Opinion | Susan Knopf: The smoking gun?

“No one is above the Law.”

Nancy Pelosi

“The actions of the Trump Presidency revealed the dishonorable fact of the president’s betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security, and betrayal of the integrity of our elections. … The House of Representatives (is) moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry.” Nancy Pelosi.

After the Mueller investigation, and at least a score of other highly questionable (if not outright illegal) acts, Nancy Pelosi finally believes she can hang her political reputation on a conversation between Donald Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. 

I’m not sure the incident gives the public the unequivocal smoking gun it seems to be searching for. There is no quid pro quo spelled out. It’s more the totality of the conversation, when taken as a whole. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. Trump asks the Ukraine president to reopen investigations closed in the U.S. and Ukraine. The president asks this as a “favor” after he is asked for weapons, from a vulnerable country, with a newly elected leader, which has already lost territory after being invaded by Russia.

For the record, the so-called declassified summary says it is “not a verbatim transcript of a discussion. The text in this document records the notes and recollections of Situation Room Duty Officers and (National Security Council) policy staff assigned to listen and memorialize the conversation…”

Trump congratulates Ukraine President Zelensky on his election victory. Then says, “the United States has been very very good to Ukraine. I wouldn’t say that it’s reciprocal necessarily because things are happening that are not good but the United States has been very very good to Ukraine.”

Then the president appears to spell out how Ukraine could achieve a reciprocal relationship with the United States. President Trump says, “I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike … I guess you have one of your wealthy people… The server, they say Ukraine has it.” (unedited statement) Trump goes on to call Robert Mueller incompetent.

Zelensky responds, “We are ready to open a new page on cooperation in relations between the United States and Ukraine. … we can continue our strategic partnership. …” (edited statement)

Then Trump says, “There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it … It sounds horrible to me.”

During this conversation, Trump asks Zelensky to meet with his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr.

These comments are far more troubling. This is where it appears obvious that Trump is asking for a personal favor, and not doing the country’s business.

From Trump’s perspective if Paul Manafort goes to jail for his nefarious dealings with Ukraine, why not Hunter Biden? CNN reports, “Manafort was convicted last summer for defrauding banks and the government, and for failing to pay taxes on millions of dollars in income he had earned from Ukrainian political consulting.”

So I’m guessing, as long as Hunter Biden paid his taxes, and he didn’t defraud any banks, he’s good.

Bloomberg and other news outlets report Biden was the messenger doing the work he was directed to do by U.S. officials and the International Monetary Fund. Ukraine was poised to receive $1 billion in loan guarantees, but no one was going to guarantee those funds unless Ukraine cleaned up corruption and got rid of its prosecutor who appeared to be soft on corruption. 

Reportedly, the Ukraine Parliament subsequently dismissed the prosecutor. Biden wasn’t self dealing. He was doing the job he was directed to do by his government.  The question remains whether Trump is self dealing.

“The Inspector General notified Congress the president was forbidding him from turning over a whistleblower complaint.” said Pelosi. “This is a violation of law. The law is unequivocal. It says the DNI, the Director of National Intelligence, shall provide Congress the full whistleblower complaint.”  

At Thursday’s House hearing, Representative Adam Schiff said, “This is democracy. This is democracy.” He said the president’s efforts “is the negation of democracy.”

This could be the smoking gun.

Susan Knopf’s column “For the Record” publishes biweekly on Fridays in the Summit Daily News. Knopf lives in Silverthorne. She is a certified ski instructor and an award-winning journalist. Contact her at

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