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What caught my eye today on the Ukrainian front

I could hardly get away with calling this a blog if I didn't weigh in with a few comments about today's revelations and sundry reactions to them.

The most damning commentary I heard or read came from David French writing in National Review. French is a graduate of Harvard Law School, senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and pretty conservative. National Review is of course real conservative. French lays out point by point the case that he would make as a prosecutor to show that not only was there a quid pro quo in Trump's phone call with the Ukrainian president, it was an obvious quid pro quo:

"I haven’t been a litigator since 2015. I haven’t conducted a proper cross-examination since 2014. But if I couldn’t walk a witness, judge, and jury through the transcript of Donald Trump’s call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky and demonstrate that a quid pro quo was more likely than not, then I should just hang up my suit and retire in disgrace." (The Trump–Ukraine Transcript Contains Evidence of a Quid Pro Quo)

He also wrote about this at Time, where he includes a useful fact check on the fabricated line about Joe Biden. Here too he does not equivocate:

"In fact, Biden was not only advancing Obama Administration policy, he was expressing the desires of key European Union allies. Yes, Biden was a poor messenger. Yes, his son’s business dealings in Ukraine created a conflict of interest. But there’s no evidence that Biden saved his son from prosecution." (Trump’s Damning Call With Ukraine’s President Demands an Impeachment Inquiry).

The revelation that someone at the White House forgot to check the list of recipients before hitting "send" on an office email brought a touch of levity to this grim affair. Yes, the White House accidentally emailed its talking points on the phone call to House Democrats (Joan E. Greve and Max Benwell, White House accidentally emails Trump-Ukraine talking points to Democrats, The Guardian). On the one hand, this stuff happens. Many of us have kind of been there, done that. On the other, say what? Unless, maybe, it wasn't a mistake...unless, maybe, the Trump regime has been infiltrated by...the Deep State...

To their dishonor, congressional Republicans are a disciplined herd hewing to White House talking points with robotic precision. Mitt Romney and to a lesser degree Susan Collins are arguably exceptions, with the caveat that Collins' admission that the summary/transcript "raises a number of important questions" is as Clare Malone at FiveThirtyEight put it, "pretty weak sauce" (Ursula Perano, Senate's new maverick Republican: Mitt Romney and the whistleblower complaint, Axios; FiveThirtyEight Chat, How Bad Is This Ukraine Situation For Trump?). Whether either will be a profile in courage when the rubber hits the road in a Senate trial is an open question. I don't think it is unduly harsh in light of their track record to say that I am not holding my breath.

Let's close out with an intriguing bit of informed speculation from Larry Pfeiffer, former senior director of the White House Situation Room during the Obama administration and chief of staff to the director of the CIA during the Bush administration, in a PBS NewsHour interview conducted by Judy Woodruff. They are discussing how the phone call would have gotten turned into a memo. Toward the end Woodruff asks if one of the individuals involved in the creation of the memo had to either have been the whistleblower or have shared the information with someone else who was concerned enough to bring it forward. Pfeiffer says, "Right," and goes on to add, " see something so egregious that one would put his career on the line to do a whistleblower complaint suggests to me that they have more than just one phone call, and they have some fairly compelling information to provide." (How a president’s call to a foreign leader becomes a memo — and who gets to see it)

Memo from the Editorial Desk

The last sentence in the paragraph about the email fiasco and the concluding paragraph about the whistleblower were added shortly after this piece was published.

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