Reader commentary: President could target any American at any time

“The President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election.”  So begins the recently released report of an Intelligence Community whistleblower.  The report sets forth the details of that solicitation and the multiple administration officials who allegedly were involved in either carrying it out or covering it up.

While the whistleblower acknowledges he or she was not directly present for many of the actions described in the report, the most disturbing allegations have already been confirmed.  A rough transcript of President Trump’s July 25, 2019 call with Ukraine’s President Zelenksyy, released by the White House, shows the Ukrainian president expressing his desire to purchase from the U.S. additional Javelin anti-tank missiles, which form part of the security assistance previously authorized by Congress. The American-made FGM-148 Javelin is a game-changer. Its capabilities enable a light infantry force to defeat an armored invasion. Open-source reports indicate Russian tanks are virtually defenseless against the Javelin.

At the time of the call, that American security assistance had recently been (and appears to remain) inexplicably suspended by the Trump Administration. In response to Mr. Zelenskyy’s expressed interest in the Javelins, Mr. Trump immediately requested a “favor:” Ukraine should investigate the most likely Democratic rival to Mr. Trump in the 2020 elections – Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.

Unlike appropriate instances of bilateral cooperation in law enforcement investigations, neither Ukraine nor the U.S. Justice Department is known to have been investigating either of the Bidens prior to President’s Trump solicitation. A Ukrainian prosecutor has affirmatively asserted there is no such investigation and no evidence that would support one.

Joe Biden’s role in removing a corrupt Ukrainian prosecutor in 2016 was widely supported by others in the Obama Administration, our international allies, and especially by Ukrainian anti-corruption activists. No member of either party in Congress expressed any concern about the removal at the time.

Thus, President Trump’s implication to President Zelenskyy is clear: If Ukraine wants the security assistance authorized by Congress, it will have to manufacture fake evidence against Trump’s perceived foe.

So while Biden may be Trump’s current target, that isn’t who bears the full risk of President Trump’s actions. Instead, the allegations show a president willing to use the vast powers of his office to target an American he doesn’t like and numerous officials willing to both implement such an effort and hide it from public view.

If unchecked, such actions would establish a dangerous precedent for what a president may do.  Today it’s Joe Biden, but tomorrow it could be any other politician – of either party, or even a private citizen – whom a U.S. president considers a threat.

Such intervention would prevent Americans from having fair elections free of foreign influence.  The Trump Administration’s freezing of security assistance desperately needed by Ukraine to defend itself from Russian aggression also undermines U.S. national security policy.  Congress with substantial bipartisan support authorized security assistance to Ukraine in furtherance of American goals.  The only country benefiting from its suspension is Russia.

A full and immediate investigation of this situation is entirely appropriate. This includes determining which other officials may have been involved in attempting to cover up President Trump’s apparent abuse of power and potential criminal activity.  While a Department of Justice rule holds that a president enjoys immunity from prosecution while in office, the Constitution does not support any American being above the law.

This piece has been signed by Montanans for National Security members Julie Sirrs and Andrew Person.  Our organization includes former national security professionals with extensive experience serving and protecting U.S. interests at home and abroad.  The authors are both Montana residents