“Trump’s scheme subverted U.S. foreign policy toward Ukraine and undermined our national security in favor of two politically motivated investigations that would help his presidential reelection campaign,” the report says.
“The President placed his own personal and political interests above the national interests of the United States, sought to undermine the integrity of the U.S. presidential election process, and endangered U.S. national security,” it adds.
Here are three big takeaways:
The corrupt plot implicated multiple top administration officials and Trump allies.
The report goes out of its way to detail the ways the evolving scheme implicated top officials like acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Energy Secretary Rick Perry.
It recounts that when Ambassador Gordon Sondland worked in July to persuade Ukrainian officials to announce the investigations Trump wanted — into the conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in 2016 and into the Bidens — Sondland emailed all those officials to keep them informed.
Sondland was trying to get Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to reassure Trump on their coming call (which would take place on July 25) that he would announce these investigations:
Ambassador Sondland emailed several top Administration officials, including Secretary of State Pompeo, Acting Chief of Staff Mulvaney, and Secretary Perry, stating that President Zelensky confirmed that he would “assure” President Trump that “he intends to run a fully transparent investigation and will ‘turn over every stone.’”
According to Ambassador Sondland, he was referring in the email to the Burisma/Biden and 2016 election interference investigations. Secretary Perry and Mr. Mulvaney responded affirmatively that the call would soon take place, and Ambassador Sondland testified later that “everyone was in the loop” on plans to condition the White House meeting on the announcement of political investigations beneficial to President Trump.
What this shows is that at a minimum, multiple cabinet officials fully understood in real time that an official act, one involving U.S. relations with a vulnerable ally, was being conditioned on carrying out investigations specifically geared toward giving Trump the political assistance he was demanding.
The report also details that Pompeo was repeatedly briefed on the progress of the scheme going forward. This is the man responsible for implementing the nation’s foreign policies.
Trump’s “no quid pro quo” defense has been reduced to smoking wreckage.
The report does a good job in blowing up one of Trump’s biggest defenses: that because he told Sondland there was “no quid pro quo” on one of their September phone calls, that means it was true.
As the report notes of Sondland’s testimony about one of those calls (it’s not clear how many there were):
Ambassador Sondland also testified that President Trump immediately followed his stated denial of a quid pro quo by demanding that President Zelensky still make a public announcement, while the military assistance remained on an unexplained hold.
Yes, of course. The military aid was still on hold, and Ukraine still desperately wanted it, and Trump superficially told Sondland that there was “no quid pro quo,” while also directing Sondland to tell Zelensky that he must still do Trump’s bidding, but of his “own” accord.
Sondland has testified that he concluded that Trump wanted him to convey the extortion demand to Ukraine the way “two plus two equals four.” In other words, Sondland concluded this because Trump told it to him.
Trump has shown his corrupt undermining of our democracy will continue, posing a danger to the nation going forward.
The report strikingly portrays a president who recognizes zero constraints on his misconduct, making him a continuing threat to the country. As the report notes, Trump was emboldened, not chastened, by the fact that his campaign’s efforts to coordinate with and benefit from the 2016 Russian attack on our democracy — and Trump’s extensive efforts to derail the investigation into those matters to cover them up — ended with him facing no accountability.
Importantly, it was right after all this that Trump pressured Zelensky for another round of foreign intervention on July 25. The report describes this as “the act of a president who viewed himself as unaccountable and determined to use his vast official powers to secure his reelection.”
This is rarely discussed, but after Trump’s scheme had been unmasked, he repeated in reporters’ faces that Ukraine should investigate the Bidens. The report aptly casts this as a sign of the forward-looking threat Trump poses:
Trump does not appear to believe there is any such limitation on his power to use White House meetings, military aid or other official acts to procure foreign help in his reelection. When asked by a reporter on October 3 what he had hoped President Zelensky would do following their July 25 call, President Trump responded: “Well, I would think that, if they were honest about it, they’d start a major investigation into the Bidens. It’s a very simple answer.”
Faced with the revelation of his actions, President Trump publicly and repeatedly persisted in urging foreign governments, including Ukraine and China, to investigate his political opponent. This continued solicitation of foreign interference in a U.S. election presents a clear and present danger that the President will continue to use the power of his office for his personal political gain.
The important point here is that Trump has made it absolutely clear that he will continue using whatever levers of government he can to corrupt the next election on his own behalf.
Crucially, though, Trump is simultaneously declaring the House impeachment process — and indeed, any and all House oversight — fundamentally illegitimate. As the report notes, Trump has “publicly and repeatedly rejected the authority of Congress to conduct oversight of his actions and has directly challenged the authority of the House to conduct an impeachment inquiry.”
In short: Trump is absolutely free to keep using government to cheat his way out of facing accountability in the next free and fair election, and the House cannot impeach him or even act to constrain this misconduct in any legitimate way that he feels obliged to acknowledge in the least.
The sum total of these postures, which Trump puts into practice daily, is that Trump does not acknowledge that he is subject to any legitimate constraints or mechanisms of accountability of any kind — he is simply not functioning as an actor in a constitutional democracy.