Scandalous fallout from the failed Donald Trump presidency may just be revving up with his second impeachment trial. Low-key developments during Week 3 of the Joe Biden presidency hint of new ugly details about his predecessor's actions.
Some of it involves circumstances that led to Trump's previous impeachment. A close adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told Time magazine he's willing to help a federal probe of Trump surrogate Rudy Giuliani as well as a separate effort to strip the ex-mayor of his license to practice law.
The adviser, Igor Novikov, released a transcript of Giuliani in a 40-minute phone call pressuring Ukraine's top officials to "get someone to investigate" a web of contrived charges against Biden, his son Hunter and other Democrats for Trump's political benefit. The White House held up congressionally approved military aid for Ukraine's defense of its Crimea region against Russia.
"Be careful," Giuliani warned repeatedly while promising to help improve Ukraine’s relations with Trump, according to the transcript. "My only motive — it isn’t to get anybody in trouble who doesn’t deserve to be in trouble." Zelensky's government has begun, with Biden in office, to share accounts of Trump's extracurricular push for dirt on Democrats.
Zelensky and his allies said they aim to rebuild relations with the U.S. "The past is the past," the Ukrainian president told Time in a statement. "I care deeply about the future of our relationship with the United States, so I want to focus on that."
Novikov told the magazine: "If I get an official request" from the Manhattan U.S. attorney's office, "or any other non-partisan effort, such as potential disbarment of Rudy Giuliani, I would be open to helping them. That is because I believe Mayor Giuliani’s actions in Ukraine threatened our national security." Giuliani did not comment for the Time story.
Giuliani's cajoling from a powerful perch isn't all that remains to be explored. According to Politico, Biden's national security team has access to the records of the dozen or so casual phone calls and meetings Trump had while in office with Russian President Vladimir Putin. What was discussed long has been a subject of mystery in political and diplomatic circles.
"It is a national security priority to find out what Trump said to Putin" over his four years in office, a former national security official close to Biden was quoted as telling Politico. "Some things, like what happened in some face-to-face meetings where no American translator or note-taker was present, may never be fully known. But I would be very surprised if the new national security team were not trying to access" the records.
Did Trump make untoward back-channel commitments to the strongman he always seemed to court? This is not yet known.
Most of the ex-president's skulduggery since 2017 took place within U.S. borders. On Wednesday, it emerged that prosecutors in Georgia have begun a criminal investigation into Trump's direct attempt to tamper with the state’s election results. This includes the phone call he made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Jan. 2, demanding that he somehow "find" enough ballots to win Trump the state's 16 electoral votes awarded to Biden after recounts and recanvasses.
The Democratic prosecutor in Fulton County, Georgia, sent a letter telling top state officials to preserve all documents related to "an investigation into attempts to influence" the handling of November's election.
In New York City, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance has been exploring the Trump Organization's business transactions, which touched on a long-running battle over the 45th president's tax documents. The second impeachment trial, which appears likely to end in acquittal, may pan out as the least of Trump's worries.