For anyone deeply worried about the future of American democracy, nearly all of the focus is on the Republicans and what they are doing in states like Georgia, Texas and Florida to rig elections in their favor with potential for denying the people's will. That's good, but let's not forget the size of the conspiracy against democracy. It isn't just domestic. It's foreign, too. These forces are not working in isolation. At the rate we're going, it won't be long before the Republicans try making it seem wholesome and patriotic to collude with foreign governments to defeat Democrats, who, as I said yesterday, are not real Americans anyway, but instead crimes against real Americans.
That's my takeaway from CNN's reporting Monday. Time and Buzzfeed had previously reported the existence of, and had reported parts of, a call transcript between Rudy Giuliani and an aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. But on Monday CNN revealed for the first time a recording of the call, which was, according to CNN's Matthew Chance and Marshall Cohen, "one of the opening salvos in the years-long quest by Trump and his allies to damage [Joe] Biden and subvert the 2020 election process—by soliciting foreign meddling, lying about voter fraud, attempting to overturn the results, and inciting the deadly January 6 assault on the Capitol."
The details should be familiar. Acting on behalf of the former president, Giuliani offered military aid for Ukraine's proxy war with Russia in exchange for two official announcements by the Ukrainian government. One, that it's investigating corruption related to Joe Biden and his son, who was working for a Ukrainian gas firm during his dad's vice presidency. Two, that it's investigating efforts by corrupt Ukrainian officials to conspire with Democrats to sabotage Trump in 2016. Three days later, the president called Zelensky and said: "Do us a favor, though." That, my friend, is quid pro quo.
Neither of these assertions is true in any way, but the former president wanted them to be true. So Giuliani, on his behalf, tried blackmailing Ukraine's new and vulnerable leader into saying they might have been true enough to warrant an investigation, which would have been good enough for the right-wing media apparatus, which is global in scale, to bend political reality so that Donald Trump would have seemed like the ultimate victim and the ultimate hero, paving the way for his reelection in 2020.
That didn't happen, obviously. In early 2019, the Democrats in the United States House of Representatives indicted the president on charges of involving a foreign government in a conspiracy to defraud the American people, thus violating their popular sovereignty. The Republicans in the United States Senate acquitted him on grounds he didn't do anything warranting removal. But the Ukraine affair was the second instance of quid pro quo. After the acquittal, it was revealed that Roger Stone was the link between the Russian hackers, Wikileaks and the Trump campaign in an effort, in 2016, to undermine Hillary Clinton's campaign. It was moreover revealed that Paul Manafort, Trump's old campaign director, had collaborated with known Russian intelligence officials. All this together says he cheated. He tried cheating again. It didn't work, but before leaving office, he did everything in his power to remain in power, despite the people's will. And he pardoned Roger Stone and Paul Manafort.
Why the audio recording has now been made public is a question deserving an answer. It certainly seems related to the "ongoing criminal investigation into Giuliani and his Ukraine dealings," according to CNN's Chance and Cohen, "including whether he violated lobbying laws while coordinating with ex-officials who gave him dirt on the Bidens. The federal inquiry ramped up when the FBI raided Giuliani's home and office in late April." What's clear, though, is that the recording is indisputable proof that the Democrats were absolutely right to impeach Trump, twice. It's proof that the Senate Republicans were absolutely wrong to find the former president not guilty. In finding him not guilty, the Senate Republicans said, in effect, that foreign interference is OK.
For anyone deeply worried about the future of American democracy, it's important to remember the problem goes much deeper than the Republicans rigging state election laws in pivotal swing states. It's that the Republicans no longer think of Democrats, liberals, independents and anti-Trump conservatives (anyone who's not a Republican) as legitimate Americans. It's that the GOP thinks of them not as rivals but enemies deserving what's coming to them. In refusing to see real Americans as real Americans, the GOP has incentive to conspire with foreign governments, however hostile they may be, to sabotage Democratic candidates—to ensnare them in global disinformation efforts that rewrite history so the Republicans are the story's victims and heroes. Trump ultimately failed, but he provided a model for the Republicans to follow.