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Trump's Smoke Screen Fails. At Last

President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi at the InterContinental Barclay hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, Monday, Sept. 23, 2019, in New York. (Evan Vucci/AP)
President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi at the InterContinental Barclay hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, Monday, Sept. 23, 2019, in New York. (Evan Vucci/AP)

The Ukraine scandal now engulfing the Trump regime is chillingly simple.

It appears that the president ordered his staff to withhold nearly $400 million in foreign aid to Ukraine unless its president agreed to investigate Democratic front-runner Joe Biden, Trump’s chief political rival. The allegation is straightforward: he attempted to extort collusion from a much less powerful leader, got caught and tried to cover it up.

It bears mentioning that Ukraine borders Russia, and has been the target of Russian aggression for years. That’s why the U.S. provides it foreign aid — as a hedge against Vladimir Putin’s expansionist ambitions.

None of Trump’s actions should come as a surprise. Trump reads the polls. He knows he can’t win the 2020 election on his own merits, because he’s been an inept, divisive and peerlessly corrupt leader.

The rest of media no longer falls for this ploy. Behind his desperate smoke screen are a set of facts.

Even with the booming economy he inherited from President Obama, most Americans want him gone. They are tired of his cruelty, his lies, his self-dealing, his endless tantrums. Thus, Trump has returned to the 2016 playbook. He and his loyal propagandists are desperately shopping a conspiracy theory, a la Hillary’s emails, so that voters will overlook his own moral rot.

The problem is that the rest of media no longer falls for this ploy. Behind his desperate smoke screen are a set of facts.

As reported in a New Yorker profile published months ago, Biden’s son Hunter did take a seat on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company owned by an oligarch. And Biden, as vice president, did attempt to have Ukraine’s top prosecutor removed for corruption.

But the corrupt prosecutor in question was actually protecting Burisma. Thus, Biden’s efforts to remove him imperiled his own son.

None of this matters in Trumpworld, of course, where the goal is to repeat the words “Biden” and “corruption” often enough that the cult can pretend Trump hasn’t turned the Oval Office into a travel agency for his failing resorts.

Trump has promised to release a “full” transcript of his phone call with the Ukrainian president, which will likely affirm his mob boss penchant for making an obvious threat sound like a friendly suggestion.

Fortunately, the rest of us — including House Democrats — can see what’s really going on.

Trump has gone from bleating “no collusion!” -- throughout two years of the Mueller investigation -- to apparently attempting to extort a foreign power into colluding, in the open. And he’s done so in a manner that places his desire for reelection ahead of our national security.

And just in case there’s any confusion about his guilt, Trump has dispatched his personal attorney, former New York City mayor and prosecutor Rudy Giuliani, to broadcast his actions on national television.

The only story worth reporting is (and always has been) Trump’s shameless corruption.

It’s impossible to imagine any other president — aside from Richard Nixon, perhaps — hatching such a brazen and openly treasonous plot.

House Democrats seem to have finally summoned the courage to impeach the president — Speaker Pelosi is expected to announce a formal impeachment inquiry. Regardless, journalists of good faith must resist the urge to amplify Trump's propaganda by repeating the baseless claim that Biden did anything untoward. Transcribing a calculated smear isn’t reporting the news.

The only story worth reporting is (and always has been) Trump’s shameless corruption.

As a private citizen, everything he touched — whether a casino or a fake university or a charitable foundation — either went bankrupt or descended into fraud.

Until he’s removed from office, the presidency of the United States will endure the same fate.

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Related:

Steve Almond Twitter Cognoscenti contributor
Steve Almond's new book, "Bad Stories: What the Hell Just Happened to Our Country," is now available. He hosts the Dear Sugars podcast with Cheryl Strayed.

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