Accuracy in Media

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky still will not renounce his earlier statements and say that President Donald Trump pressured him to investigate a political rival for electoral advantage, and a writer at Slate thinks he knows why.

“Ukrainians are humble people,” Anders Aslund wrote in “Why the President of Ukraine Is Giving Trump a Key Impeachment Talking Point,” which appeared Tuesday on the Slate website. “They know that they are receiving foreign assistance and that they had better be grateful for it. … Being in a war with Russia since 2014, Ukraine needs all the support it can get. Therefore, it must not criticize a major donor.

“That does not mean that Ukrainians thought Zelensky told the truth, but sometimes a president has to do what a president has to do. Needless to say, it means nothing that Zelensky claimed publicly that there was no quid pro quo on the part of Trump. It only means that it would be unwise for the Ukrainian president to criticize the U.S. president.”

Aslund began his piece by pointing out Ukrainians are paying little attention to this scandal because it is an American scandal.

Trump “seems to have two aims: He wants to invent dirt on Joe Biden and create evidence that his campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was not a crook. [Trump’s personal attorney and former New York Mayor Rudy] Giuliani wants to assist the president in these dubious endeavors. In addition, he aspires to make money by defending a variety of suspect criminals against Western law enforcement. Various characters connected with U.S. gas interests want to make money by supplying liquified natural gas to Ukraine and perhaps also in other ways, none of which appears charitable. The overall U.S. national security objective to stand up to Russian military aggression and defend Ukraine does not even figure in their calculations.”

No evidence is offered for any of this.

Trump does not seek to “invent dirt on Joe Biden.” The dirt on Biden – that he arranged a no-show $83,000 per month job for his son with an energy company that was under investigation by the Ukrainian government – is not in dispute.

In fact, the case against Biden and his son grew stronger yesterday with a story from John Solomon that showed through documents and text messages that the State Department was attempting to force Ukraine to drop its investigation into the energy firm, Burisma Holdings, which casts a new light on the video of Joe Biden regaling others with his tale of forcing the government to fire the prosecutor who was working on the case.

It’s not that Zelensky legitimately felt no pressure from Trump – he did not know any aid for his country was being upheld in the United States at the time of the phone call that is at the center of the Democrats’ impeachment probe, and the aide was eventually delivered with no new investigations having been open. It’s that he has decided to “play along with Trump” about the phone call.

Indeed, Aslund said Zelensky asking for more information from the U.S. on Burisma “might have been a way of hedging and delaying any probe.”

But this week, Zelensky was asked again whether he was pressured by Trump and again said he had not, which, Aslund lamented, gave Trump a way out.

“Trump, Giuliani and co. are seizing repeatedly on Zelensky’s denial of feeling pressure to make the case that there can be no quid pro quo unless Zelensky attests to it,” Aslund wrote. He pointed to Trump’s tweet on Sept. 26 that “The President of Ukraine said he was NOT pressured by me to do anything wrong. Can’t have better testimony than that!” and remarks from Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., that “The only opinion that legally counts is Pres. Zelensky’s. Who has clearly said NO pressure. End of impeachment.”

But Zelensky can’t be telling the truth, Aslund implies.

“Zelensky’s response is utterly logical – and acceptable – at home,” he wrote.

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