Did Trump Screw Up His Impeachment Strategy By Releasing New Ukraine Phone Call Memo? [Analysis]
President Donald Trump promised a transcript from the first phone conversation he had with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, and on Friday he (sort of) delivered.
The “transcript” the White House released was not really a transcript at all — like the infamous July 25 document, it’s a memo, and not verbatim to what was spoken between the two parties involved (it even says as much on the document itself).
Still, the release of this new memo produces some interesting tidbits.
Originally, Trump had intended to disseminate the memo to prove there was nothing suspicious about the other, more controversial document, which some have surmised demonstrates the president was seeking a quid pro quo or offering a bribe to Zelensky, producing military aid and promising a state visit to Washington D.C. only if the Ukraine head of state promised investigations into Trump’s political rivals.
However, upon examining it on Friday, the second document doesn’t really do that. After all, how could it? Evidence of something not bad happening doesn’t disprove evidence elsewhere.
But more problems abound from this new document, CNN reported. For example, the April readout of Trump’s call to Zelensky claimed the two had engaged in promoting goals to “implement reforms that strengthen democracy, increase prosperity, and root out corruption.” But the memo released Friday makes no mention of those goals.
JUST IN: White House releases transcript of Trump’s first call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. pic.twitter.com/0vdFYanjsN
— Andrew Desiderio (@AndrewDesiderio) November 15, 2019
Corruption isn’t even mentioned once in the document, The Daily Beast noted.
Either the memo left that part out — and if it did, for what reason? — or the readout in April was a lie. It will be important for Congress to know which of the two happened.
The new memo is harmful to Trump for another reason: it undermines the defense that several GOP lawmakers are trying to produce for him.
Republicans have asserted that Trump’s goal from the start with Zelensky was about rooting out corruption, but the subject not being mentioned in memo makes it difficult for them to reinforce that idea. Constant positive statements toward Zelensky also make it difficult for Republicans to promote idea that Trump wasn’t sure Zelensky was a good person or not.
“When it came time to check out this new guy, President Trump said, ‘Let’s just see, let’s just see if he’s legit,’ So, for 55 days, we checked him out,” Rep. Jim Jordan, one of Trump’s most vociferous supporters, said. But per the Washington Post, there’s no actual record of this being the case. Indeed, the Pentagon had already vetted Zelensky and said his credentials checked out, State Department employee Catherine Croft testified to on Monday.
But even ignoring those facts for a moment, Trump’s comments in the new memo make Jordan’s comments even harder to prop up. The president’s words in memo are repeatedly congratulatory and positive toward Zelensky. “I have many friends in Ukraine who know you and like you,” Trump said, for example, according to the memo.
“We’re with you all the way,” Trump also said, adding that he viewed the Ukraine president as the “real deal.”
Trump was banking on this new memo — a “transcript” in his words — being able to help him in his case for maintaining he didn’t do anything impeachable. This document doesn’t prove that point, and only raises more questions for us to have answered. What’s more, it made arguments favorable to him in the past difficult to keep pushing.