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From Total Denial to “No Quid Pro Quo!”: Donald Trump’s Impeachment Defenses That Have Fallen Apart Right in Front of Us

Donald Trump makes a pouty face in front of an American flag.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman dropped some pretty major bombshells in his Congressional deposition this week. Probably the biggest revelation he gave was that the “transcript” the White House released of the call between Donald Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky “omitted crucial words and phrases.” Vindman said he attempted to restore those omissions with no success.

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This directly contradicts Trump’s insistence that the memorandum released was a verbatim transcript, and one that cleared him entirely of any suspicion. That’s awkward because he’s been leaning really hard on that argument. He’s tweeted about the “transcript” more than 20 times this month, repeatedly saying we all just need to “read the transcript!” and he’ll be in the clear.

This isn’t the first time one of Trump’s arguments in defense of himself has fallen apart right in front of us. When he finds an angle he likes, he’ll stay on it until it disintegrates like old, ratty underwear. He definitely knows that if he says something enough times, plenty of people will believe it’s true.

Except in this case, the more he shouts these arguments, the more these testimonies are able to poke holes in them. Here are some that have fallen apart right in front of our eyes:

Total Denial

The first angle Trump tried via his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani was to deny that he had asked Zelensky to look into Biden at all. That fell apart when, in the span of one interview, Giuliani went from denying the claim to admitting it was true, saying he was proud of it and that he’d do it again.

The Whistleblower Wasn’t on the Call

For a while, Trump was outraged that the whistleblower wasn’t on the call in question, but received their information secondhand. He went as far as to perpetuate a lie from The Federalist, saying someone had mysteriously changed the whistleblower rules, which his own appointees had to come out and contradict.

This argument was already shaky because, of the little we know about the whistleblower, we know that while they might not have been on this call, they did have other firsthand information. But it really fell apart when Vindman gave his testimony, since he was on the call and his description of what he heard was really bad for Trump, even worse than anything we already knew.

“A Perfect Call”

Trump loves to describe his phone call as “perfect.” He’s posted 15 tweets about how perfect his phone call was, some of them in quotation marks, although it’s not clear who he’s quoting when he does this.

One person he has quoted as having called the conversation perfect is Mitch McConnell. Trump said McConnell called it “the most innocent phone call that I’ve read.” McConnell responded by saying that never happened. “We’ve not had any conversations on that subject,” he told reporters.

The “perfect” argument may not have been completely destroyed by this refutal, but it really does take a lot to make Mitch McConnell publicly contradict Trump.

No Quid Pro Quo!

This has been a big one for Trump. He’s insisted that while he may have asked Zelensky to look into Joe and Hunter Biden’s business dealings, he never said he would withhold aid money if Zelensky refused. This was directly contradicted by William B. Taylor Jr., the top American diplomat to Ukraine, who testified before the Congressional committees last week.

According to the New York Times, Taylor “said the president sought to condition the entire United States relationship with Ukraine — including a $391 million aid package whose delay put Ukrainian lives in danger — on a promise that the country would publicly investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his family.”

And now Vindman has given even more evidence of a quid pro quo by saying that the ellipses in the White House’s memo are hiding important omissions.

Which brings us back to:

Read the Transcript!

We would love to! Especially now that those ellipses in the thing you called a transcript but wasn’t are so much more glaring than they already were.

It’ll be interesting to see which of Trump’s innocence catchphrases will fall apart next? “Witch hunt,” maybe? He’s been tweeting “Where’s the whistleblower?” a lot, as if there’s some sort of conspiracy there. Can’t wait to see where that goes.

(image: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.

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