“Don’t be rude!” the president thundered at Reuters reporter Jeff Mason on Wednesday. The journalist had repeatedly asked him the $50,000 question of the day: “What did you want [Ukraine] President Zelensky to do about Vice President Biden and his son Hunter?” In answer, a furious Trump weaved and bobbed, fulminating about walls, fake news, and hoaxes, but of course, never going near the question.
If it was riveting, disturbing, and horrifying to watch, it was just one development in a typically crazy week. The unmagical mystery impeachment tour has an ever-expanding cast of characters, and it is exceedingly difficult to keep the players straight without a scorecard. But there is one name we don’t know yet and may never know: the heroic whistleblower who started it all, and who the president has maligned as “highly partisan,” and “a spy.” Asked whether this person should be protected and remain anonymous, Trump replied: “I don’t care.” (Sort of like Melania’s jacket, no?)
Well, okay, sir, but do you care about the growing pile of subpoenas mounting up in front of your florid face? Trump whined on Wednesday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hands out subpoenas like cookies, and, as of this writing, Rudolph Giuliani has received a cookie requiring him to turn over documents (he has not). Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who finally acknowledged that he was on the infamous call to the Ukrainian president, has also been subpoenaed (he has not cooperated). And on Friday, the White House itself was subpoenaed for documents, singling out Vice President Mike Pence and demanding he turn over papers related to the Ukraine affair. (Big surprise—no cooperation yet here either.)
The president sputtered contradictions all week, arguing that the Bidens—father and son—deserved to be investigated, then pulling a switcheroo and saying he was only interested in going after corruption, and the Bidens had nothing to do with it. (Asked by a reporter what other countries besides Ukraine should be investigated for corruption, Trump drew a blank.) In perhaps his most stunning assertion (and there was plenty of competition), the president not only confirmed the allegations in the whistleblower’s complaint—that he had in fact asked the Ukrainian president to “do him a favor” and dig up dirt on the Bidens—but he did it again, in front of the cameras. On the White House lawn, where shouting matches have replaced traditional press conferences, he declared, “China should start an investigation into the Bidens, because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine.” As the New York Times put it, “The president’s call for Chinese intervention means that Mr. Trump and his attorney general have now solicited assistance in discrediting the president’s political opponents from Ukraine, Australia, Italy and, according to one report, Britain. In speaking so publicly on Thursday, a defiant Mr. Trump pushed back against critics who have called such requests an abuse of power, essentially arguing that there was nothing wrong with seeking foreign help to fight corruption.”
But truth will out. Earlier in the week, the house released a series of text messages between various officials in D.C. and the Ukraine, who were dismayed by the idea that the president would not agree to meet with the Ukraine president unless Ukraine would do his anti-Biden bidding. At one point, the texts from the U.S. Ambassador became so fraught that the recipient, Gordon Sondland (he gave a million bucks to the Trump campaign and was appointed ambassador to the European Union), responded with a terse “Call me,” the way you do when you are terrified that someone will get hold of your phone, read your texts, and you will be toast.
As of this writing, 225 Dems in the house and a single independent say they are in favor of the impeachment inquiry. (Not one Republican has joined them.) But of course, the Republican-majority senate is a far different matter. The GOP response has veered between ludicrous and crickets. There have been a few lone voices: Iowa senator Chuck Grassley issued a statement reading, “No one should be making judgments or pronouncements without hearing from the whistleblower first and carefully following up on the facts.” Ben Sasse of Nebraska offered, “Hold up: Americans don’t look to Chinese commies for the truth…If the Biden kid broke laws by selling his name to Beijing, that’s a matter for American courts, not communist tyrants running torture camps.” And Utah Senator Mitt Romney stated, “By all appearances, the President’s brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and to Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is wrong and appalling,” which incurred Trump’s Twitter wrath and had him calling Romney “a pompous ass.” (Before you feel all warm and fuzzy about Mittens, do remember that early on that he came groveling to Trump for the Secretary of State job.)
In other news, the New York Times reported that in his anti-migrant fervor, the president once suggested “fortifying a border wall with a water-filled trench, stocked with snakes or alligators, prompting aides to seek a cost estimate. He wanted the wall electrified, with spikes on top that could pierce human flesh.” On Friday, the president issued a proclamation that would bar immigrant visa applicants from entering the U.S. unless they can prove they have health insurance or the means to pay for medical care. And guess who is planning a big swanky affair at Mar-a-Lago? An organization called ACT for America, considered the largest anti-Muslim group in the United States, according to the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
But who says there is never any good news? On Friday, the Times revealed that another intelligence official, alarmed by Trump’s shenanigans, is weighing whether to file his own formal whistleblower complaint and testify before Congress. And just this morning CNN reports, “The lawyer for the first intelligence whistleblower who came forward with accusations concerning President Donald Trump and his interactions with Ukraine said Sunday he is representing a second whistleblower regarding the President’s actions.”
Originally Appeared on Vogue