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How the Trump impeachment investigation turned Ukraine into a US open testing grounds

US President Donald Trump in Washington, US on 13 November 2019 [Halil Sağırkaya/Anadolu Agency]
US President Donald Trump in Washington, US on 13 November 2019 [Halil Sağırkaya/Anadolu Agency]

On Tuesday the United States House Intelligence Committee, investigating President Donald Trump, issued its report on the impeachment of the republican. Yesterday, the process of impeaching him moved to the House Judiciary Committee where actual charges against the president will be articulated.

The drama is expected to continue for the coming days during which the democrats-controlled judiciary committee will make the case against Trump. In yesterday’s hearings three constitutional experts agreed that the president, indeed, committed impeachable offences and he should be removed from office. A fourth expert, called by the republicans as a witness, dissented.

Trump-Ukraine Impeachment Inquiry Report, a 300-page document produced by the intelligence committee, says “evidence of misconduct is overwhelming”. The report, by the democrats-controlled committee, accuses the president of specifically abusing his power, obstructing justice and contempt of Congress.

When this stage is over the process will go the Republican-controlled Senate where more drama is expected. The Senate will have to vote by a majority of two-thirds to remove the president. An unlikely outcome. The damning document unveiled previously unknown details like mobile phone records of at least one player, Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer and former mayor of New York city. Giuliani spearheaded the Ukraine fiasco despite the Logan Act of 1799 which bans private citizens from engaging in US foreign policy.

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While the public is being entertained by the main impeachment show in Capital Hill, another sideshow has emerged. In it, Ukraine is portraited not as a sovereign independent state but, rather, as an open field to train US diplomats. Ukraine is, increasingly, projected as testing ground for American weaponries, lies, smears, misdeeds and even unrespectable diplomatic language!

The impeachment inquiry, first, centered on how the US president used the Congress-approved $400 million aide to Kiev to ask his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, to investigate Trump’s more serious rival in the 2020 US presidential elections, Democrat Joe Biden.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kiev, Ukraine, on 30 September 2019 [Ministry of Interior of Turkey/Anadolu Agency]

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kiev, Ukraine, on 30 September 2019 [Ministry of Interior of Turkey/Anadolu Agency]

Kiev is at war with Russia-backed eastern separatists and in need of any help it can get from its US ally. To bypass the usual diplomatic channels President Trump asked his adventure-loving personal lawyer, Giuliani, to take over the issue and make sure Kiev succumbs to his demands. Giuliani, in turn, bypassed the US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and went ahead to satisfy his client’s wishes.

When the ambassador became a hurdle Giuliani and his client launched a smear campaign to remove the diplomat! Lawyer Giuliani, once described by former Trump security advisor John Bolton, as “a hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up,” got his way.

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Directed by Trump to work with Giuliani, Gordon Sondland the US ambassador to the European Union joined hands with him and the two, among others, gave us a rather dark glimpse of the US-Ukraine policy. The public hearings have so far hinted at mafia like tactics used at the highest level of the American government. Trump White House did not hesitate in using intimidation to get president Zelensky to investigate not only the democrats but also to further propagate the false narrative that Ukraine, and not Russia, interfered in the 2016 US elections that brought Donald Trump into the White House.

The US president is supposed to be bound by the highest standards of conduct. However so far, Donald Trump has come out as a mafia don reinforcing the image his critics are only happy to spread.

The hearings, and the document they produced so far, made Ukraine look like more of a special American territory in which Uncle Sam’s children have a free hand! Even American law, banning US private citizens from engaging in their country’s foreign policy, failed to deter Rudy Giuliani. He did not only meddle in the US-Ukraine policy but interfered in Kiev’s own policy telling its president what he should or should not investigate in his country in return for US military funding.

The side show of the Ukraine investigation did not end at tarnishing that country’s image, it also exposed how its domestic politics are hostage to the US’ unpredictable president.

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On the other hand, US officials and their associates – including Giuliani – find it easy to degrade other countries’ leaders and use disrespectable language in conversations about them. When Donald Trump phoned his Ambassador Godon Sondland to ask if President Zelensky had agreed to investigate Biden, the ambassador replied: “He loves your ass.”

This insight into Trump’s foreign policy, in which foreign leaders are humiliated and dishonored, is a reminder confirming what the world read in Wikileaks’ diplomatic cables. In those cables US diplomats referred to leaders as maniacs, crazy politicians and a foolish bunch who can easily be bullied and disrespected. Trump himself publicly told King Salman of Saudi Arabia that without US protection “he might not last for two weeks”.

The US, it seems, is less interested in allies and friends but happier to have them as second class followers obeying its orders and satisfying the wishes of its presidents. The case of Ukraine exposes that thinking. For that country to be a US ally, and potential NATO member, it has to pay the price of being an open ground for testing out not only US arms but also its diplomats and adventurers.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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