This is one story CNN probably wishes it had never published.
Democrats on Capitol Hill are fired up with feigned fury these days over a July phone conversation between President Donald Trump and the leader of Ukraine in which Trump asked Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate allegations of corruption involving Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter.
But as it turns out, it’s not the first time this year that an American elected official had communicated with Ukraine over an investigation with political ramifications in the United States.
In fact, in May, three Democratic senators took what’s arguably much less appropriate — and more direct — action toward a law enforcement officer in the Eastern European country.
And they used some thinly veiled threats while doing it.
As Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen pointed out Tuesday, the anti-Trump network CNN published an article in May 2018 about a letter from Sens. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, Richard Durbin of Illinois and Patrick Leahy of Vermont expressly asking a Ukraine prosecutor if he were fully cooperating with then-special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged “collusion” between Russia and the Trump 2016 campaign.
The senators’ letter to Ukraine’s then-Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko started with a glowing description of relations between the United States and Ukraine, a country dealing with constant military friction with Russia, its giant neighbor to the east.
In May, three Democrat senators wrote a letter to Ukraine’s prosecutor general urging him to help investigate President Trump.
Their letter implied that their support for U.S. assistance to Ukraine was at stake. https://t.co/vJa8RKs8vq
— Matt Wolking (Text TRUMP to 88022) (@MattWolking) September 25, 2019
“Ours is a relationship built on a foundation of respect for the rule of law and accountable democratic institutions,” the three worthies wrote. “In four short years, Ukraine has made significant progress in building these institutions despite ongoing military, economic and political pressure from Moscow.”
The letter noted that The New York Times had reported that Lutsenko had stopped cooperating with Mueller’s investigators because he feared doing so could jeopardize financial and military aid to Ukraine.
Well, the senators’ letter made clear, not cooperating with Mueller could jeopardize aid, too.
“Blocking cooperation with the Mueller probe potentially cuts off a significant opportunity for Ukrainian law enforcement into possible crimes committed” during the country’s previous regime, the senators wrote.
“This reported refusal to cooperate also sends a worrying signal — to the Ukrainian people as well as the international community — about your government’s commitment more broadly to support justice and the rule of law,” the Democrats said.
Now, it’s true that there was no outright threat to their support for American aid to Ukraine. But considering the context — the linking of the “rule of law” to American relations, as well as the completely unnecessary reminder about “pressure” from Moscow — it wouldn’t take a genius in an embattled country to get the message that he better start toeing the line or risk getting cut off.
To the editors at CNN back in May 2018, reporting on that letter probably looked like a great way to make the Trump administration look bad. Having Democratic senators hectoring foreign officials about the sanctity of law and the Mueller probe was a slam dunk.
But as the world — including the government of Ukraine — knows by now, the Mueller probe turned out to be a bust — a long, expensive indulgence of the Democratic fetish for “collusion.”
What comes across now in the Democrats’ letter is a bullying attempt by three lawmakers to strongarm the top law enforcer in a foreign country to cooperate with a political persecution that was masquerading as a criminal investigation in the United States.
Democrats claim they want to impeach the president for a conversation he had every right to have with the leader of a foreign country. Almost laughably, they’re trying to paint a conversation between two heads of state as some kind of criminal conspiracy on the part of Trump.
But the record shows that in the not-too-distant past, the party had three senators who felt no compunction at all about using their political strength to try to coerce a foreign law enforcement officer into cooperating with their own domestic political attack agenda.
Trump had every right in the world to talk to the president of Ukraine. His critics might be able to argue that it was inappropriate for him to bring up Joe and Hunter Biden, but that’s all it was — an argument over decorum, not an impeachable offense in even the most feverish dreams of Rashida Tlaib.
It’s difficult to imagine an argument, however, for these three senators to take it upon themselves to contact the Ukraine prosecutor general over a story they read in The New York Times and demand that he be more cooperative in their attempt to dislodge a duly elected American president.
Bullying and collusion with foreign officials are some of the charges Democrats have thrown at Trump. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff of California on Wednesday accused Trump of performing a “mafia boss” shakedown of Zelensky, ABC News reported.
But to any honest observer, that’s exactly what these three veteran Democratic senators were trying to do with their May letter.
Couple this with Joe Biden’s open boasting about intimidating Ukraine officials when he was President Barack Obama’s right-hand man, and it looks like bullying behavior is a favorite mode for Democrats.
As always, when Democrats launch an accusation, it’s a given they’re guilty of it first — and they’re going to be found out.
“Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and a stone will come back on him who starts it rolling.” (Proverbs 26:27)
For CNN, it probably seemed like a great story in 2018.
Now, the network probably wishes it had never been published.
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