What the Heck Was Going on in Those Nonsensical Leaked Trump Phone Call Transcripts?
Yesterday was not a good day for Donald Trump. On top of news that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has impaneled a grand jury for the Trump/Russia investigation, transcripts of Trump’s calls with foreign leaders were leaked, and they cast Trump in a less positive light than usual, even by his own standards.
The transcripts, published by the Washington Post, detail the notorious phone call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, which Trump previously insisted was “a big exaggeration,” (the transcript shows that it was about as confrontational as we’d heard) during which Trump complained about having to honor an Obama-era refugee agreement, as well as some very interesting discussion with Mexican President Peña Nieto about Trump’s famed border wall. In the second conversation, Trump was even more transparently full of it than usual, specifically asking Nieto not to say publicly that Mexico wouldn’t pay for the border wall as though he’s part of Trump’s own public relations machine, and then later specifically saying the wall is the “least important” thing he’s working on in reality but that it’s “psychologically” important—for example, in rallying his easily-led base:
“Okay, Enrique, that is fine and I think it is fair. I do not bring up the wall but when the press brings up the wall, I will say, ‘let us see how it is going—let us see how it is working out with Mexico’ Because from an economic issue, it is the least important thing we were talking about, but psychologically, it means something so let us just say ‘we will work it out.'” He also told Turnbull, as he became more agitated, that his conversation with Putin had been more pleasant, as well as making some comments about who to let into the country that reaffirm the understanding that policies like his Muslim ban are discriminatory.
And those are just the more specifically damaging bits of information, completely leaving aside Trump’s normal nonsensical word vomit, which was also on full display in some of his more colorful comments on what the people of Mexico say about his wall (“My people stand up and say, ‘Mexico will pay for the wall,’ and your people probably say something in a similar but slightly different language.”) and “local milk people.” The late night hosts hit most of the more ridiculous comments, but the full versions are recommended reading for anyone who wants to remind themselves that, politics aside, Donald Trump should never have been able to get where he is.
That’s all certainly embarrassing—for both Trump and the United States—and serves to show Trump as exactly the kind of all-talk, style-over-substance politician that his critics have been trying explain that he is. But the grand jury is likely far worse for him, unless he somehow turns out to be innocent in the entire Russia probe. With a grand jury, Mueller can subpoena documents that people don’t want to give, get testimony under oath (or force people in Trump’s inner circle to invoke the 5th amendment), and even seek indictments for the many, many things that could be construed as crimes that we already know about, which he could use as leverage to get those involved to cooperate and further the investigation.
It also looks like the investigation has, expectedly, spilled over into the financial dealings of Trump and his cronies, which Trump recently seemed very much against. Overall, it’s just really bad news for Trump right now.
(featured image: screengrab)
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