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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Announcing a probe might get the same benefit as conducting one

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, foreground, and NATO Secretary-General

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, foreground, and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg met in Kiev on Thursday. Credit: STEPAN FRANKO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock/STEPAN FRANKO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

The way Ambassador William Taylor phrased what he heard of President Donald Trump's pressure on Ukraine seems telling.

Taylor, envoy to Ukraine, testified last month that he'd been told Sept. 8 that “everything” in the countries' relations depended on President Volodymyr Zelensky making “a public announcement of investigations” which would put Zelensky “in a public box.”

Public announcement, public box. Interesting.

Let's say a president, or a candidate, had true grounds to suspect that former leaders, or his rivals, broke the laws of the United States or an Eastern European nation.

Most likely that president would ask the world's strongest law-enforcement apparatus to find out what it could and report back, and work from there.

Most likely the investigators would want to act discreetly to determine what's true and what's not, and present charges if and when appropriate.

Trump, however, held American support over Zelensky's head in a personal phone call as he asked for a "favor" — then alluded hazily to a computer server.

He supposed aloud that the Democratic National Committee computer server that U.S. officials say was hacked by Russian intelligence in the run-up to the 2016 election rests with Ukraine.

But perhaps it was a bigger priority for Trump to hear an investigation announced by the Kyiv government than to have one actually carried out.

Trump and his allies have carnival-barked other inquiries.

He hinted at audio recordings of his conversation with former FBI Director James Comey, which never existed. Evidence of President Barack Obama "wiretapping" Trump Tower were just around the corner, by Trump's account, but Trump's Justice Department debunked it.

Hillary Clinton's emails? No pay dirt.

Ukraine hasn't gone public with the promise of a probe. 

But now the story of Trump's private political stake in the foreign policy he was conducting cannot be fully described without mentioning suspicions about Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, or the Trump camp's occult theories about the origins of the Mueller probe.

Putting the poison about Democrats in the public dialogue can only help the president.

For all we know, the prospect of proving a Biden or Clinton transgression might be secondary to talking about it, leading a bloc of the public to think: "Our leader wouldn't be so insistent if there was nothing to it."

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