Yesterday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the launch of an impeachment inquiry to gather the specific articles of impeachment against Donald Trump. It was a painfully long time coming, and after months (years, really) of aggressively declaring his innocence, he seemed to be panicking yesterday.
Pelosi says he called her in the afternoon to see if they could make some sort of deal regarding the whistleblower complaint he’s been working so hard to bury. (Her response: “Tell your people to obey the law.”) Trump also tweeted that he would release the “transcript” of the call between himself and Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky that set off this entire ordeal.
Then, after Pelosi announced the inquiry, he tweeted that this is “A total Witch Hunt!” because Democrats “never even saw the transcript of the call,” which is kind of the point. You can’t say they don’t have grounds for impeachment because they don’t know what was said when one of the crimes you’re being accused of is forcing your own Justice Department to illegally hide the original complaint—not to mention that the point of launching an impeachment inquiry is to collect the details.
Anyway, Trump did release that transcript Wednesday morning. Well, sort of. It’s actually not a transcript at all, but rather a “memorandum” of the phone call, meaning it was pieced together from “the notes and recollections” of Situation Room and national security officers who were listening. It’s very reminiscent of Attorney General Wiliam Barr’s summary of the Mueller Report, which was seriously, let’s say, creative, with the way it interpreted the report’s findings.
They are running the exact same play. Don’t let the media and dems be fooled again. Hold the bastards to account: https://t.co/vpcgRgTVUN
— Travis Helwig (@travishelwig) September 24, 2019
But what’s really incredible is that even in the obviously doctored non-transcript that Trump himself authorized to be released, they’ve done a really bad job of hiding Trump’s crimes. At least with the Mueller Report, Barr’s summary gave some credence to Trump’s constant declarations of “NO OBSTRUCTION, NO COLLUSION.”
Here, it’s still really obvious that Trump was trying to solicit foreign interference in the 2020 election, with a heavily implied quid pro quo.
The White House transcript of the Ukraine call uses three ellipses – all when Trump is making requests, like here. pic.twitter.com/vCGJlAg2la
— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) September 25, 2019
The memo shows Trump very clearly asking Zelensky to work with Barr to investigate Joe Biden’s son. And while there are some convenient ellipses around the part where Trump might have explicitly said that he would withhold already promised aid money if Zelensky didn’t help, or if he promised something else in exchange for that help, the context is clear. He said that “the United States has been very very good to Ukraine,” but that that isn’t “reciprocal.” Trump told Zelensky he “would like you to do us a favor, though” immediately after Zelensky brought up aid money designated for Ukrainian defense.
The transcript of the call reads like a classic mob shakedown:
– We do a lot for Ukraine
– There’s not much reciprocity
– I have a favor to ask
– Investigate my opponent
– My people will be in touch
Nice country you got there.
It would be a shame if something happened to her.
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) September 25, 2019
And remember, this is the version of the story Trump felt comfortable releasing.
I assumed–given that the White House released it–that the Ukraine transcript would be ambiguous, & provide plausible deniability re: a quid pro quo.
It’s not. Right after the Ukranian leader mentions military purchase, Trump says “I would like you to do us a favor, though.” pic.twitter.com/yHcGcSvS1c
— Eli Savit (@EliNSavit) September 25, 2019
i stupidly thought the call wouldn’t be so incriminating, but i forgot rule #1 of current american politics: donald trump is fucking stupid.
— Oliver Willis (@owillis) September 25, 2019
“Let’s get out ahead of this issue by releasing the smoking gun that implicates all of us.”
— Kashana (@kashanacauley) September 25, 2019
Trump apparently genuinely believes this memo makes him look good.
Will the Democrats apologize after seeing what was said on the call with the Ukrainian President? They should, a perfect call – got them by surprise!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 25, 2019
Trump sincerely believes the “transcript” is a great look for him: “The way you had that built up, that call, it was going to be the call from hell. It turned out to be a nothing call. Other than, a lot of people said, ‘I never knew you could be so nice.'” pic.twitter.com/skIdOGr1Uy
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 25, 2019
The White House felt so confident they even released talking points to Democrats, which they then recalled, probably because these points are ridiculous.
No joke: White House just emailed all Dem offices asking to “recall” the talking points email. https://t.co/4fFtVYmrPd
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) September 25, 2019
So that’s where we’re at now. The White House is still hiding the original whistleblower complaint, the “transcript” they released is still totally incriminating, and the Attorney General is so heavily and directly implicated that he should be recusing himself from any investigations moving forward, but definitely won’t.
Meanwhile, over in the House, six different committees are moving forward with their investigations to gather information for the actual articles of impeachment. Maxine Waters, who’s been leading this charge from Day 1, has a clear explanation of what that looks like:
Rep. Maxine Waters explains how the impeachment inquiry process will work and expresses her expectation that the process will “move very quickly.” pic.twitter.com/SV4yNH5Ncy
— Maddow Blog (@MaddowBlog) September 25, 2019
(image: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
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