If Trump froze aid to Ukraine because its government did not investigate Trump’s political opponent, this would, in my view, constitute serious malfeasance. Congress, on a bipartisan basis, has approved U.S. aid to Ukraine in order to help that country resist Russian aggression. Freezing this aid because the Ukrainian government wouldn’t go after a Trump domestic opponent would be truly scandalous.
He then suggests that the timing of the release of aid create a presumption that must be overcome by Trump--the presumption being that pressuring Ukraine in this way raises a "good faith suspicion" of a quid pro quo which is illegal:
The administration unfroze aid to Ukraine last week. Is the delay in the release of the aid long and unprecedented enough to raise a good faith suspicion that a quid-pro-quo was at work? If so, Were there legitimate reasons — reasons unrelated to advancing Trump’s political interests — that overcome the suspicion and reasonably explain the delay?
Here's the problem I see with this argument. Mirengoff keeps talking about the possibility that Trump was pressuring Ukraine to "investigate Biden." I can think of no reason why Mirengoff would think this is what was going on. Ukraine knows exactly what happened--Biden is on record telling the world that he spoke directly to Ukraine's leaders, demanding that they fire a certain prosecutor. Ukraine has no need to investigate. They can deal with the matter any way they see fit. Something else, I think, is going on.
Ukraine may have no need to investigate. On the other hand, the United States does have a need to investigate. Biden's well publicized statements about his dealings with Ukraine's leaders create a prima facie criminal case and seriously tarnish the international image of the United States in the process. However, the United States can't simply assume Biden's guilt. Acting through the Department of Justice and the FBI, the United States does need to investigate further to establish that Biden's statements were not mere braggadocio--something Biden seems prone to. To conduct such an investigation the United States will require the cooperation of Ukraine's authorities in the production of documents and the interview of witnesses. Moreover, as we have seen, and as Rudy Giuliani and others have asserted, there is considerable evidence connecting Ukrainian government officials to the Russia Hoax that Bill Barr and John Durham are investigating. The Biden family involvement in Ukraine may intersect with that investigation--it's definitely an angle worth looking into in any thorough investigation. Just as US officials have secured the cooperation of the UK and Italy to obtain the interview of witnesses--including former intelligence officials of those countries--it should come as no surprise that US investigators should seek to conduct investigation in Ukraine as well.
Seen in this light--a highly probable light, in my view--is there "serious malfeasance" in a president of the United States pressuring a foreign leader to cooperate with the United State's investigation of criminal corruption by a US citizen? The answer is clearly: No. There would be no such investigation in the first place absent reasonable suspicion by DoJ and the FBI that a crime had been committed, and that reasonable suspicion would need to be documented in writing in a case file. The president is charged with enforcing the laws of the United States and with conducting relations with foreign powers. Who better, then, to pressure a foreign power to cooperate with a legitimate US investigation of a US citizen than the president?
Well, normally such matters are handled through ambassadors. However, if a foreign leader is recalcitrant, or if the US ambassador is recalcitrant (as is alleged in this case), and the case is important enough--as I believe this case unquestionably is--then it seems appropriate for the president to get involved and exert moral pressure or, if need be, other forms of pressure. Not all countries have equal resources for pulling that off, but the use of coercion to bring about compliance with legitimate legal processes is SOP throughout the world, including in America.
Nor does such pressure constitute an illegitimate quid pro quo. Aid was not being offered to entice Ukraine to act for the benefit of the president. Aid was withheld to enforce a demand that Ukraine cooperate with a legitimate US investigation. To suggest that this constitutes an illegal quid pro quo is tantamount to suggesting that all the various forms of legal coercion that are routine in under US law are also illegitimate. This is simply how cooperation must sometimes be obtained between sovereign states. Thus, there is no reason to presume that the Trump administration is up to something underhanded, just because the president was required to get involved in order to secure Ukraine's cooperation. The legitimacy of the investigation itself is within the purview of DoJ. Ultimately, it is not determined by the president but by US courts.