Read it, and you don’t think “Witch Hunt!” You think, bingo!
Unlike Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who did all he could to suppress the video of himself getting a “massage” at the Orchids of Asia Spa, Trump keeps begging his fellow Americans to review the naked truth about him. Yet, even with edits and ellipses, the call transcript is damning evidence to anyone not wearing a MAGA hat.
The United States has been “very, very good to Ukraine,” Trump tells Zelensky, who thanks him, and tells him Ukraine is “almost ready to buy more Javelins from the United States for defense purposes.” Then comes Trump’s ask: “I would like you to do me a favor, though.” The president wants dirt concerning e-mails stolen from the Democratic National Committee — and dirt on former vice president Joe Biden, specifically concerning his son’s business dealings in Ukraine. “Whatever you can do, it’s very important that you do it if that’s possible,” Trump tells Zelensky.
Multiple witnesses have now publicly confirmed the quid pro quo between Trump and Ukraine: hundreds of millions in US military aid, and a White House meeting, in exchange for information that damages a potential Democratic presidential rival. To undercut such damaging testimony, the president and his supporters are trashing the witnesses as un-American, Never Trumpers, who are “human scum.” That’s all they’ve got. Because, whatever the motivation of individual witnesses — be it politics or patriotism — Trump can’t undo the damage of his own words, as summarized in the non-verbatim transcript released by the White House in September.
And that’s without key words and phrases that Lieutenant Colonel Alexander S. Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, told House impeachment investigators Tuesday were omitted — for example, words like “Burisma,” the name of the Ukrainian energy company that hired Hunter Biden when his father was vice president.
Vindman, an Army foreign area officer who was awarded a Purple Heart in 2003 after being wounded by a roadside bomb during combat deployment in Iraq, provided a firsthand account of hearing Trump’s words to Zelensky. He was so troubled that he reported the conversation to NSC superiors, he told lawmakers.
“I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a US citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the US government’s support of Ukraine,” Vindman said. “I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma, it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play, which would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing the bipartisan support is has thus far maintained. This would all undermine US national security.”
You don’t have to be a highly educated expert on Ukraine, like Vindman, to reach the same conclusion. Yet Trump keeps tweeting that even a “casual reading” of the transcript exonerates him and reveals the “impeachment hoax,” when the opposite is true.
Maybe Trump is right, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is pursuing impeachment because she wants to keep her post. Read the transcript and her motives don’t matter. Maybe Vindman, and other witnesses testifying against the president, really are Never Trumpers who are determined to destroy him. Read the transcript and their political loyalties don’t matter. Read the transcript and the identity of the whistle-blower doesn’t matter, either. Trump’s “perfect” phone call perfectly showcases his dilemma. He’s as exposed as Kraft would be if that video taken by police ever becomes public.
But Trump, sure of his power to fool some of the people all of the time, doesn’t get it. He doesn’t understand how many people won’t be fooled.
Why? Because they read the transcript.Joan Vennochi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Joan_Vennochi.