Former President Donald Trump faced impeachment over a phone call he held with the leader of Ukraine in which Democrats alleged that he engaged in “quid pro quo” in an attempt to dig up dirt on a political opponent. Now, it seems the Biden White House could soon find itself under similar scrutiny.
In a late July phone call leaked by Reuters, President Joe Biden apparently urged then-Afghanistan President Asraf Ghani to help him downplay the threat posed by the Taliban, the terror group now leading the country after taking Kabul as U.S. forces withdrew in late August, in exchange for military aid.
Now, pundits and Republicans alike are drawing connections between the latest controversy and the Trump impeachment debacle — and some have even suggested that Biden should face a similar threat of ouster by Congress.
“Whether it is true or not”
In an Aug. 31 report, Reuters claimed it had obtained a transcript of the call between Biden and Ghani, a transcript that White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki later described as “leaked.”
The phone call took place July 23 and was said to have lasted “roughly 14 minutes.” According to Reuters, “the leaders discussed military aid, political strategy, and messaging tactics.”
It’s the latter of the three that’s now causing problems for Biden. According to Reuters, the U.S. president told Ghani: “I need not tell you the perception around the world and in parts of Afghanistan, I believe, is that things are not going well in terms of the fight against the Taliban.”
And there is a need, whether it is true or not, there is a need to project a different picture.
He also reportedly suggested Ghani instruct Afghanistan’s political brass to hold a press conference backing a new military strategy to defeat the Taliban. “That will change perception, and that will change an awful lot, I think,” Biden said, according to Reuters.
Quid pro Joe?
Perhaps the most damning part of the call for Biden was an offering of aid to Ghani if he could complete the task of altering the world’s perception of the situation. “We will continue to provide close air support, if we know what the plan is,” Biden told the Afghanistan leader.
According to the New York Post, the White House said in a readout on the call that the leaders “discussed importance of Afghans coming together to support their common interest in security and peace, and President Biden underscored continued U.S. diplomatic engagement in support of a durable and just political settlement.”
To many, the words ring hollow when the former president, Trump, was nearly impeached under similar circumstances.
What’s more, as Miranda Devine points out in a column for the New York Post, Biden’s controversial strategy didn’t even pay off. “The problem was not the perception,” Devine wrote Sept. 1. “The problem was the reality that the Taliban was winning.” Would the same have happened under President Trump? We’ll never know for sure.