Donald Trump may swear up and down that he’s not going to dignify the Democratic-led impeachment hearings with his attention, but all evidence points to his watching the testimony closely. Closely enough that he could take notes and read a direct quote from Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland’s responses to his interrogation.
The president briefly spoke to reporters on the White House lawn as he was about to board a helicopter for a trip to Texas and read from a page of what appeared to be quotes from Sondland’s testimony about one of his conversations with Trump, written in big bold letters with the president’s favored writing implement, a blunt black Sharpie.
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While most people found Ambassador Sondland’s testimony this morning to be deeply incriminating for a large number of senior Trump administration staff, Trump focused on just one of the ambassador’s statements: that he told Sondland that he wanted nothing from Ukraine, wanted no quid pro quo, and that he wanted Ukraine President Zelinsky to “do the right thing.”
The ambiguous statement of a desire to see the Ukranian leader “do the right thing” fits in perfectly with Trump’s method of implying what he wants while preserving plausible deniability, a tactic that his former lawyer Michael Cohen exposed when he explained how the president conveyed the message that he wanted his attorney to lie to Congress about the negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, an action that landed Cohen in prison.
“Mr. Trump did not directly tell me to lie to Congress. That’s not how he operates. In conversations we had during the campaign, at the same time I was actively negotiating in Russia for him, he would look me in the eye and tell me there’s no business in Russia and then go out and lie to the American people by saying the same thing,” Cohen told the House Oversight Committee in a public hearing at the time. “In his way, he was telling me to lie,” the abandoned Trump loyalist said of the unspoken assumptions the president and his close associates share.
Trump refused to take questions from reporters after reading the highly selective quote from the ambassador’s testimony, preferring to let his claims of “it’s all over” in reference to the impeachment effort stand as the last word on the subject. The denizens of Twitter, however, ensured that the last words would be their own more skeptical responses.
The craft of lyric writing has gone to shit https://t.co/6DUoS0T0Mr
— Andrew Stoeten (@AndrewStoeten) November 20, 2019
Say what you will about his delivery and the content, it's smart to put your talking points in big letters and keep it short. This friends is how you KEEP IT TO TWO MINUTES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! https://t.co/GR3Y7xLzlD
— Brett Banditelli (@banditelli) November 20, 2019
If you’re going to extort someone, you could at least learn how to spell their name right https://t.co/5drIJzN7Hp
— Jason Campbell (@JasonSCampbell) November 20, 2019
I want nothing.
I want nothing.
I want no quid pro quo.
Tell Zellinsky to do the right thing. pic.twitter.com/jq6imAFjDh
— southpaw (@nycsouthpaw) November 20, 2019
Trump may pretend that the case against him is closed with Sondland’s testimony, and that may well be true, but not in any way that absolves him and will prevent his being brought to justice for the bribery and extortion scheme that the testimony of the EU ambassador and the other fact witnesses have disclosed.
With more testimony to come, we can expect only further confirmation of a vast right-wing conspiracy to pervert the 2020 elections to reelect a president who was never legitimately elected to begin with.
Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.