The Corner

White House

FDR Interned Japanese-Americans. Trump Asked Zelensky for a Favor.

I think Trump’s pushing Zelensky on a Biden investigation was improper, and that Republicans should be careful making their line of defense that there was no quid pro quo because that line easily could crumble. But there are abuses of office, and abuses of office. This isn’t Andrew Jackson ignoring the Supreme Court on Indian removal, or FDR sending Japanese-Americans to internment camps, or Nixon covering up Watergate, or any number of lapses or abuses on the part of JFK and LBJ. Trump didn’t break any laws, commit any unconstitutional acts, or defy any lawful court orders. He did mingle his personal political interest with his foreign policy, in what appears to be a pretty flagrant way. But the actual harm has to weigh in how we evaluate his offense.

He obviously discomfited the Ukrainians, but nothing came of the investigations he was pushing and, after a brief delay, the Ukrainians got their defense aid. Given that the prior administration refused on principle to give the Ukrainians lethal aid, a hold-up — quickly overcome by bipartisan outcry — is hardly catastrophic. So this is another foolhardy scheme that came to nothing much. (The Mueller report records a bunch of other examples.) If Democrats weren’t so desperate to scratch their impeachment itch, this would be a big story driving press coverage and congressional investigations, but not a crisis. But a sense of proportion has never characterized the Trump era — why start now?

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