In a July 25 phone conversation with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, U.S. President Donald Trump seemingly asked the foreign leader for a “favor” related to investigating a political rival.
Subsequent depositions from a number of current and former Trump officials highlight just how troubling that conversation was, as it seemed to them that the president was asking another foreign leader for help that would benefit himself personally and politically.
To address these concerns, Trump has, in recent days, suggested that he plans to highlight just how “perfect” that call was by releasing details of another conversation he had with Zelensky earlier in the year. It’s unclear, however, how that will help him in any way — some have said it could, in fact, hurt him in the long run.
I will be releasing the transcript of the first, and therefore more important, phone call with the Ukrainian President before week’s end!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 12, 2019
Trump tweeted several times recently, including on Tuesday, that he would release a transcript of a May phone call with Zelensky sometime this week. He’s called that conversation “more important” than the July call, although many doubt that to be the case.
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who testified on the contents of both calls, said the one in the spring was uninteresting, as it was more congratulatory toward Zelensky for winning an election rather than dealing with specific policy topics. MSNBC contributor Steve Benen elaborated on just how unimportant the call would be, and how it wouldn’t do much to help Trump:
“[T]here’s nothing exculpatory about this,” Benen said. “Imagine a bank robber who gets caught breaking into a vault, who later tells the police, ‘But what about the time I went to the bank a few months earlier and didn’t steal anything? Isn’t that important, too?'”
Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano agreed, and added his own commentary to the matter, suggesting that the second call record/memo/transcript might make executive privilege arguments from the White House harder to take seriously in the courts, Newsweek reported.
"If I were a Democrat in the House, which I am not and never will be, I would vote to impeach,” Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano declared on Fox Nation. https://t.co/O88wepDice
— HuffPost (@HuffPost) November 12, 2019
“The president will claim executive privilege on other communications, but the more he releases, the weaker his claim of executive privilege becomes,” Napolitano said in a segment for Fox News. “It’s the selective release, that the courts will say, ‘is he really serious about executive privilege?'”
Executive privilege — the supposed right of the White House to ignore demands for documents and testimonies — has been cited by Trump administration lawyers several times in order to side-step subpoenas in the impeachment inquiry.