This GOP senator couldn't bring himself to say foreign interference in elections is wrong

CNN's Jake Tapper presses Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) on a 90-minute recording in which President Donald Trump is speaking with indicted businessman Lev Parnas about removing former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.

Posted: Jan 27, 2020 1:20 PM

Congressional Republicans have twisted themselves into all sorts of knots in an effort to defend President Donald Trump's conduct with Ukraine. But on Sunday, Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford dipped to a new low.

Appearing on ABC's "This Week," the Republican senator was asked by host George Stephanopoulos whether he believed it was acceptable for a president to ask a foreign country to investigate one of his potential political opponents -- citing not just the much-disputed July 25, 2019 call between Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, but also Trump's comments on October 3, 2019, in which he urged Ukraine and China to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden.

Here's the exchange:

STEPHANOPOULOS: He's asking the Chinese, he's asking the Ukrainians to investigate the Bidens. Do you think that's appropriate?

LANKFORD: Well what the President's trying to express there is his frustration that no one's paying attention to what is potential corruption with the Bidens in the past, that everyone seems to be focused on him, that he's been through two-and-a-half years of investigation in the Mueller report, everyone's been focused on him but no one seems to want to even ask the question about was there potential corruption here --

STEPHANOPOULOS: No, he's asking the Ukrainians -- and the Chinese, do you think that's appropriate?

LANKFORD: I think he is asking for an investigation, as you would with anyone else with any other American. It is a unique thing, obviously, that this is a person running for political office as well but it's not new, as the House manager said that this only started after Biden announced his investigation. This was a consistent theme for the President to say everyone should be able to be looked at in this process.

The logic here is truly astounding: Trump is just fine to ask Ukraine and China to look into Joe Biden because he is frustrated that "no one's paying attention to what is potential corruption with the Bidens in the past."

Except that no one -- outside of hardcore GOP partisans -- are alleging that Joe Biden did anything wrong in his public statements in 2016 calling for the resignation of Ukraine's top prosecutor. In fact, Biden was acting as part of an international coalition aimed at rooting out corruption in Ukraine. As for Hunter Biden and his seat on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company, there's also no allegation of any wrongdoing there although, admittedly, Hunter Biden's lack of clear credentials for such a well-paying gig don't look great.

The other ridiculous fallacy in Lankford's argument is that Trump asking for Ukraine and China to investigate US citizens is super normal stuff. It's not. The investigatory arm in the United States for American citizens is the Justice Department, not a foreign country. That Trump is requesting two foreign governments investigate his leading Democratic rival for the presidency makes this claim by Lankford all the more outlandish.

What's on very clear display here is that in service of protecting the political interests of Trump (and the broader Republican Party) the likes of even Lankford -- a respected conservative voice -- are willing to say and do things that just make no logical sense.

The idea that it's just fine for a President of the United States to ask for foreign countries to investigate a political rival because he's, uh, frustrated, is laughable. Imagine if a Democratic president asked Ukraine and China to look into their strongest potential Republican rival. Do you think Lankford would have the same view?

When partisanship overwhelms intellectual honesty, we are in a bad place as a country. And we are in that bad place right now.

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