In a piece for The Atlantic this Friday, Franklin Foer argues that President Trump's obsession with Ukrainian corruption was actually genuine: "He wanted it thoroughly investigated—for the sake of its emulation."
While the diplomats who testified in the House impeachment inquiry may have intended to shine a light on kleptocracy, Trump "apparently regarded them as an instructional video on selective prosecution, the subversion of a neutral judiciary, and the punishment of whistle-blowers who expose corruption," Foer writes.
"Over the course of Trump’s presidency, his critics have speculated about the model of illiberal democracy that he would adopt as his own," Foer continues. "After the past week—which saw the firing of Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the revocation of the Justice Department’s sentencing memo for Roger Stone, and Attorney General Bill Barr’s increasingly heavy-handed control of the investigations into his boss—there’s less doubt about the contours of the state Trump hopes to build. He’s creating Kyiv-on-the-Potomac."
Foer gives Joe Biden credit for his "legitimate accomplishment" of helping to move Ukraine's judiciary towards a system that resembled the US -- at least the way it looked before Bill Barr became attorney general. But that success was undermined when the US began "plundering Ukraine’s recent past, borrowing its worst practices."
"The corrupt [Ukrainian] prosecutors who were displaced in the course of reform have reemerged as the conspiratorial figures whispering in Rudy Giuliani’s ear, stoking unfounded theories about Burisma and Biden," Foer writes. "They urged Trump to exact revenge against his enemies, with the same malevolent prosecutorial intent and flimsy evidence that they might themselves have deployed."
Read the full piece over at The Atlantic.