EDITORIAL: Latest Trump charges sound awfully familiar

York Dispatch Editorial Board

It has yet to be proven if President Donald Trump has illegally solicited help from foreign governments in hopes of shoring up questionable conspiracy theories, but the allegations have the ring of familiarity.

A week of breathless developments began with a whistleblower’s complaint raising concerns that the president sought assistance from Ukraine’s president in a July 25 phone call in digging up dirt on potential 2020 opponent and former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. The whistleblower also charged the administration tried to hide details of the call.

A House impeachment inquiry quickly followed.

By last Thursday, Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, testified before the House Intelligence Committee on the matter — hot on the heels of the release of a White House summary of Trump’s phone call in which the president did indeed ask Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky for “a favor.”

Bombshell followed bombshell. On Monday, The Washington Post reported that Attorney General William Barr has been holding private meetings with foreign intelligence officials to help Trump try to discredit the Mueller report’s findings regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election.

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence participate in an Armed Forces welcome ceremony for the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, Monday, Sept. 30, 2019, at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Let that sink in: The nation’s presumptive top law-enforcement official is coordinating with foreign governments against his own nation’s intelligence agencies. (And the president thinks Rep. Adam Schiff’s characterization of his Ukraine phone call is “treason”?)

Add to this the apparently freelance dirt-digging Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, has been doing in Ukraine.

This favor-seeking on the part of Trump and Co. is intended to a) discredit the Mueller report’s findings that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential elections on behalf of President Trump and b) provide substance to conspiracy theories that posit Ukraine, rather than Russia, interfered in the elections, and that Biden’s actions as vice president to pressure Ukraine to remove a corrupt prosecutor were intended to protect his son, who was on the board of a Ukrainian company.

Both of these fantasies have been widely debunked, as Trump’s advisors have repeatedly told him. To no avail.

Rather than acknowledge reality, the president has embarked on a campaign to manufacture “proof” to support his alternate version of reality.

Where have we seen this movie before?

Oh yeah — right there in the Oval Office.

Remember the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity?

President Trump formed this waste of taxpayer money to uncover evidence to back up his baseless claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2016 elections.

“In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide,” Trump tweeted with characteristic braggadocio and inaccuracy, “I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”

Those millions of illegal voters must have been the same crowd that made Trump’s inauguration “the largest audience to ever witness” such an event “period.” In both cases, the claims existed only in the president’s mind.

But subordinates or other government officials are conscripted to attempt to alter reality to confirm with the president’s delusions.

Usually, that means backtracking to explain a policy-reversing presidential tweet. Now, it appears to have gone global, with Giuliani, Barr, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and who knows who else party to efforts to realign reality to appease the president.

One thing is for certain: With new revelations expanding the list or players — and potential wrongdoing — the situation is far from, as Sen. Lindsey Graham sought to dismiss it, “a nothingburger.”

There is much to investigate — and much White House stonewalling to overcome in doing so — but the allegations demand full, swift and bipartisan congressional attention.

Should they be proven, the actions would be not only shameful and impeachable but, for this president, typical.