At a conference on “Political Risk in the 21st Century” in Abu Dhabi Monday, Condoleezza Rice, who served as National Security Adviser and Secretary of State under President George W. Bush, offered her thoughts for the first time publicly on the controversy surrounding President Trump’s alleged attempt to pressure Ukraine to “look into” former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
Trump’s famous July 25 call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, said Rice, was “really murky.”
“The call is murky, it is really murky,” said Rice, as reported by Reuters. “I don’t like for the president of the United States to mention an American citizen for investigation to a foreign leader. I think that is out of bounds.”
In the highly scrutinized call, which prompted the whistleblower complaint sparking the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, Trump brought up Ukraine’s alleged role in meddling with the 2016 election, asking Zelensky to look into it as a “favor.” Trump also added his interest in seeing Ukraine look more thoroughly into the allegations swirling around the Bidens. Though the whistleblower complaint described a clear quid pro quo during the call, the transcript released by the Trump administration revealed no such explicit agreement.
“There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that,” Trump told Zelensky. “So whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it… It sounds horrible to me.”
While Rice found the call uncomfortably “murky,” she expressed more concern about the alleged role of Trump’s personal lawyer, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, in pushing Trump’s agenda in Ukraine. Though she did not reference him by name, Rice highlighted the potential “conflict” of having “someone who says he’s acting on behalf of the president” sending mixed messages to another country about U.S. foreign policy. She qualified the statement by noting that she does not know if that actually occurred.
“What I see right now troubles me,” she said. “I see a state of conflict between the foreign policy professionals and someone who says he’s acting on behalf of the president, but frankly I don’t know if that is the case.”
“It is deeply troubling,” she said, explaining: “The world shouldn’t get confusing messages from the United States of America.”
While the phone call contained no clear quid pro quo tying an investigation into the Bidens and the $391 million in military aide to Ukraine, in some of the transcripts selectively leaked by the committee headed up by California Democrat Adam Schiff — whose office consulted with the whistleblower before the complaint was filed — some witnesses, including U.S. Ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland, say they “presumed” the aide was tied to the investigation.
Trump has maintained all along that there was no quid pro quo and that his call for the investigation into the Bidens’ activities involving Ukraine and Ukraine-based energy company Burisma was fully warranted, as past reports and investigations indicate.
During the “Political Risk” event Monday, Rice also warned about the current state of the world, both economically and in terms of growing “power rivalries.”
“The international economy was created as one that was intended to be a positive sum game, as in ‘my growth would not come at your expense,’” she said in comments reported by CNBC. “They created a different kind of system, one that was based on free and open trade and one in which there were great institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank … that system also relied on U.S. leadership and U.S. military protection. I would suggest to you that now, now that system is under strain and under threat.”
“A second big challenge to the system, the global order that was created after 1945, is the problem of great power rivalry which has emerged strongly in the last several years,” she said in reference to increasing tensions between the U.S. and China, echoing warnings from Trump. “If Russia is a power that is somewhat diminished from where it was, China is a rising power. And how to deal with a relationship with China that is actually very complex, not at all simple, is one of the real challenges for the United States today.”