Democrats have reportedly been watching the unfolding Ukraine controversy involving Joe Biden with a wary eye on the 2020 election race.
The fallout from President Trump’s counter-attack on the former Vice President amid corruption claims involving the Ukraine government has left Democrats scrambling in damage control mode, trying to shift the focus back on the president while seeing a replay of some of the failures of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign.
For days the attacks and responses have played out on social media, speeches and media appearances as Biden and Democrats have hammered the president over a phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky in July. The outrage set off a firestorm following a whistleblower complaint filed against the president which claimed Trump made a “promise” to Zelensky as he urged him to investigate Biden’s son Hunter and his business dealings in the nation.
Biden has denied ever speaking to his son about his business in Ukraine, and slammed Trump’s actions as an “overwhelming abuse of power.” His campaign reportedly sent out a fundraising appeal featuring bumper stickers that declare the Democrat’s recent vow to “beat Trump like a drum.”
The president fired back at accusations Sunday, noting that nothing inappropriate occurred on the call to the Ukrainian president and that Biden’s “corruption” was at the heart of the issue. Trump defended himself again on Monday, speaking to reporters and reiterating that he did not do what the media and critics are accusing him of.
#NEW: Pres. Trump defends himself against the whistle-blower controversy tied to Ukraine: “The one who’s got the problem is Biden… Biden did what they would like to have me do except for one problem. I didn’t do it. What Biden did is a disgrace.” pic.twitter.com/ghaPspHyKu
— Jennifer Franco (@jennfranconews) September 23, 2019
The president has continued to counter the accusations, as have supporters and administration officials.
Vice President Mike Pence defended Trump while slamming the media and Democrats for attacking him for actions that Biden “bragged” about. Sen. Lindsey Graham said the Justice Department should conduct an investigation targeting Biden, telling Fox News Sunday that “now is the time” to look at “the Biden-Ukraine connection.”
The Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Vadym Prystaiko, also denied the allegations that Trump had pressured the Ukrainian president, saying in a recent interview that leaders “have the right to discuss any problems that exist.”
All of the pushback from Trump’s camp has Democrats worried, as the left-wing media reported, hoping not to relive the 2016 failures that cost Clinton the victory.
“The skirmish illustrated how ill-equipped Democrats, busy battling one another in the fight for the nomination, are to compete with Trump’s online megaphone, which includes not just his own Twitter feed and that of the Republican National Committee’s leadership, but also a regiment of conservative talking heads and highly active Internet trolls who have closed ranks around the president,” The Washington Post‘s Matt Viser and Isaac Stanley-Becker wrote in a piece published Monday.
“The flurry of online attacks against Biden carries echoes of conspiracy theories spread by Trump and his allies about Hillary Clinton’s health and claims about her foreign entanglements that helped turn voters against her,” the article claimed.
“This is the first big test of the 2020 race,” Clinton campaign’s director of communications, Jennifer Palmieri, told the Post. “Is the press, are Democrats, are Democratic activists, going to let that happen again?”
“You need to be aggressive so people know what’s true and what’s not,” she said. “You can’t pick your fights. . . . It’s a terrible situation for a campaign to be in. But that’s life when you’re dealing with Donald Trump.”
Of course, the left is discrediting Trump’s assertions that Biden acted inappropriately event though he admitted on camera last year that he strong-armed then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in March 2016 when he was serving as vice president in the Obama administration. He told an audience how he threatened that the administration would pull $1 billion in U.S. aid if Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin was not immediately fired. Shokin, at the time, was conducting a corruption probe of the natural gas company that employed Biden’s son.
The director of rapid response for Clinton’s 2016 campaign told the Washington Post that ignoring the “conspiracy theories” was a big mistake for the former Democratic nominee and should be a reminder for whoever wins the nomination for the 2020 race.
“The false attacks really were effective at sowing doubt, not only within a right-wing sphere, which is what we originally thought, but within our own supporters,” Zac Petkanas said.
Andrew Bates, a Biden spokesman, accused Trump of pressuring “a foreign country to smear the Democratic candidate he’s most afraid of facing next November.”
“For the sake of our democracy, it is also incumbent on the press to finally internalize the lessons of 2016 and dispense with the uncritical repetition of wholesale lies simply because Donald Trump says them,” he added.
The Washington Post article went on to note the vast difference between videos posted on social media over the weekend with the one by the president being “viewed about 2.7 million times — nearly five times more than Biden’s video.”
“The online battles illustrate how the campaign is increasingly unfolding in an unregulated digital ecosystem, one in which Trump has eschewed traditional political norms,” Viser and Stanley-Becker contended, pointing to several examples that they believed showed the effects of the “Trump fusillade.”
“Democratic lawmakers have been quick to condemn the president, but they strained to formulate a way for the party to respond collectively to Trump’s claims,” they wrote. “From staunch Biden allies to rivals for the Democratic nomination, there wasn’t a clear sense of how to maneuver tactically to quiet Trump’s megaphone or come up with a counternarrative.”
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