign officials to target an American opponent.
At some level, the American president must understand that he's at the center of a scandal involving allegations that he abused his office, seeking foreign help in his re-election campaign. But as of this morning, the Republican seems unable to help himself.
Trump has been reduced to confessing wrongdoing from the South Lawn, effectively daring the political world to hold him accountable, confident that Republicans won't care.
Nick Akerman, a former Watergate prosecutor, recently said, "What he's been saying in public is the kind of thing I used to prosecute people for doing in private." Akerman made that comment two weeks ago. The problem is far worse now.