The Slatest

Trump Confirms He Asked Ukraine to Target Biden in Covered-Up Call, Then Says China Should Target Biden Too

Trump gestures in front of a set of microphones. A helicopter and the Washington Monument can be seen behind him.
Donald Trump on the South Lawn of the White House on Thursday.
Leah Millis/Reuters

The House Intelligence Committee is gathering evidence about whether or not Donald Trump abused the power of his office by encouraging the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter on bogus corruption charges that no one except right-wing conspiracy theorists believe to have any validity. The committee has already gotten a big piece of evidence on this front from the White House, which, under pressure created by an intelligence agency whistleblower complaint, released a (possibly abridged) write-up of a July 25 conversation with Zelensky in which Trump said, and I quote, “The other thing, there’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General [William Barr] would be great.”

(Neither Biden’s son nor the Ukraine company he served on the board of, Burisma, had been charged with a crime by Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin when Biden, working to carry out an Obama administration goal that had broad bipartisan and international support, called for Shokin to be ousted in 2014. The explicit purpose of removing Shokin, moreover, was to replace him with someone who would conduct more corruption prosecutions.)

On Wednesday, a Reuters reporter asked Trump at a press conference if he could clarify exactly what he wanted Ukraine to do—essentially, whether “whatever you can do” meant launch a politically damaging investigation into my potential 2020 election opponent, as it sounded like. Trump blew up at the reporter and avoided the question, but on Thursday at the White House he got around to answering it, in the affirmative, and threw China into the stew as well:

Hunter Biden also served on the board of a company in China, a situation that, as Bloomberg notes, is addressed in the same right-wing book that the Ukraine “allegations” came from.

The president, it seems, is doing his best to help the Democrats answer the question of how long they should wait to vote on whether to impeach him. Republicans seem to have been able to avoid commenting on this latest development—Congress isn’t in session at the moment—but, if New York Times columnist and moderate-swing-voter-obsessed conventional-wisdom weathervane Frank Bruni is any indication, it’s not something that many of them are going to want to defend:

Why not hold the vote this afternoon?