“The President must be held accountable. No one is above the law,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated on Tuesday, announcing at long last that a genuine impeachment inquiry was ready to roll. After so many examples of the president’s lawlessness (read the Mueller report for yourself!), so many cases of his using the presidency for personal gain, of illegally diverting campaign money to silence women, of siding with Putin over our own intelligence services, an unnamed whistleblower flew in from heaven and gave us hope.
The whistleblower’s complaint, which was filed on August 12 but not released until September 26, reads in part: “In the course of my official duties, I have received information from multiple U.S. Government officials that the President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election. This interference includes, among other things, pressuring a foreign country to investigate one of the President’s main domestic political rivals. The President’s personal lawyer, Mr. Rudolph Giuliani, is a central figure in this effort. Attorney General [William] Barr appears to be involved as well.”
On Wednesday, the White House confirmed at least some of these allegations, releasing a memo reconstructing a phone call Trump made to the recently elected president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, during which Trump asks the new president to do him a favor and investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
As if this weren’t bad enough, there was more evidence proving the old adage—it isn’t just the crime, it's the coverup. The whistleblower complaint also describes how White House staff locked down the transcript of the Ukrainian phone call—along with other records of dicey conversations with world leaders—in some kind of top-secret system, not the place where these documents typically reside.
The fallout from all this—who would have believed this could have happened even 10 days ago?—has been stunning, and in some cases, hysterical. Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, who has no specific White House role and no security clearance, actually said the following in an interview with The Atlantic: “It is impossible that the whistle-blower is a hero and I’m not. And I will be the hero! These morons—when this is over, I will be the hero...Anything I did should be praised.”
Developments were so swift that if you blinked—or turned away from the news for five minutes—you might miss something. On Thursday, Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire went to the House Intelligence Committee and lamely attempted to explain why, instead of obeying the law, which states that the complaint must go straight to congress, he decided to run it by the very people who were the subjects of the complaint—Attorney General William Barr, and the president himself. On Friday, Pelosi accused Barr of having “gone rogue,” and adding that “since he was mentioned in all of this, it’s curious that he would be making decisions about how the complaint would be handled.” By the end of the week, three House committees had subpoenaed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; on Friday, Trump’s special envoy for Ukraine, Kurt Volker, abruptly resigned.
The president’s response to all this was unsurprising. "I thought we won," he said mournfully during a news conference at the United Nations. “I thought it was dead.” But by Thursday he was back in full swing, shocking an audience at the United States Mission to the United Nations by declaring, “I want to know who’s the person, who’s the person who gave the whistleblower the information? Because that’s close to a spy. You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? The spies and treason, we used to handle it a little differently than we do now.” On Friday, with his usual eloquence, he called his opponents “Do Nothing Democrat Savages.”
The week was not without its dark humor: On Wednesday, a memo that the White House issued with talking points on how to defend the President mistakenly found its way to Pelosi’s inbox. This potential embarrassment did not dissuade Republicans from trotting out their same old chestnuts. Representative Devon Nunes, who has distinguished himself as a particularly vociferous Trump lap dog, foamed at the mouth, veering from “hoax,” to “fake story,” “hysteria,” “frenzy,” “gambit,” “charade,” and “grotesque spectacle.” Other members of the GOP slunk around avoiding reporters, and when cornered claimed they hadn’t read the complaint, which is kind of hard to believe since it is only nine pages long and is the only thing anyone even remotely interested in politics wants to talk about.
Faithful readers of this column know that at this point there is always a paragraph that begins, “in other news”—but guess what? There is no other news! These electrifying developments have at least temporarily vanquished all other concerns, and we can only say, issue those subpoenas! Get the documents! Call the witnesses! Pile on the evidence! As Donald Trump Jr. once said, in a far different context, “If it’s what [they] say, I love it.”
Originally Appeared on Vogue