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I don’t think there is any doubt about the following (I’ve highlighted things that I would like to have better details for):
1. Ukraine has had a long-term problem with corruption, including with its politicians.
2. We knew #1 and they knew #1.
3. We have a treaty with Ukraine to support each other in anti-corruption investigations. This predates the Trump administration.
4. Burisma is one Ukrainian company with a history of corruption.
5. Joe Biden’s son Hunter was given an amazingly lucrative position on the board of Burisma, given his experience.
6. Joe Biden claimed (in public and recorded) that he forced the removal of the prosecutor who happened to be investigating Burisma by threatening to withhold $1 billion in aid. (There is some confusion that the prosecutor had other corruption issues, but when he was replaced by a “solid guy,” the investigation into Burisma was stopped.)
7. Before the time period of interest, both the US and Ukraine had elections. Zelenskyy ran on a platform of getting rid of corruption and Trump on a platform that included being careful about how our foreign aid is sent to countries that are either corrupt or act against US interests. Trump was also interested in getting more buy-in from allies more local to the issues than the US.
8. Trump held up the aid to Ukraine until he was reassured by a bipartisan senatorial group that the new president of Ukraine was “the real deal.” (The media says this was because Trump heard about the whistleblower. I think both were very close in time, but I don’t think Trump would worry much about the whistleblower.)
So, from the US standpoint, I think Trump’s motivation was to reassure himself on points #7 and #8. From my perspective, that seems like not only a legitimate goal, but a required one.
What I haven’t seen mentioned is what Zelenskyy needed to get out of the call. This is speculation on my part, but makes sense to me.
1. He knows of the corruption issues – and ran on them.
2. He knows that there is a joint treaty on fighting corruption.
3. In spite of #2, he knows that the Vice President’s son (of the previous administration) was involved in one of his corrupt companies and that the Vice President had interfered with the prosecution of that company.
4. So, he must be thinking that #2 is sort of a “nudge, nudge, wink, wink” agreement to go after corruption except where it involved members of the US administration.
5. Trump needed to let him know that there was a new sheriff in town and he supported a full-blown investigation, no matter where it went.
Now, maybe Trump should have said something like, “I know you ran on fighting corruption and want you to know that my administration will back you up even if some from my country are involved,” but I think his mentioning of both “CrowdStrike” and the Bidens would be hard to misinterpret.
So as far as I am concerned, the call was necessary if not “perfect.”
Where am I wrong?
EDIT: @rgbact in comment 10, added more doubt to the confusion I had in #6 above about potential corruption of the prosecutor Biden pressured to be fired. I am grateful for that, since if #6 is significantly wrong, I think my sequence starts falling apart. I am looking into it, but haven’t had much time today. If anyone has more information about the prior prosecutor and the timing of the Burisma investigation, I would love to see it either as a comment or new post.