Analysis: Why an Overlooked Distinction in Bill Taylor’s Testimony is a Potential Game Changer

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From the beginning of the impeachment inquiry, those arraigned against President Trump routinely and almost casually frame Trump’s “ask” of the Ukrainian as a “request to dig up dirt on his political rival” — while Trump defenders attempt to reframe it as a legitimate request to combat corruption, which is framed as a legitimate and proper interest of the United States.

Now — a rational observer would not that Trump has never shown a shred of interest in combatting corruption in any other country, nor has he shown any interest in corruption in the Ukraine except for two items that help him politically. But still, as long as the “ask” is for an investigation — Trump has cover that at least stands up to friendly Republican scrutiny.

So what was different about Bill Taylor’s testimony?

Taylor made clear that at the crucial juncture, Trump was not just demanding an investigation — he was demanding that Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky go to the microphone and announce publicly that he was investigating the Bidens.

During that phone call Ambassador Sondland told me that President Trump had told him that he wans President Zelanskyy to state publicly that he intends to investigate Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election. …that “everything” was dependent on such an announcement, including security assistance. He said that President Trump wanted President Zelenskyy “in a public box’ by making a public statement about ordering such an investigation.”

A “public box.”

Ponder that.

It’s bad to demand an investigation. It’s much worse to demand a public announcement. Why? Well — ask the question, why would Trump need a public statement if his intentions were other than political?

A public statement that Biden is under investigation does nothing to advance any actual investigation. Nor is it relevant to any generic concerns about corruption.

It is only relevant to the political fortunes of Donald Trump. Consider how much political benefit Donal Trump squeezed out of the public announcements of James Comey regarding Hillary Clinton’s investigation — particularly the eleventh hour announcement by Comey of a re-opened investigation against Clinton.

Now consider the political mileage Trump would be able to extract from a formal, public announcement by Zelenskiy that Biden is under investigation. Such an announcement, regardless of whether the “investigation” produced results or not, would be repeated ad infinitum by Trump on his Twitter feed, and throughout right wing conservative media — plus (more importantly) it would plant seeds of doubts among democrats that maybe, just maybe, Biden was guilty of something.

And all of this political benefit flows not from the existence of an investigation — but rather it flows from the public announcement that such an investigation exists.

Do Dems get it? Based on their messaging thus far, it seems perhaps not. They continue to generally limit their accusations to “President Trump sought an investigation.” They need to make the case for why it’s not just the investigation, but the public announcemnt of it, that seals the deal that Trump sought partisan political advantage. The demand for a public announcement does just that.

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