Washington is being roiled by another Trump controversy. And this one appears to have enough staying power to affect the 2020 presidential race.
All we really know at this point is that a complaint from an intelligence community whistleblower, in part, concerns a July 25 phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. According to The Washington Post, the whistleblower’s complaint “involved communications with a foreign leader and a ‘promise’ that Trump made.”
The president himself has admitted to discussing with Zelensky opening an investigation into former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter. The complaint’s mere existence has emboldened Democrats and has made their case for impeachment look stronger while Republicans are waiting for more shoes to drop. Meanwhile, even if Trump is left standing, this latest development could finally doom Biden’s political career. What is bad for Trump may be even worse for Biden, one of the leading contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Without knowing the full extent of what did or did not happen, Republicans’ defense of the president is sure to involve a fair share of “whataboutism.” That Hunter Biden was engaged in swamp business par excellence is already well-documented, and there are questions about whether Joe Biden has ever used his position to help his son. So all this points to Biden’s vulnerability and reminds everyone that he has been in the swamp far too long.
The coming finger-pointing by Republicans and the demand for answers from Biden could not come at a worse time for his campaign. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, is gaining traction and getting a fresh look from voters. The latest poll from Iowa shows her inching ahead of Biden. Voters may think Biden isn’t just too old to be president but that maybe he carries too much baggage to be the party’s nominee, as well. In the strangest of ways, the whistleblower incident is more likely to end the political career of Biden before that of Trump.
Biden is a fragile front-runner and the whole matter involving his son’s foreign business dealings not only raises unflattering questions but provides plenty of reminders about his life in the swamp. Trump, on the other hand, is exceptionally durable with his base, to say nothing of the fact that his entire presidency has practically been defined by his ability to outlive Democratic “witch hunts.”
The Democrats have been itching to impeach the president, and this may be their best chance, though, so far, it doesn’t appear Trump committed a criminal act. Maybe there is something truly substantial in the whistleblower complaint, or maybe we are just witnessing the latest example of hyperbole and fraught partisanship being pushed forward by Democrats and their allies. Maybe this time, Trump has really crossed the line by acting with extremely bad judgment — in his own self interest and in a way that weakened an important U.S. alliance for no good reason. Whatever it is, the latest Trump debacle seems to be a gift from the president to every Democrat who isn’t named Joe Biden.
Ed Rogers is a contributor to Washington Post Opinions, a political consultant and a veteran of the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush White Houses and several national campaigns.