The memo detailing the phone call is out.
First blush: Trump pisses off the Europeans again, in particular Germany.
Then Trump disses Bob Mueller, a career federal prosecutor and former FBI director, and the former U.S. ambassador to the Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, a career Foreign Service officer. Always good to hear a U.S. president disparage his own country’s civil servants to a foreign leader.
But the big news is that Trump told the truth for once. Says he (in a scene right out of “The Godfather,” no lie): “The other thing, There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it...It sounds horrible to me.”
And that was after saying this: "I will say that we do a lot for Ukraine. We spend a lot effort and a lot of time. Much more than the European countries are doing and they should be helping you more than they are. Germany does almost nothing for you. All they do is talk and I think it's something that you should really ask them about. When I was speaking to Angela Merkel she talks Ukraine, but she doesn't do anything. A lot of European countries are the same way so I think it's something you want to look at but the United States has been very very good to Ukraine. I wouldn't say that it's reciprocal necessarily because things are happening that are not good but the United States has been very very good to Ukraine."
Yeah, we've been very very good to Ukraine.
By the way, the EU, by its own admission, has contributed about $16 billion to Ukraine since 2014. In 2017, for instance, the German contribution was nearly $190 million. Hardly nothing. In fact, their contribution wasn’t much less than the U.S. contribution (about $204 million), and we’ve got a much bigger economy.
Trump then called the former Ukranian general prosecutor who the U.S., European Union, International Monetary Fund and Ukranian anti-corruption activists all wanted fired in 2016 a “prosecutor who was very good and was shut down and that’s really unfair. A lot of people are talking about that, the way they shut your very good prosecutor down and you had some very bad people involved.”
An what was the Ukranian president's response?
"...the next prosecutor general will be 100% my person, my candidate..."
Not much of an endorsement for the former prosecutor.
There are two other elements in the conversation of note. Trump’s obsession with the “CrowdStrike” matter suggests he continues to believe it is central to proving Democratic collusion with the Ukrainians to bring down Paul Manafort and increase Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning in 2016. That has always been an “out there” conspiracy theory.
It was also interesting Trump kept pushing Rudy Giuliani as his point man on his Biden and Crowdstrike requests, adding the U.S. attorney general almost as an afterthought. Seems that way, anyway, especially after the AG’s spokesperson said today “that Trump has not spoken with Barr about having Ukraine investigate anything related to Biden, and that Barr has not communicated with Ukraine or Giuliani on the matter.”
Why does this matter? If Trump’s call with the Ukranian president was merely routine statecraft benefiting U.S. interests — as Trump would like us to believe — then why does he involve his personal attorney? It’s not like Giuliani knows the Ukrainian president any better than the State Department does. Hmm.
So, what happens next?
Good question. The Justice Department also disclosed today it made a judgement in August relative to the whistleblower’s complaint saying, “the Department’s Criminal Division reviewed the official record of the call and determined, based on the facts and applicable law, that there was no campaign finance violation and that no further action was warranted.”
Recall that in the Mueller Report, Special Counsel Robert Mueller set forth 10 different instances of possible obstruction of justice. The AG then ruled there wasn’t enough evidence to bring a charge. Okay, but the Constitution says the way to remove a president (or other “civil officer”) from office is impeachment, which is a Congressional prerogative, rather than the province of DOJ.
What’s more, we’ve seen on multiple occasions just how partisan the current AG has been in his effort to justify the expansion of presidential power. The Democrats in Congress will pay him no heed. Nor should they. It is, however, even more important that they press the White House and the U.S. intelligence community for access to the whistleblower complaint that set this latest presidential scandal in motion.
In its entirety. As the U.S. Intelligence Community Inspector General told Congress last week, the basis for the complaint was more than one telephone call.
What is that basis? And will it provide damning context for the call, or not? And what about others sources that may shed light on this matter? Are there any?
Bottom line: The transcript doesn’t help Trump. But whether his days of walking between the raindrops without getting wet are over remains to be seen.
Montoya served as special agent in charge of the FBI’s Seattle field office and in other executive roles at the FBI.