Biden, Trump, Ukraine, Quid Pro Quo

Quid Pro Quo

I’ve heard the phrase Quid Pro Quo more in the past week than I have in my entire lifetime. It’s been a week since the latest push to impeach Trump has dominated the headlines. This past Wednesday the president declassified his conversation with the newly elected president of Ukraine. I read the transcript and can see how it can be interpreted in different ways. If you hate Trump you place a lot of emphasis on the word ‘though’. His detractors in Congress and media have promoted the words subtle usage as code-speak. They claim Trump would agree to continue giving $400 million in aid to Ukraine and sell them military weapons if they investigated the Democratic front-runner Joe Biden on his past dealings with that country. If you are a supporter of the president or are unable to speak Trump-style code you saw no such this-for-that request being made. It’s all about perspective.

Here’s what we know. Quid Pro Quo is defined as a favor or advantage granted or expected in return for something. This Latin phrase is the basis for every political negotiation. An example would be when President Obama needed a Senator to vote in favor of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare. Former Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson was the last Democratic holdout. With a little bit of backroom dealing, he agreed to give his support. This infamous concession came to be known as the “Cornhusker Kickback”. I’m including a link to an article that goes into it in full detail. Here is a brief excerpt explaining what happened.

In 2009, Senate Democrats needed all 60 of their votes for the Affordable Care Act to overcome the threat of a filibuster by the 40 Republicans. A series of amendments, some favoring senators from Florida, Louisiana, and Michigan, brought the number of votes to 59.

Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson was the last to commit.

Dave Heineman, then-governor of Nebraska, had objected to the bill’s required expansion of Medicaid, saying the expense would wreck the state’s budget.

Nelson raised the matter with Harry Reid of Nevada, then-Senate majority leader, who added wording to the bill so Nebraska’s share would be covered by the federal government forever, while most other states would end up paying for part of the expansion.

Nelson then announced his support for the bill, and on Christmas Eve 2009, he and 59 other Democratic senators approved the Senate version.

Opponents quickly adopted the “Cornhusker Kickback” label, alleging that Nelson had traded his vote for Nebraska’s preferential treatment on Medicaid payments.

In that example, money to pay for the state’s Medicaid expansion forever was the Quid. In exchange for that caveat, the Senator gave his support for the bill, Pro Quo. Ever heard of the political expression “pork in a bill”? It’s the same as Quid Pro Quo. It’s when money is added to a bill in favor of a politician’s local district or state in exchange for their support for a piece of legislation. The best way for Congressmen to remain in power is to have something to show to their constituents back home. By having money come back from D.C. to pay for projects that benefit their local tax base the Representative can tell their people that they should be re-elected because they are fighting for their needs. What better way to prove that than with Federally paid for infrastructure improvements, or in the Nebraska example, free Medicaid payments.

People who vilify Trump claim this latest dustup is grounds for impeachment. Speaker Pelosi who has resisted calls for impeachment finally appeased her base by agreeing to start an impeachment investigation. That brings the total to six committees that are looking into whether or not the President can and should be impeached. To make it clear, for those who are under the impression that the President is officially under impeachment hearings, the answer is no. The committees have to find sufficient evidence to move forward with impeachment. If that occurs, the motion to impeach goes to the full House for a vote. If that day ever comes and the House majority rules in favor of impeachment it will go to the Republican-controlled Senate for consideration. That is where the motion will undoubtedly be split along party lines and be rejected.

That being said, two thoughts should naturally come to mind. The first is whether or not the president actually stated in his phone call with the Ukrainian president that they would only receive aid and be allowed to buy weapons if they investigate the former vice president for improper behavior. If you look at the transcript and only go by what is said, not by what some claim he meant, the answer is no. While the language can be construed as ambiguous and instructive, there was no clear demand to dig up dirt on Biden or else. If you remove emotion from the equation and base your decision to impeach the president on clear and definitive language, the conversation between the two leaders was cordial and congratulatory. There was an indication by the President of Ukraine that they were hoping to purchase additional weapons from the US in the future. Trump did say the word ‘though’ after that and request to see if his investigators can coordinate with the attorney general to see if Biden misused his authority when he was a vice president. Had Trump said I will only give you aid and sell you weapons if you investigate Biden he would be guilty as charged. That did not happen. Because he did not use that specific language, a Quid Pro Quo of you do for me and I will do for you, he is not guilty of the charges of having a foreign government interfere with our upcoming election. As much as the impeachment crowd would love for it to be otherwise, there is no impeachable offense.

The second question that should come to mind is why? If grounds for impeachment would most likely die on the Senate floor, why are Democrats pushing so hard for impeachment? One thought could be that they strongly believe Trump is an illegitimate president who is not fit for office and commits impeachable offenses with almost everything he says and does. Besides blind hatred, a more logical explanation is a never-ending storyline that gets taxpayer-funded advertising. Democrats have been trying to impeach Trump since he won the 2016 election and before he was sworn into office. To say they are unable to get over the loss of their heir apparent Hillary Clinton at the hands of a reality TV star is an understatement. Clinton was projected to win in a landslide. The opposite came true. Trump took the political applecart of get in line, pay your dues, wait your turn, and shattered it to pieces. Just like the newly elected Ukrainian president, who never was a politician but played one on TV, Trump’s bigger than life TV persona gave him the name recognition to win the highest office of the land his first time out.

Compare Trump’s conversation with former Vice President Biden’s self-inflicted confession. Biden was being interviewed on January 23, 2018. The videotaped conversation shifted to his dealings with Ukraine. Real Clear Politics has the video on their site if you want to view it for yourself. Here is a transcript of that conversation.

JOE BIDEN, 23 JANUARY 2018: And that is I’m desperately concerned about the backsliding on the part of Kiev in terms of corruption. They made—I mean, I’ll give you one concrete example. I was—not I, but it just happened to be that was the assignment I got. I got all the good ones. And so I got Ukraine. And I remember going over, convincing our team, our leaders to—convincing that we should be providing for loan guarantees. And I went over, I guess, the 12th, 13th time to Kiev. And I was supposed to announce that there was another billion-dollar loan guarantee. And I had gotten a commitment from Poroshenko and from Yatsenyuk that they would take action against the state prosecutor. And they didn’t.

 So they said they had—they were walking out to a press conference. I said, nah, I’m not going to—or, we’re not going to give you the billion dollars. They said, you have no authority. You’re not the president. The president said—I said, call him. 

 (Laughter.) 

 I said, I’m telling you, you’re not getting the billion dollars. I said, you’re not getting the billion. I’m going to be leaving here in, I think it was about six hours. I looked at them and said: I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money. Well, son of a bitch. (Laughter.) He got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time.

 Well, there’s still—so they made some genuine substantial changes institutionally and with people. But one of the three institutions, there’s now some backsliding.

The Quid Pro Quo demanded by Biden was indisputable. “I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money.” What makes this conversation more interesting than what appears as a fight against corruption is the reason why he appears to have wanted the prosecutor fired. Shortly after Biden was instructed by President Obama to handle Ukrainian affairs his son Hunter Biden was given a $50,000 a month salary to be on the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma Holdings. The prosecutor that Biden wanted fired was investigating that company for corruption and was going to begin investigating Hunter Biden’s appointment. Businessinsider.com has an article that goes over the entire chain of events and ties it into the whistleblower event that has brought this story and Trump’s conversation with the Ukrainian president into the spotlight. The timing of Biden’s son’s lucrative appointment is questionable seeing as how he had no experience in that industry or part of the world.

Yoshiko M. Herrera, a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and an expert on Russia and Eurasia, told The Washington Post: “I think there is a conflict of interest even if it doesn’t break any laws. It’s a big deal. It’s the vice president, who is the point person of the Obama administration’s policy on Ukraine, and his son is suddenly hired to be a director on the board of Ukraine’s largest private gas producer.”

Yuriy Lutsenko, Ukraine’s former prosecutor general who left the post at the end of August, told Bloomberg in an interview in May that neither Biden nor Hunter are the subject of investigations: “I do not want Ukraine to again be the subject of US presidential elections. Hunter Biden did not violate any Ukrainian laws — at least as of now, we do not see any wrongdoing. A company can pay however much it wants to its board.”

Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen recently weighed in on this subject. In his post, he compared the lack of interest by Democrat’s on Biden’s Ukrainian Quid Pro Quo an apparent double standard when it comes to Trump.

“…in May, CNN reported that Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) and Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) wrote a letter to Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Yuriy Lutsenko, expressing concern at the closing of four investigations they said were critical to the Mueller probe. In the letter, they implied that their support for U.S. assistance to Ukraine was at stake. Describing themselves as “strong advocates for a robust and close relationship with Ukraine,” the Democratic senators declared, “We have supported [the] capacity-building process and are disappointed that some in Kyiv appear to have cast aside these [democratic] principles to avoid the ire of President Trump,” before demanding Lutsenko “reverse course and halt any efforts to impede cooperation with this important investigation.”

The Quid Pro Quo, in this case, is also clear as day. Continued support of US assistance to Ukraine in exchange for assistance in the Mueller probe against the president. One could also make the argument that the Democratic request for assistance from a foreign government to gain information against a political opponent, a.k.a. Donald Trump is also a violation of our laws and could be considered grounds for impeachment. After all, the Mueller probe was started to see whether or not Russia interfered with our election. Seeing as how acceptance and demands for investigations of corruption by one political party were considered above the board by those requesting it, I wonder why those same people take strong offense when an investigation of corruption is pursued by the commander in chief.

Life is filled with ironies. ‘Do as I say and not as I do’ has been the argument of many who do not like it when the tables are turned and the light is shined on their actions. Politicians who live in glass houses seem to have no problem throwing stones at their opponents. The problem with that is those same stones can be thrown right back at them, bringing their glass ceiling crashing down on them. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. If Democrats can request assistance from Ukraine to aid in gaining information against Trump, he can do the same thing against Biden. When all is said and done, transparency and truth are what matters most. If Biden is vindicated in a similar fashion as Trump both will claim victory in the court of public opinion. If he is not and the Ukrainian investigation proves there was wrongdoing on the part of the former Vice President, he was not worthy of the office, to begin with. Either way, both parties should want to see the investigation completed and let the chips fall where they may. After all, the goal of both investigations is to uncover collusion and corruption…right?

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