Trump continued his denials Thursday, claiming “I don’t know him at all,” “I know nothing about him” and “I don’t believe I’ve ever spoken with him.”
Out came a new video from the lawyer, this one showing Parnas chatting with Trump at a reception and apparently introducing people to him — set to Janet Jackson’s “Together Again”:
Everywhere I go
Every smile I see
I know you are there
Smilin’ back at me
"Every time he says it, I’ll show them another picture,” Parnas told CNN.
Clearly, Trump needs to respond with his own musical message to Parnas. May I suggest the Dan Hicks oldie “How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away?”
For months, Trump and his defenders kept singing a refrain: “There was no crime,” as Trump put it, and many variations (“not even a little tiny crime”; “No crime!”). Republican lawmakers decried the absence of a statutory crime, as did Ken Starr, who, along with O.J. Simpson lawyer Alan Dershowitz, successfully auditioned on Fox News to represent Trump in the impeachment trial.
But after this week, 2020’s “There was no crime” is beginning to sound as convincing as 1973’s “I am not a crook.”
Parnas alleged (and furnished some evidence of) the surveillance of a U.S. ambassador; an attempt to solicit a bribe; cancellation of a vice-presidential visit as part of the pressure campaign; efforts to secure a visa for a corrupt official; and close attention by Trump himself.
Simultaneously, the Government Accountability Office issued a legal opinion that Trump’s budget office violated the Impoundment Control Act when it withheld Ukraine military aid — and stonewalled the GAO at a level of “constitutional significance.”
The two came from opposite ends of the credibility spectrum: a shadowy figure under indictment and the nonpartisan GAO. But both identified Nixonian ways in which Trump, or those representing him, broke the law. The 1974 impoundment law was enacted to avoid a repeat of Richard Nixon’s constitutional abuses, and the accounts of Giuliani’s street thugs in Kyiv are reminiscent of Nixon’s plumbers and burglars.
Yet Trump and his mouthpieces denied all — and set out to dismantle the credibility of Parnas and the GAO alike.
Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) suggested a political motive at the GAO: “I think they shouldn’t be deciding who broke the law.”
That’s like saying the Securities and Exchange Commission shouldn’t decide who broke securities law; the impoundment law requires the comptroller general (the GAO’s top official) to make such judgments.
To distance himself from Parnas and fellow Giuliani sidekick Igor Fruman, Trump simply pretended that “I don’t know those gentlemen."
This has been a pattern throughout the impeachment saga. Marie Yovanovitch, the ambassador Trump removed? “Really don’t know her,” he said. Bill Taylor, the man Trump sent to replace her? “I don’t know who Taylor is.”
Gordon Sondland, the donor Trump picked as ambassador to the European Union? “I hardly know the gentleman.” Kurt Volker, another ambassador in the scandal. “Don’t know him.” Same with State Department official George Kent, vice-presidential aide Jennifer Williams and Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman.
Selective amnesia has helped Trump through previous scandals. His convicted former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, convicted former campaign chief, Paul Manafort, and fallen national security adviser, Michael Flynn, all became distant acquaintances in Trump’s retelling. Same with other figures in the Russia inquiry, such as Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, Felix Sater, Jim Comey and even a man he once said he knew “very well,” Vladimir Putin: “I don’t know him.”
But that defense has met its end with Parnas’s plentiful collection of photos and videos of himself with Trump officials and congressional Republicans. Trump’s “no-crime” defense has likewise become untenable with the GAO ruling and Parnas’s allegations, atop a growing pile of misdeeds related to Ukraine, Stormy Daniels, Hatch Act violations, potential obstruction of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, emoluments and more.
Perhaps Trump could set this montage of misbehavior to music, Parnas-style. For this, I suggest some Warren Zevon:
I went home with the waitress
The way I always do
How was I to know
She was with the Russians, too? …
Now I’m hiding in Honduras
I’m a desperate man
Send lawyers, guns and money
The s--- has hit the fan.
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