The only thing more damning than the contents of the call between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and President Trump is the fact that Trump seems to believe, or seems to think he can make the American people believe, it was a “perfect” and “beautiful” interaction.
Some expected or hoped the summary of the July 25 phone call released Wednesday might contain a smoking gun, an explicit quid pro quo offer of military aid in return for dirt on Joe Biden. Not quite, but there’s gunshot residue on every page.
The two spoke one week after Trump’s administration mysteriously held up nearly $400 million in Ukraine military aid — and one day after Bob Mueller testified to Congress. It isn’t hard to connect the dots in the president’s brain.
Right after Zelensky mentions Ukraine’s seeking anti-tank missile “Javelins," Trump pivots to what sort of “favor” Ukraine might offer — including a probe into a discredited conspiracy theory that Ukraine (not Russia) was behind the 2016 hack of the DNC server.
After Zelensky says his aides have been listening to Rudy Giuliani (who had been freelancing on Ukraine matters for months), Trump urges further talks to Giuliani and Attorney General Bill Barr about Biden’s role in the firing of former Ukraine prosecutor general Viktor Shokin, who the international community saw as soft on corruption. Ultimately Trump recommends Zelensky speak with Barr and Giuliani five times.
Yet Barr didn’t recuse himself when the intelligence committee inspector general made a criminal complaint to the Justice Department over the phone call’s possible violation of campaign finance laws. Nor did he step aside when DOJ bottled up the whistleblower complaint.
Thursday comes a chance for some clarity. Acting Director of National Intelligence Joe Maguire appears before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Dig. Dig. Dig.