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Zirpoli: It’s always about Trump

Poor Donald Trump. The world is against him. His troubles are not his fault, but everyone else’s fault. The leader of the party of personal responsibility has turned into a party of victims and enablers.

The White House published a transcript of Trump’s conversation with the new president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, outlining Trump’s efforts to get Zelensky to investigate his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden. Trump and his defenders say that the whistleblower’s account is second-hand. First, the inspector general of the intelligence community, Michael Atkinson, put out a statement refuting this. Second, we don’t need the whistleblower’s account; we have the White House transcript of what Trump said.

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Trump got away with seeking help from the Russian government in the 2016 election, so why not try again in 2020? As Maureen Dowd wrote in The New York Times, “The man who always claims the system is rigged against him keeps trying to rig the system.”

If there was nothing inappropriate with Trump’s request for a “favor” from Zelensky to investigate Biden, why did White House officials hide the transcript in a special server reserved for our nation’s top-secret operations? Does anyone else see the irony in Trump using a special server? There are no national secrets in the Trump-Zelensky transcript with the exception of Trump’s inappropriate behavior. And it has been recently discovered that phone calls with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Russian leader Vladimir Putin have also been hidden from normal review protocols. Did, as reported, Trump really tell Putin that he was not concerned about Russia’s interference in our elections? Stay tuned.

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Why was the president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, running around Ukraine trying to get officials there to investigate Biden?

Giuliani says that he was acting on behalf of the State Department. In response, the State Department said, “Mr. Giuliani is a private citizen and acts in a personal capacity as a lawyer for President Trump. He does not speak on behalf of the U.S. Government.” Kurt Volker, State Department envoy sent to Ukraine to “contain the damage” of Giuliani, according to the complaint, resigned last week. He should have some interesting stories to tell.

If Trump wanted Biden investigated, I’m sure Attorney General Bill Barr would have been happy to indulge him, unless there isn’t anything to investigate and Trump is just looking for dirt. Isn’t this the same behavior — looking for dirt on a political opponent — that he and his family engaged in with Russia against Hilary Clinton in 2016?

Trump is upset because people who work for him in the White House provided the whistleblower information about their concerns about Trump’s inappropriate behavior, as well as attempts to cover up Trump’s inappropriate behavior. Trump calls them “spies.” I call them patriots.

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In fact, it was members of Trump’s hand-picked White House staff who provided information to the whistleblower, a CIA agent who was stationed at the White House. It was Trump’s Inspector General of the Intelligence Community Michael Atkinson, who found the evidence “credible” and “of urgent concern” and alerted Trump’s Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire about the complaint. All of these players are part of Trump’s administration, not Democrats, and not members of the press. Trump is not a victim of overzealous people who can’t get over his election. He is a victim of his own inappropriate behavior.

The whistleblower law clearly states that a credible complaint has to be passed on to Congress. Instead, Maguire took the complaint to the White House and the Justice Department, even though both were implicated in the complaint. If Barr had any integrity, he would have recused himself. Instead, he determined that the complaint did not warrant any further investigation. How convenient.

White House and Justice Department lawyers decided to ignore the law and told McGuire not to pass the complaint to Congress. All of this was confirmed by McGuire during congressional testimony last week. To his credit, McGuire stated that both the whistleblower and the inspector general acted in “good faith,” followed appropriate policy and procedures, and “did the right thing.”

If it were not for the whistleblower, these inappropriate conversations between Trump and foreign leaders, and the cover-up, would remain hidden from the public. This is why strong democracies have whistleblower laws. If you want to see what happens when whistleblower laws are not protected, see the case of Edward Snowden, a CIA employee who copied and leaked highly classified information from the National Security Agency.

Interestingly, Trump had nothing to say to president Zelensky about helping him defend Ukraine from their ongoing war with Russia or how America and Ukraine could work together to defend American interests and our allies against continued Russian aggression.

As always, it was all about Trump.

Tom Zirpoli writes from Westminster. He is program coordinator of the Human Services Management graduate program at McDaniel College. His column appears Wednesdays. Email him at tzirpoli@mcdaniel.edu.

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