Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Transcript, For Whatever It's Worth

Here it is, Tuesday afternoon, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is set to announce some sort of impeachment inquiry, and President Trump now maintains

that he has authorized the release the full transcript of his phone call with the Ukrainian president in which he allegedly brought up investigating former vice president Joe Biden and his son.

“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,” Trump tweeted....

A few minutes before the President's announcement, the National Editor of The Daily Beast nailed it:

If Trump's call with Zelensky did not contain an explicit quid-pro-quo, the White House may release the transcript and call it exculpatory—while it suppresses the whistleblower's complaint, which reportedly involves more than the call, e.g. what Trump told NSC about Ukraine aid.

When the Wall Street Journal revealed last week that Donald Trump in July  asked the president of Ukraine eight times to launch an investigation into Joseph Biden's son Hunter, it reported that there was no evidence that Trump had made aid to Ukraine contingent on an investigation, nor that there was any quid pro quo at all.

The paper reported specifically about one phone call but there was no indication whether there had been additional phone calls. Moreover, the President had told the State and Defense departments only a week earlier that he had decided to withhold the roughly $400 million in aid to Kiev. It is not inconceivable that Zelensky was aware of this and that Trump consequently believed he had a crucial card to play with the Ukrainian president.

President Trump today promised a bit of transparency. However, you may recall from Helsinki in July 2018 what

was perhaps the most explosive exchange in an incendiary press conference: Russian President Vladimir Putin appearing to frankly admit to a motive for, and maybe even to the act of, meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, despite repeatedly denying Russian interference in American politics during the rest of his appearance with Donald Trump in Finland on Monday.

But the exchange doesn’t appear in full in the White House’s live-stream or transcript of the press conference, and it’s missing entirely from the Kremlin’s transcript of the event. The White House did not immediately provide an explanation for the discrepancy...

The discrepancies in the accounts of what was said also underscore the extent to which the Trump presidency has challenged a common understanding of reality. Even if the omission was accidental, it appears suspicious at a moment marked by the president’s repeated claims that legitimate news reports are “fake.”

In high school Algebra classes of old, a distinction was made between "necessary" and "sufficient." The transcript of the Trump-Zelensky phone conversation is necessary, even though it might be tampered with by the time it is released. However, it is not sufficient.  The full complaint lodged by the whistleblower and his testimony under oath, and probably more, are necessary.

Nobody ever said it would be easy. But if the need for impeachment proceedings previously was clear- and it was- it is all the more obvious now that that Donald Trump has plainly told us that he will engage with any foreign actors he can in pursuit of his re-election. He had a lot of money at stake- and maybe his freedom from prosecution.

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