There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking foreign heads of state or intelligence officials to cooperate with an official Justice Department investigation.
As George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley explains, “It is not uncommon for an attorney general, or even a president, to ask foreign leaders to assist with ongoing investigations. Such calls can shortcut bureaucratic red tape, particularly if the evidence is held, as in this case, by national security or justice officials.”
Taking opponents of President Trump at their word, then, what is the complaint? Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that Joe Biden, whose family is the subject of the investigation, is running for president. This presents the impression of the current president attempting to dig up dirt on an opponent.
Note one thing, here: President Trump didn’t put this in the news; a “whistleblower” did, in order to damage him. The Bidens’ curious activities in the Ukraine may never have become an issue unless there turned out to be evidence of actual corruption on their part.
Put all that aside, though, for the sake of a deeper, nonpartisan question. Should we be wary of a standard by which it is more difficult to investigate people because they’re running for offices of public trust? If President Trump had asked the president of the Ukraine for help investigating some corporate interest — an oil tycoon, for instance — it’s hard to imagine very much outcry, especially from the side of the aisle that periodically cites the International Criminal Court as a legitimate authority over Americans.
Of course, this is all academic, to some extent, because we know we’re observing a one-way standard. Because they’ve done it already, we know that a left-wing president or candidate favored by the news media could work closely with foreign governments to dig up dirt on their opposition and, as Thiessen notes, it would hardly rate as news coverage. One side’s impeachable offense is the other side’s “just the way it’s done.”