Today Was Trump’s Best Day in the Ukraine Scandal — and That’s Bad News for the GOP
Movies and television have conditioned us to believe that political schemes are concocted in secret, smoky rooms by political geniuses and corporate lobbyists. We’ve been told there is a devious, intelligent craft to their designs.
But what if they’re just a bunch of dumb, greedy goons who think they’re shaking down a flower shop owner? That’s the lesson to take away from the official notes from the July 25, 2019, Trump-Zelensky call.
The notes represent the most damning, clear-cut evidence in a political scandal since then-Cincinnati Mayor Jerry Springer paid for sex with a check.
Every relevant piece of evidence we need is right there in the notes of this “perfect call,” as President Donald Trump called it.
Yes, it is perfect. It is clear and it is overt. The corruption winds itself through the entire conversation in ways that seem too obvious to imagine any politician — let alone the titular Leader of the Free World — ever speaking aloud.
“I would like you to do us a favor… ” That is how Trump starts out a long section of the conversation wherein he sought help to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller and spark an investigation into former vice president and 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden. And he explicitly directed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to talk to Trump’s personal attorney and the U.S. attorney general to carry out this scheme.
The political world spent weeks earlier this year parsing whether Trump had “directed” or “instructed” Michael Cohen to lie to Congress, a rhetorical trick that squelched the one real spasm of impeachment momentum. The GOP’s long-standing, if-you-squint-maybe-it’s-not-so-bad defenses of Trump are no longer operable.
Are they willing to flush their own good names down the toilet for a ham-fisted goon who doesn’t even know to not say the quiet part out loud on a recorded call with a head of state?
We may not see this play out publicly for days or even weeks, but the politics of this scandal changed dramatically with the release of this transcript. No longer will Republicans be able to wave this away. The facts are right there — and each and every member of the Republican Senate Conference will now have to put their names down in the history books.
Each GOP member now knows that their personal legacy is bound up in Trump. They will have to proactively choose whether to sanction this gross, bumbling, clear-cut corruption… or not. They are now playing to history. The essential facts of this scandal are already written. There’s no avoiding it anymore, and no way to muddy up the waters after “I would like you to do us a favor.”
Each of those senators has built an entire life and career without the help of Trump. They are accomplished and powerful — and, like most accomplished and powerful people, they are incredibly vain. Are they willing to flush their own good names down the toilet for a ham-fisted goon who doesn’t even know to not say the quiet part out loud on a recorded call with a head of state?
And are they even sure we’ve seen the worst of it? We still have the whistleblower report to come. We still have subpoenas of communications between the Department of Justice and Rudy Giuliani (and the State Department and Rudy Giuliani, and Secretary of Treasury Steve Mnuchin and Rudy Giuliani, and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and Rudy Giuliani, and on and on).
Today was the highpoint of this scandal for Trump — a controlled release of a document only the White House and its allies got to see before the public. Nothing else from this moment on is within Trump’s control.
Republicans would be wise to look past this frenetic news cycle and decide whether they want to give Trump complete control over the first line of their obituaries.
On behalf of his party, Sen. Mitch McConnell should go the Oval Office and tell Trump, “I would like you to do us a favor… and resign.”