Dispatch October 3, 2019

The Extortion Scandal Comes to Pence

Vice President Mike Pence is going all-in defending President Donald Trump on the Ukraine scandal, seconding Trump’s calls for a bogus investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden.

That’s probably because Pence knows he is also deeply implicated in the president’s effort to extort Ukraine. The Washington Post’s latest reporting says that it was Pence that drove home the quid pro quo to Ukraine’s president. The message Pence reportedly sent was clear: You want the money? Produce a “corruption” investigation into our political rival.

Trump tried to extort Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.

  • On July 18, Trump ordered the director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney to put a hold on $250 million in military aid to Ukraine.
  • On July 25, Trump talked at length with Zelensky about the amount of aid the U.S. gives Ukraine before asking Zelensky to do him a “favor” by ginning up a bogus investigation into the Bidens.
  • According to notes released by the White House, Trump mentioned Biden at least three times on the call, as well as Rudy Giuliani, his point person in the extortion scheme, at least four more—but never actually used the word “corruption,” which he has since used to describe the thrust of the call (much like the Russian code word “adoptions” for “sanctions”).

Ukraine didn’t move to open an investigation, so Pence went in September to deliver the message: cash for dirt.

  • Trump reportedly instructed Pence not to attend Zelensky’s inauguration in May, which served as somewhat of a warning shot. Then, according to The Washington Post, Trump sent Pence to meet with Zelensky in Warsaw in September.
  • At that meeting, Pence reportedly “conveyed the news that hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. aid to Ukraine was not going to be released amid concerns about the country’s lagging efforts to combat corruption.”
  • That’s clear code for an investigation into the Bidens: Not only has Trump all but said so himself, but by the time Trump made his decision, multiple government agencies had already unanimously certified that Ukraine had done enough to combat corruption to merit U.S. aid.

It’s really hard for Pence to claim that he didn’t know exactly what he was doing.

  • He heard about the extortion directly from Trump. According to Trump himself, Pence was one of three administration officials (including Mulvaney and Secretary of State Mick Mulvaney) that Trump initially informed of his decision to withhold aid from Ukraine.
  • He got the memo. According to The Washington Post, Pence “probably would have received the detailed notes of the president’s call”—that is, the five-page memo clearly showing the president’s quid pro quo—well before his sit-down with Zelensky.
  • His top adviser was on the Zelensky call. Pence’s national security adviser, retired Lt. General Keith Kellogg, was reportedly one of several administration officials who listened in on the July 25 call as it happened.

Try as he might to stay out of the spotlight, Pence is directly implicated in Trump’s shakedown of the Ukrainian government. Trump made him the messenger in his corrupt ploy to turn America’s foreign policy into a tool for his personal political gain.

For a list of other top administration officials implicated, check out “Trump’s Extortion of Ukraine: A Complete Government Shakedown.”