Thoughts & Essays

On the Ukraine call ‘transcript’ & impeachment.

The Trump administration’s “transcript” of Trump’s call with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is out. Here’s NPR’s article about it, and here’s the “transcript” itself.

Let’s talk a little bit about this “transcript,” the situation with Ukraine, and impeachment.

For starters, you see the word “transcript” and you may think you’re reading a verbatim account of the phone call. You are not.

To make transcripts of official calls between any US president and another foreign leader-type person, what happens is the president calls somebody, and a bunch of people sit in on the call on both sides. Some of those people are typing/writing furiously as the leaders speak. After the call is edited, these notes are edited and/or summarized, and that’s the “transcript.” IE, it’s not being recorded. They stopped doing that after Nixon got in all his trouble.

So this isn’t a verbatim account of the call. This is what the Trump administration claims was said on the call. And of course we all know how far we can trust the Trump administration when it comes to the truth. 🙄

Speaking of, you should read their account. I’ll cop to having not read very many accounts of phone calls between actual national leaders of the world in real life, but I gotta tell you, this transcript reads like the fakest fake thing I’ve ever read. I mean, shit, son, real people do not speak to each other this way. And like some of that is almost certainly the Ukrainian president blowing smoke up Trump’s ass, but I’m pretty sure some of it is just bullshit, too.

Now, about that situation with Ukraine – a very basic summary goes like this: Ukraine has relied on aid from the US since 2014, and just prior to this phone call, which happened in July, the Trump administration cut off aid to Ukraine. The Trump admin has struggled to explain why they cut off aid. Then this phone call about drumming up an investigation into one of the front runners Trump might be facing in the 2020 elections happened, and the aid started flowing again. You can read a more detailed and in-depth explanation here.

All that happened and someone in the government, who seems to be privy to even more context than we currently have, saw it and was like, “Well this looks shady as balls,” and took their complaints and concerns up the chain, legally, becoming the whistleblower that everyone’s been talking about. The thing to note here is that the whistleblower followed all the legal steps to address their concerns.

You’re probably used to thinking about whistleblowers as people who are technically breaking some law or a contract they had with their job to get the word out about corruption or illegal things they witnessed or can prove, because that’s usually how things work. That’s not what happened here – there are legal ways to address corruption and/or lawbreaking in the government, and that’s what this whistleblower is doing.

The whistleblower took all the right steps to address the issues they’d discovered, which resulted in a report which is supposed to be turned over to Congress, except the Trump admin is refusing to deal with that report, which is, very definitely, illegal.

As per the norm with the Trump administration, because they suck at everything including doing crimes, this all blew up in Trump’s face, which led directly to intense pressure on the House Democrats, and Nancy Pelosi in particular, to cough up an impeachment inquiry. Which was announced yesterday.

One of the things you’re probably hearing on the news is that these impeachment investigations “aren’t really happening” and “nothing has changed” because the House has to vote to begin impeachment investigations, and there hasn’t been a vote. That, my friends, is bullshit. The only vote the House needs to do, constitutionally, for impeachment, is when they vote on the actual articles of impeachment, which is what sends them on to the Senate for an impeachment trial. To start an impeachment investigation, all they technically need to do is start investigating.

The House investigated Nixon for almost a whole year before they actually did a vote to start calling it “impeachment” officially. For that matter, the House has been investigating Trump since 2018 when we voted in a Democratic majority. (They were investigating before that, but it wasn’t going anywhere because the Republicans were in charge.)

If you want to read more about how impeachment works, Reuters has a really good explainer.

One final thought – assuming the House brings articles of impeachment up for a vote (which is kinda like filing charges against the president), the Senate begins a trial. Common wisdom has it that the Senate won’t convict the president, IE, impeach him, and that’s probably true?

A thing to remember though is that Mitch McConnell is not necessarily Trump’s friend. Mitch loves power, and Mitch loves keeping the GOP in power. Trump is a means to an end for McConnell, and if those means aren’t getting Mitch to his ends… that worm might turn, y’all. No honor among thieves and all that shit.