U.S. President Donald Trump and Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö met today in the White House Oval Office and then held a nationally-televised press conference. Early during Finnish President Sauli Niinistö’s introductory remarks at the conference, he said to Trump, “Mr. President, you have a very great democracy here. Keep it going on.” And Mr. Niinistö said the exact same thing again later on during the conference. It obviously was point he had been prepared to make.
While President Niinistö was saying that and right afterwards, Mr. Trump made no physical gesture with his hands or facial expression affirming positively what Niinistö had just said. Rather, I thought President Trump had a bit of scowl look on his face, reflecting that this remark made him feel uncomfortable.
It was quite a remark under the circumstances. Only eight days ago, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi officially declared that majority House Democrats were proceeding with an impeachment inquiry against President Trump for serious wrongdoing that may be deemed criminal. Let’s get some background to this dispute.
The U.S. is Europe’s #1 ally in the world. We joined the Allied Powers in defeating the Nazis during WWII. Had it not been for U.S. involvement in that theatre of the war, all of Europe may have become Nazi. European leaders are well aware of that and have always been thankful to the U.S. for it. The Finnish president’s remark to President Trump, about keeping our great democracy, reflected that European gratitude and hope.
Up until last week, Speaker Pelosi had resisted opening an impeachment investigation against the president even though a considerable and growing portion of Democratic leaders had been pressing her to do so. She kept saying that there was still not enough evidence against the president to do that and that the American people so far would not support it. Then something changed that scenario very quickly.
It became known to the American people on September 26, only ten days ago, that on July 25th President Trump had a phone call with the new president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky–a former actor, screenwriter, and comedian–that Trump pressed Zelensky to dig up political opposition research against Trump’s current, primary challenger for the presidential election next year–Joe Biden and his son Hunter–for their previous activities in Ukraine. And during this phone call, Trump mentioned the $391 million aid that he was withholding from Ukraine that the U.S. Congress had appropriated. Thus, it looked like Trump was using the aid as leverage against Zelensky.It’s is important to understand the background to this story. Ukraine had been a post-WWII Soviet satellite among other Eastern European countries. The Soviet Union had invaded those countries and annexed them to the Soviet Union against their will. That was a big part of the so-called Cold War between the Soviet Union and the USA. The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, freeing those Eastern European nations, which included Ukraine, from the powerful grip of the USSR. Yet in 2014, Russia invaded Ukraine and annexed its Crimea Peninsula. Under the leadership of the U.S., the West then applied economic sanctions against Russia for this dastardly deed. Since then, Europe and the U.S. have contributed billions of dollars to help Ukraine in its defense against Russia, who right now is attempting to take over more of Ukraine. Thus, in Trump’s phone call to Zelensky, he seems to have been pressured him about U.S. aid even though when later asked, Zelensky denied it. But he also said that Ukraine will not allow itself to be drawn into this political dispute in the U.S.
Also during today’s press conference with Trump and Niinistö, Trump said again for the fourth time publicly since he has been president, “There are those who think I’ve been a very stable genius.” The previous three times, he just asserted that he was.
When President Trump then opened this press conference to questions from the media, Trump was angry in many of his remarks. He repeated his recent accusation of Chairman Adam Schiff, whom he called “shifty Schiff” again, that he is guilty of “treason” and should be arrested. He also said, “Nancy Pelosi gives out subpoenas,” referring to recent Democratic subpoenas of Trump’s cabinet members and others, “like they’re cookies.”
When a CNN correspondent asked Trump about his remarks concerning Joe Biden during that July 25th phone call, the president exclaimed angrily, “Biden and his son are stone cold crooked.” He also repeated his constant refrain the past few days concerning the impeachment inquiry, “It’s a hoax,” adding, “and the people who are playing into it are the fake news people just like you,” pointing at the journalist.