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Parker: Quids and quos gone wild

It’s fair to say at this juncture that America’s Quid and Ukraine’s Quo have been caught in bed together.

The fevered search for a damning quid pro quo since the White House released a readout of Donald Trump’s July 25 telephone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky — in which Trump requested an investigation into Joe Biden and his son, Hunter — has proved productive.

A series of text messages provided to Congress by former U.S. Special Envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker irrefutably shows a clear quid pro quo. Full stop. Contrary to White House assertions, the congressionally approved military aid that Trump was unilaterally withholding at the time (and an invitation to the White House) was being used as leverage for pushing Zelensky to conduct an investigation into the Bidens.

In a 2018 speech before the Council on Foreign Relations, Biden recounted telling former Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko in December 2015 that the U.S. would withhold a $1 billion loan guarantee if then-Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin wasn’t removed from office. It was believed by both American and European officials at the time that anti-corruption efforts had become sluggish under Shokin.

Said Biden: “I looked at them and said, ‘I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money.’ Well, son of a b----. He got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time.”

Biden’s diplomatic triumph seemed to come at a propitious time for Burisma Holdings, a natural gas company for which Hunter Biden was serving as a board member. This potential conflict of interest is the basis for Trump’s consuming obsession with the Bidens and Ukraine.

Burisma had been under investigation, but for activities before Hunter Biden joined the company’s board in 2014. Indeed, it was under Shokin that the investigation into the company stalled. In 2015, the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine decried Shokin’s laggardly attention to corruption throughout the country, and Shokin’s ouster was greeted by Western diplomats as a victory.

Most, if not all, of what Trump thinks he knows about the Bidens and Ukraine has come from his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, who reportedly has been all over the map, from Madrid to Warsaw to Paris, working back channels and coaxing Ukrainian prosecutors to investigate a conspiracy commensurate with the president’s appetite for same.

Giuliani’s conclusion and, therefore, Trump’s, is that the Bidens were in cahoots to issue $1 billion in loan guarantees in exchange for Shokin’s firing, thus putting an end to the Burisma investigation. Judging from Washington Post interviews with some of these prosecutors — and with other Ukraine experts — it’s possible that Giuliani was being fed information by Ukrainian officials that may or may not have been true as a means of currying favor with Giuliani (and by extension Trump), thereby enhancing their own political status within Ukraine’s power structure.

Such byzantine calculations remind us that quids and quos come in a wide variety of flavors and textures, some tastier than others.

So far, no strong evidence has emerged that the Bidens did anything wrong, but the optics aren’t pretty for Joe or his son. Perhaps Hunter was just a guy and who was naive (or proud) enough to believe that he was tapped for the Burisma board on his merits. Maybe he really believed that his father was then vice president of the United States and the point man for the Obama administration’s Ukrainian policy — pushing for increased gas production while withholding monetary backing until Shokin was fired — had nothing to do with anything at all.

But it’s at least as likely that Hunter was knowingly profiting from his father’s position. He was paid as much as $50,000 a month to sit on the board of a company in an industry in which he had no experience. And he got the job just as his father was urging Ukraine to increase its gas production.

Perception is everything in politics, columnists tend to say about now. Depending upon one’s politics, Trump’s leveraged “favor” may not seem any worse than Biden’s threat to withhold loan guarantees until another official was fired. But there is a difference. What Biden sought had international backing, and the loan guarantees were always tied to anti-corruption measures. What Trump did jeopardized our global diplomatic position and put Ukraine’s future in peril — all for personal political advantage. Trump’s abuse of power has invited criminal prosecution and impeachment.

Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

Talkback Tuesday: Oct. 8

Becoming educado: How Utah County's schools are working to engage the Latino community (Oct. 6)

There is one way to bring the parents into full involvement with the school and the students and that is to learn the language. To succeed in any country that you want to live in requires us to be able to speak the countries language. That may not be popular but it is correct. — Goldminer77

Parents have lived here for years and still don’t know how to speak English and choose not to learn. Parents need to have the desire to learn the culture that exists in the USA. Teachers now teach to the ESL students rather than spending time on high achievers. The system is dumbing down our children’s education in an effort to teach to a different culture...a culture that KNOWS they need to pay for their children’s education back in their country but get their children educated here for free. — Motherofthehouse

Congressman McAdams supports impeachment inquiry to get 'all the facts on the table' (Oct. 4)

By withholding essential, Congressionally-approved military aid, Trump did a shakedown of the Ukranian president and coerced him to interfere in our elections, putting Trump's own political interests above our national security. Trump pressured Ukraine, UK & Australia leaders to contradict the Mueller report. Our Constitution and the rule of law require that Congress provide oversight of the Executive Branch and investigate such high crimes. McAdams is loyal to his oath of office by demanding an impeachment inquiry. Bishop, Curtis and Stewart are unpatriotically disregarding their sworn duty to defend the constitution by opposing an impeachment inquiry.

McAdams acting like a snake in the grass. Portraying himself as a centrist, voting with insane radicals. — ILUVUSA2

One of the reasons Trump withheld funds to the Ukraine was that he wanted to work with Putin for a cease fire. However the real problem as I see it is what was going on in the Ukraine with a prosecutor of Hunter Biden and Joe telling us that he shook down the Ukrainian president and what went on in China with Hunter being on Air Force II and doing a $1.5 billion deal. Some of this may go into much deeper than we think. Obviously one of the reasons for the impeachment activity is to take the heat off Joe Biden and make Trump the fall guy. — CastYard

Either you support our Constitution and the rule of law or you enable Trump's high crimes and corruption. The damning evidence is public for all to see — JWL

Utah Valley needs to strike a balance as it grows, experts at Executive Summit say (Oct. 5)

We went camping this year at Hope campsite east of Provo, was surprised to find that there was no water in the campground. The area above the campsite use to be full of springs coming off from cascade mountain. Rock canyon is also a dry campground now. It looks like they are solving the water problem by taking it from the mountain campgrounds. Maybe this is why Provo held onto the seven peaks areas, long after they abandon the ski resort idea. — piddler

Did they ever address the problem of water? Are we all going to live in apartments and only have trees and grass in city parks? — Ron Hathcock

Isaac Hale Daily Herald 

Seventh grader Rawhiti Tuilevuka, 12, performs a Māori haka with fellow students as they prepare for a multicultural student assembly Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019, at Dixon Middle School in Provo. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald