No quid pro quo plus absolute right

Common Dreams explains about the texts:

House Democrats Thursday night released a trove of explosive text exchanges between top U.S. diplomats that provides a closer look into U.S. President Donald Trump’s months-long effort to pressure Ukraine’s leader to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.

The text messages, provided to House committees by then special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, show that the Trump administration attempted to use a possible meeting between the U.S. president and Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky to pressure Kyiv to launch an investigation into Biden and his son Hunter.

You want Javelin missiles? Give us dirt on Biden. You want a meeting? Give us dirt on Biden.

The messages also showed Bill Taylor, the top American diplomat in Ukraine, raising alarm about Trump’s attempt to withhold aid to Ukraine for electoral purposes.

“Are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigations?” Taylor asked  Volker and U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland on Sept. 1, before the whistleblower complaint about Trump’s call with Zelensky went public.

Sondland replied simply, “Call me.”

Meaning: don’t leave a trail of text messages.

[Updating to add: Taylor is a career diplomat; Sonderland is a hotel tycoon who gave $1 million to Trump’s campaign and was then – entirely coincidentally I’m sure – made ambassador to the EU. Taylor is a civil servant; Sonderland is a hack. Taylor is non-partisan; Sonderland is a trumpy hack.]

Eight days later, Taylor wrote to Volker and Sondland, “As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”

Jake Tapper interprets that as deliberately leaving a trail:

On Sept 9 in the midst of another conversation with Sondland, Taylor — seemingly trying to establish a paper trail — texts: “As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”

Trump on the other hand claims he has “the absolute right” to do that and anything else that pops into his festering head.

Back to Common Dreams:

“Sondland taking five hours to respond, talking to Trump, and then replying ‘no quid pro quo’ shows 1) they knew what they were doing 2) knew it was wrong 3) settled on the ‘no quid pro quo’ defense before it ever became public,” wrote MSNBC‘s Chris Hayes.

It seems like a pretty feeble defense when they spell out the quid pro quo multiple times. But at least now we know why Trump keeps saying robotically “no ‘quid. pro. quo’.” It’s what they told him to say.

Observers said the text messages thoroughly undermine Trump’s claim that he was not seeking a quid pro quo with Ukraine.

“These Kurt Volker text messages are FILLED to the BRIM with quid pro quo,” said Brookings Institution fellow Scott Anderson. “I never expected anything this explicit in writing. It’s truly astounding.”

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) directed a tweet at Trump’s Republican defenders.

“If you’re a Republican who hung your hat on ‘no quid pro quo!’, what do you do tomorrow?” Murphy wrote. “The texts make 100 percent clear: 1. Our top diplomat in Kiev says there was an “investigation for aid” quid pro quo. 2. Everyone knew there was a ‘investigation for meeting’ quid pro quo.”

But Trump says there was no, so who ya gonna believe, huh?

Trump last night:

As the President of the United States, I have an absolute right, perhaps even a duty, to investigate, or have investigated, CORRUPTION, and that would include asking, or suggesting, other Countries to help us out!

He likes to talk about his “absolute right” to do this or that, which tells us a lot about him. It’s not normal for presidents to yammer about their absolute right to do this or that, even though we know some of them believe that, like Nixon and Bush 2 for instance.

Keep breathing.

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