On Wednesday morning Donald Trump released the
transcript White House provided, non-verbatim memo of his July phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. It was somewhat anticlimactic considering that he had already admitted that he pressured Ukraine to smear Biden, and even declared Biden “corrupt” and subject to the electric chair. Still, he has been saying for days that the call was “perfect,” that he had done nothing wrong, and promised that it would exonerate him. What the hell was he thinking!
Keeping in mind that several days prior to this phone call, Trump had frozen nearly $400 million dollars in military aid to Ukraine, who were engaged in a conflict with Russian troops on their eastern border. With that as context for Trump’s remarks, here are some relevant and incriminating parts of the memo (full document below):
“I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. […] I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it. As you saw yesterday, that whole nonsense ended with a very poor performance by a man named Robert Mueller, an incompetent performance.”
“Whatever you can do, it’s very important that you do it. […] I heard you had a prosecutor who was very good and he was shut down and that’s really unfair. A lot of people are talking about that, the way they shut your very good prosecutor down and you had some very bad people involved. Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man. He was the mayor of New York City, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you. I will ask him to call you along with the Attorney General. Rudy very much knows what’s happening and he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him that would be great.”
“The other thing, 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 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.”
So Trump starts out by asking for “a favor.” That’s precisely how Godfather Don Corleone began his conversations with shakedown victims when he made them “an offer you can’t refuse.” Zelensky knew that the aid his country needs was at risk. This is as close to a quid pro quo as is ever encountered in organized crime. And having that followed up by a request to meet with Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and his Attorney General, William Barr – which is a new and troubling revelation – only makes Trump’s clearly unlawful intentions more clear.
The fact that Trump bothered to malign special counsel Robert Mueller is another indication that he is tying this call to his own political tribulations. And directly warning Zelensky that “it’s very important that you do … whatever you can do,” is hardly a subtle nudge. Trump then brings up the Ukrainian prosecutor who he calls “very good” despite being held in disrepute by the U.S. government, the European Union, the World Bank, and other international institutions.
Trump then got to the real point when he brought up Joe Biden and made the objectively false statement that he “stopped the prosecution” of Biden’s son. In fact, the corrupt prosecutor wasn’t even actively pursuing the case. And every investigation into the matter found zero evidence of any wrongdoing by Biden. Nevertheless, Trump pressed this issue repeatedly in the phone call and kept pressing for a meeting with Giuliani and Barr.
If this is Trump’s idea of an exculpatory document, you have to wonder what he considers incriminating. Trump is seen here explicitly abusing his power by recruiting a foreign leader to interfere with an American election. And he is using funds allocated by Congress to extort the illegal results he wants. There is no defense for this criminal behavior. Trump couldn’t even provide one, so he claimed on Wednesday that it should all be ignored because the stock market went up. Really? For the record, the market today is stagnant at best. It’s exactly where it was in January of 2018, a year and a half ago. Trump is also arguing his innocence based on his leading poll numbers. Except that he’s losing to every top Democrat. In fact, a Fox News poll saying just that was released a week before Trump called Zelensky. Coincidence?
Then Trump turned to his goto protectors at Fox News to vainly try to spin this in his favor. He posted (so far) twelve (12!) tweets of Trump-fluffing sycophants that contained no factual refutation of the damning contents of the White House summary phone call. They included:
- Fox News contributor Mollie Hemingway writing that the whistleblower’s attorney worked for Hillary Clinton and “Schuck” Schumer. That was for short internships nearly twenty years ago.
- Fox host Mark Levin asserting that the is media trying to protect Biden.
- Sean Hannity interviewing Attorney Joe DiGenova, whose reputation was so bad that he couldn’t be added to Trump’s staff.
- Tucker Carlson interviewing Jenna Ellis, a member of the Trump 2020 Advisory Board.
- Sean Hannity interviewing GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, a sellout who once called Trump an idiot and a liar, but who now kowtows to him in the most embarrassing fashion.
- Lou Dobbs interviewing Harmeet Dhillon from the Republican National Lawyers Association.
- Sean Hannity (again), this time with Kevin McCarthy, House Republican Leader.
- Lou Dobbs and Jeanine Pirro, another Fox News host and shameless Trump-fluffer.
- Yet another Hannity reference saying that the whistleblower has a political bias.
- Fox and Friends asserting that “Democrats have been talking about Impeaching Donald Trump since before he was inaugurated. @SteveDoocy @foxandfriends”
- Fox host Bret Baier saying that “You don’t see a direct quid pro quo in this.”
- Fox’s White House correspondent, John Roberts, saying that there was no quid pro quo in the memo.
Someone who has a good argument for innocence wouldn’t have to resort to a cadre of notoriously biased pundits and Fox News propagandists for legal help. But this is Trump’s whole modus operandi. Remember, his preparation for the presidency was hosting a reality TV game show for fourteen years. His entire reference to his job is tied to television and celebrity. So rather than accumulate knowledgeable defenses from intelligent, reputable people, he leans on dishonest TV personalities talking to partisan hacks. You know, people just like himself.
UPDATE: The whistleblower complaint has been declassified and released. It’s available here with a few redactions.
How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.