President Donald Trump's scheme to try to delay military funding to force Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to publicly announce an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden led to a national scandal, and to his own impeachment.
On Thursday, writing for The Washington Post, Catherine Rampell warned that as the coronavirus pandemic has unfolded, Trump has taken that same playbook and applied it to the American people themselves.
"Do us a favor though: Before we provide lifesaving equipment, praise the president," wrote Rampell. "Do us a favor though: Before we rescue the U.S. Postal Service, raise postage prices on the president’s perceived political enemies. Do us a favor though: Before we assist states in fiscal crisis, reopen your economies when we say so. Oh, and hand over your immigrants."
This is remarkably similar, she wrote, to Trump's threat against Zelensky.
"To many voters, this exchange, involving a faraway country, may have seemed no different from the usual horse-trading that U.S. officials conduct with counterparts abroad. Trump calls himself a brilliant dealmaker, after all; maybe this episode was just another boring political negotiation," wrote Rampell. "It wasn’t, of course. It was about extracting a favor designed to help the president’s personal interest, rather than his country’s."
"In December, during the impeachment hearings, Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan offered an analogy explaining why Trump’s extortion attempt should be troubling," wrote Rampell. "'Imagine living in a part of Louisiana or Texas that’s prone to devastating hurricanes and flooding,' Karlan testified. 'What would you think if, when your governor asked the federal government for the disaster assistance that Congress has provided, the president responded, 'I would like you to do us a favor. I’ll meet with you and send the disaster relief once you brand my opponent a criminal'?'"
"That hypothetical might once have seemed ludicrous. Now, like the Onion’s March joke about Trump someday recommending bleach ingestion, it looks prophetic," wrote Rampell. "In late March, for instance, he suggested that provision of medical supplies to states would be conditional on praise from governors. 'It’s a two-way street,' he said on Fox News. 'They have to treat us well, also. They can’t say, ‘Oh, gee, we should get this, we should get that.''"
"Once upon a time, Americans might have dismissed Ukraine’s troubles as irrelevant to their lives," concluded Rampell. "Well, we’re all Zelensky now."
You can read more here.