First, here’s what’s officially known:
- Someone in the intelligence community recently made a report to ingelligence inspector general Michael Atkinson that a phone conversation between Trump and a foreign leader during the summer was ethically troubling. The inspector general reported it to the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire. Maguire, after consulting with the Justice Department, has declined to turn over the report to the ingelligence committees in Congress, but Atkinson has notified them of the basic fact that such a report was made. No specific leader or country is mentioned there.
- It is known that one of the leaders Trump spoke with during the summer was newly elected Ukrainian president Volodymor Zelensky.
- It is known that there was a U.S. military aid package intended for Ukraine that Trump ordered suspended before that phone conversation and ordered released sometime after it.
- Trump himself admits that in that phone conversation he mentioned his hope that the government would investigate the actions of Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden in Ukraine.
- As vice-president under Obama, Biden was getting after the government of Ukraine about its failure to prosecute corruption, and using aid packages for leverage. He also demanded the dismissal of one particular prosecutor who was seen as indifferent to corruption.
- Biden’s son Hunter Biden was appointed to the board of a natural gas company called Burisma Holdings, getting $50,000/month, around the time that Joe Biden’s dealings with the Ukrainian government began. Burisma’s hiring of Hunter Biden is regarded by many as a public relations move to give the company respectability after it had been facing some legal trouble. (There is no evidence, however, to suggest that Joe Biden used his leverage to protect the company from legal trouble for the benefit of his son.)
Okay. That’s what’s known. Now, the further allegation that media outlets are piecing together from anonymous sources close to Trump is this: that Trump either implicitly or explicitly used the suspension of the military aid package as a way to pressure the president of Ukraine into helping him get dirt on Joe Biden, who of course is Trump’s primary political adversary, being the front runner in the Democratic primary elections.
Predictably, it’s the Democratic-controlled House where the committees are sharpening their claws for Trump. In particular, it’s the Intelligence Committee, chaired by Adam Schiff. Schiff wants the full complaint and the transcript of that phone conversation.
Trump, meanwhile, insists that he did nothing wrong and that the real scandal is about Biden. And this whole affair may well cause Biden some political embarrassment. But the chorus of Democrats demanding an impeachment trial for Trump is getting louder. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi continues to insist that it can only happen with bipartisan support.
Politico report on the Biden connection, September 21, 2019
Politico report on the role of the inspector general, September 23, 2019
NPR report on the Bidens in Ukraine, September 24, 2019
NPR report on the allegations against Trump, September 23, 2019
And of course right here on this page, you can find constant updates from several different news feeds. (FOX isn’t linked here, but those who want to hear FOX’s take on the affair surely know how to find it.)