The ground is beginning to move under Donald Trump, American president, and perhaps he can feel his knees beginning to wobble. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is widely expected to announce Tuesday afternoon that House Democrats will open an impeachment inquiry into the president based on The Ukraine Extortion and the litany of other abuses, many of which are likely criminal, that he has committed in office. He appears to be making his first move in response.
To recap, the president and his rodeo clown of a "lawyer," Rudy Giuliani, have been pushing a debunked claim that former Vice President Joe Biden meddled in the Ukrainian judicial system to get his son, Hunter, out of a jam. There is no evidence his son was under investigation, much less that Biden took steps to get him out of it. In order to gin up the scandal and produce another nonsense sequel to The Emails, Trump called up the newly elected president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, and reportedly pressured him eight (8!) times to open a corruption investigation that could damage Joe Biden. Trump has admitted this openly. Giuliani admitted, on national television, that he also tried to pressure the Ukrainians into an investigation. A week before the call, the president reportedly ordered his chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to withhold $400 million in military aid to Ukraine, but it has not yet been established that this was connected to Trump's efforts to force an investigation.
The cash doesn't matter, though: even without it, we know Trump abused his office to incite harassment of an American citizen—who happens to be a political opponent—for his personal benefit, and at the expense of the American national interest. Not for the first time, he has betrayed his oath of office. He should be removed on the basis that he has run roughshod over the Constitution's separation of powers, tried to circumvent any and all mechanisms of democratic accountability, sought relentlessly to profit from the presidency, and generally demonstrated that he believes he is above the law. Also, he regularly has apocalyptic meltdowns on the White House lawn and says things that are fucking crazy.
Now that it's all hitting the fan, Trump is turning to an age-old strategy: The Drip-Drip of Innocence. As he tweeted Tuesday:
I am currently at the United Nations representing our Country, but have authorized the release tomorrow of the complete, fully declassified and unredacted transcript of my phone conversation with President Zelensky of Ukraine........You will see it was a very friendly and totally appropriate call. No pressure and, unlike Joe Biden and his son, NO quid pro quo! This is nothing more than a continuation of the Greatest and most Destructive Witch Hunt of all time!
Nothing like an assurance from the President of the United States that there was "NO quid pro quo!"
By now, we should all be wise to what is about to happen. We saw it with The Barr Letter, when Trump's pet toad of an attorney general insisted on releasing a summary-not-summary of The Mueller Report in which he completely mischaracterized the Report's contents and portrayed Trump in the most favorable possible light. This is what you will get from The Transcript, because Donald Trump is not going to do anything that he does not believe will directly benefit him personally. This guy would lie to you about what he had for breakfast, but there's a more intricate problem: the president uses mobspeak when attempting to leverage associates into doing what he wants. Perhaps in the narrow context of the transcript—assuming Trump does release the whole thing, which is not a safe assumption—it may be hard to clearly decipher the president's intent.
What we should insist on is that Trump's Director of National Intelligence permit the inspector general of that office to hand over to Congress what he knows about a whistleblower's report on Trump's behavior with respect to Ukraine. That, after all, is what started this in earnest: someone in the intelligence setup was so alarmed by a "promise" Trump made to the Ukrainian leader that they have basically put their life on the line to expose it. There are concerns about what this will mean for the security of future presidential communications with foreign leaders, but surely protecting the very foundations of our republic outweighs them. The president cannot be permitted to invite foreign governments to interfere in our elections for his personal benefit.
Congress must be allowed to view the whistleblower report and assess the situation in totality, not in terms that Trump decides on—and which he obviously finds favorable. The political media in particular must not make the same mistakes that many made when Barr released his Letter, taking its claims at face value and producing headlines and news cycles that wrongly acceded to the Trumpian narrative that he was COMPLETELY EXONERATED! In fact, the report detailed numerous instances where the president obstructed justice. Not long after his Complete Exoneration, Trump was calling the report that completely exonerated him "total bullshit."
But if you're looking for an even more on-the-nose precedent, look no further than Watergate. Richard Nixon released transcripts of the White House tapes under the Drip-Drip of Innocence strategy, but the nation learned soon enough that he had done so selectively and in a way that was thoroughly misleading.
There is no reason to believe anything Donald Trump says about anything. The guy completely fabricated some crap about how The Best Mountain Climbers tried and failed to scale his Big, Beautiful Wall last week. He has produced two wildly different excuses for his conduct in the phone call with the Ukrainian president over the last two days alone, because he does not subscribe to the concept of objective reality. The truth is whatever you can get enough people to believe, and he will roll out scam after scam—many of them incongruous or outright contradictory—to try to weasel his way out of this as he has with every other con he's pulled in his miserable life. It's up to the citizens of this republic to stop him.
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