The Ukraine scandal is about Russia’s, Vladimir Putin’s and Donald Trump’s efforts to smear Joe Biden and eliminate him as a presidential candidate in 2020. Such foreign interference in the American election may help Trump and would damage the American political process, just as it did in 2016.

That’s when, according to the report by special counsel Robert Mueller III, Russians stole emails from the Democratic National Committee and the  chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign,  John Podesta.  They then fed the emails to Julian Assange, who put them out on Wikileaks, the report said. The action, amounting to an international dirty trick,  was a severe blow to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, one of several that cost her the presidential election.

First, let’s review the case against Trump, Putin and Russia. Putin and Russia, having blasted Hillary Clinton in 2016 and helped get Trump elected, would like to—in my opinion—get him elected next year.  The 2016 interference was documented by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report.

Yesterday, Putin said he had seen no evidence that Trump tried to pressure the Ukraine president into investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

“… I don’t see anything compromising at all. President Trump asked his colleague to investigate possible corrupt deals by former administration employees,” Putin told a conference in Moscow. “Any head of state would be obliged to do this.”

It would suit Putin if the United States were to give no aid to the Ukraine so he can continue his conquest of that nation. Trump’s threat to withhold aid, vitally needed for Ukraine’s defense, unless Ukraine investigated the Bidens played into that scheme.

Biden himself rendered aid to Trump’s effort by allowing his son, Hunter, to hook up with a Ukrainian energy company and serve as a board member. Trump is portraying this connection as the stuff of scandal. But despite Trump and his supporters’ attacks on Biden and Biden’s son, the former vice president remains strong in the polls. The accuracy of such polling this early is uncertain, but it does reveal trends, especially when the surveys are in agreement. And these trends should worry Trump.

RealClearPolitics’ average of national polling late in September shows Biden leading Trump 50.5% to 42.8%. The president also trails Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris, but not by as much as when he is pitted in the polls against Biden.

The anti-feminist Trump probably feels he could make short work of Warren and Harris, either on the campaign trail or on a debate platform. He’s said that Sanders missed his chance to best him in the last election. But Biden, if he survives the Trump assault, is a different matter. As it stands today, Biden is the prime threat to Trump’s re-election.

The Biden team believes the former vice president’s strength is in the Midwestern industrial states that gave Trump the presidency. Biden is also running strong in South Carolina, where he has been a favorite of African American voters. Also, Biden was born in Pennsylvania, which Trump won in 2016.

Such numbers help explain why Trump was so persistent in asking the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, for help in gathering dirt on the Bidens. He was asking the chief of a foreign government to assist him so that he can remain in office.

But standing in Trump’s way is a troublesome document—the Constitution, which the president has tried to ignore in his treatment of refugees and other immigrants and of the voting rights of people of color. The writers of the Constitution gave Congress the power to oust a president through articles of impeachment passed by the House of Representatives and after a trial in the Senate.

In a Sept. 29 New York Times article, Peter Baker reviewed how the framers of the Constitution were concerned about foreign interference in the affairs of the new country. “The fear of foreign powers … animated the discussion over impeachment,” Baker wrote. “While the framers of the Constitution might never have imagined an impeachment battle waged 280 characters at a time, they did essentially foresee a showdown over foreign influence on an American president.”

As Bill Blum wrote on Truthdig, “This is an abuse of power in black and white, aimed at using a foreign government to bring down a political rival. Arguably, it may also establish the elements of two federal felonies: extortion and bribery.”

Whether Trump committed those felonies will be determined by the House and Senate. But the transcriptions of his telephone conversation with Zelenskiy leaves no doubt that Trump was trying to force the Ukrainians to help him bring down his rival.

Trump’s increasingly wild assaults on Biden and other foes could keep him in office. That would permit him to continue to use the power of the presidency to add profits to his hotels, golf clubs and other holdings, as well as to benefit the businesses of his children.

“It is, quite simply, beyond the pale to use the awesome power of the U.S. presidency for this kind of personal end,” writes David Kris in the blog Lawfare. Kris is a assistant attorney general for national security.

Impeachment has been a long time coming. The Mueller report, derided when issued, actually cleared the way for the House to proceed. It nailed an essential ingredient for impeachment: cooperation with a foreign government against the interests of the United States. Slow and plodding as its boss, Mueller’s office laid it all out for those with the patience and interest to read the report. With that groundwork and now the Ukrainian disclosures, Trump’s hold on the presidency may be tenuous.

But what if he survives impeachment, wins the Republican nomination and runs for a second term? And what if Biden, battered and weakened by Trump, loses his party’s nomination to Warren—now Biden’s leading challenger to Biden—and she beats Trump? That would be a fitting punishment for Trump—a dirty trick gone bad.

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