But what perhaps mattered most is the fusillade of lies he uncorked about the Ukraine scandal. Trump told five big lies about it in under three minutes — and, crucially, they add up to a much larger deception that itself needs attention.
First, the big lies themselves, which came in a rant that lasted under 3 minutes:
Schiff’s depiction of Trump’s call was a “fraud.” Trump referred to the White House’s rough transcript of his July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and Rep. Adam Schiff’s description of it before Congress, as follows:
We released the transcript of the call, which was so good that that crooked Adam Schiff ... had to make up a fake conversation that never happened … it was a total fraud.
Schiff, the California Democrat who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, did depict Trump’s call with an impersonation of a mob-style shakedown. But he explicitly said this was the “essence” of the call. Schiff then depicted what happened on the call accurately, by mimicking Trump pressing Zelensky to produce dirt on Biden, and directing Zelensky to talk to Attorney General William P. Barr and personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani to carry it out.
You see, those things happened. The idea that the transcript was so exonerating that it forced Schiff to make up a “fraud” version of the call is a big lie. In fact, Schiff depicted what is actually in the transcript. Trump is lying to obscure what did happen on the call.
Trump has been totally transparent about the “word for word” transcript. Trump excoriated Democrats for supposedly rushing to judgment about his call, and said:
Had they waited one day longer, they would have had the transcript of the actual call, word for word.
Trump’s “word for word” claim gets at a major point of contention. Officials believe the call transcript likely contains serious, material omissions, including at the most incriminating parts where he pressed Zelensky to carry out his nefarious political scheme.
Crucially, Democrats have subpoenaed the full call transcript, but the White House has adopted a blanket defiance of any and all such subpoenas, and it may never produce the full “word for word” transcript. In that critical context, Trump’s suggestion that he’s been fully forthcoming about this transcript is another big lie.
By releasing the transcript, Trump cleverly outmaneuvered flat-footed Democrats. Trump said this about Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democrats:
They never thought in a million years that I was going to release a transcript … Nancy Pelosi said, the day before seeing the transcript … said, “We’ve gotta impeach him!” … Then she saw the call, and she said to her people, “What the hell! Nobody ever told me this was the call!”
The ludicrous claim here is that the transcript was totally exonerating, undercutting Democratic expectations of a major smoking gun.
But it is a major smoking gun. It depicts Trump pressuring a foreign leader to help him rig the next U.S. election on his behalf, by manufacturing information to undercut our intelligence services’ conclusion about Russian electoral sabotage in 2016 and to smear a potential 2020 opponent.
Contra Trump’s ridiculous claim that the transcript undercuts the case for impeachment, many Democrats have said, correctly, that it has already bolstered the case for impeachment.
The whistleblower’s story was “false.” Trump said that Pelosi pressed forward with the impeachment inquiry...
...upon hearing a false story from a whistleblower that had no clue what was going on…
The whistleblower’s account has been confirmed as true in many of its particulars, and his account of the call perfectly anticipated what was in the rough transcript released by the White House itself.
Absurdly, Trump is saying both that the whistleblower’s story was false and that the conduct it depicted is totally fine. He’s obviously hoping voters take his word for it that the call was kosher without bothering to learn its details.
The call was “totally appropriate.” Trump said:
The do-nothing Democrats believe … it should be a crime to have a totally appropriate, casual, beautiful, accurate phone call with a foreign leader. I don’t think so.
The Post now reports that at least four national security officials were so alarmed by Trump’s ongoing pressure campaign on Ukraine that they lodged objections with a White House lawyer before and right after the call.
What’s more, officials loaded the transcript onto a highly classified computer system only “hours” after the call took place. Even if Trump really believes the call was “appropriate,” many of his own officials know it is anything but. Indeed, anxiety about the call and surrounding events was “profound even among Trump’s top advisers.”
So what does this all add up to? The bigger deception here is as follows.
Trump claims the call was perfectly appropriate. It’s worth noting that in so doing, Trump is explicitly declaring the authority to pressure a foreign leader into helping him rig a U.S. election on his behalf.
But Trump is now claiming the call was appropriate only because it came to light, leaving him no choice. Thus, he is simultaneously resorting to all manner of absurd lies to discredit the people and process that revealed it, after his own officials went to extraordinary lengths to cover it up. All that itself blows up his claim that the call was totally aboveboard.
What’s more, this discrediting is also necessary because the process is likely to reveal even more incriminating facts about the long-running campaign surrounding the call, such as a possible quid pro quo involving hundreds of millions of dollars in frozen military aid to Ukraine.
Trump supposedly did nothing wrong. But at first his conduct was aggressively covered up. Now both the call and its coverup are being falsified. And going forward, extraordinary measures are being exercised to prevent any further facts from coming out.