As much as the impeachment trial does, the nearly two year old recording of Donald Trump at a hotel dinner party reveals his modus operandi -- perhaps more than the public yet realizes. Low cunning rather than intellectual prowess is constantly at work in the president’s behavior, which is why Trump, like a hunted animal, never backs down and circles every territory as if he owns it no matter what happens.
|Lev Parnas (right) has provided this 2014 photo with Trump.|
But nothing happened for a year though Parnas, who knew the Trumps for a decade despite denials from the president and was working then on a natural gas deal (only later becoming a key component of Giuliani’s campaign against Biden in Ukraine), recalls Trump talked of firing Marie Yovanovitch – his staff finally learned her name -- several times before it actually happened.
Why? Let’s speculate how Trump’s constant volatility today may color our view of his volatility then, thinking that dinner in 2018 connects to the events unraveling today. Over the years he may demand squads of firings for the many people he hears dislike him. Their numbers have to be legion and his temper tantrums famous. You can see the minions in his social orbit feeding the frenzy. His aides seem to have become pretty good at holding him off and counting on him forgetting who he was angry at this week. Plus he tends to wait until it does him some good. But somewhere in his head the info is lurking until needed, like a bear remembering where the honey tree is.
That old recording at the least gives a flat-out lie to Trump saying he doesn’t know Parnas or Igor Furman, on whose phone the whole thing was recorded. Trump also knew in 2018 how important the military aid was to Ukraine but not discussed was how it was also a big domestic selling point for his new administration, pushed by both Democrats and Republicans. Javelins as part of the military aid was something Obama resisted (despite supporters of Javelins like Joe Biden) because he feared Soviet reaction so shortly after its invasion of Crimea – and also because corruption was then a continuing problem. So Trump used Javelins as something else he could do that Obama balked at doing, which really seems to light the fire of his decisions. Plus a natural gas deals translates in his mind to US energy. So the time wasn’t ripe in 2018 to make a big fuss about Ukraine
A year later, an actual real reformer had taken over the government of Ukraine and Trump was also facing Biden’s entry into the presidential race. He learned there was video of Biden’s role in firing a corrupt Ukraine prosecutor on behalf of the US government. He was also reminded of something on the periphery -- how Hunter Biden got a board job at a Ukraine private company working on improving its reputation with the West.
So two and two began to make four. Yovanovitch would stand in the way of his new plan to extort a new government. He knew how important the military aid was to them, so a little coercion seemed in order – to get a friendly White House meeting and play games with the aid unless Ukraine announced an investigation of the Bidens. It had to seem unlikely to the leader of the world’s most powerful government that a little pipsqueak of a new leader would offer any resistance.
It has always struck me as strange that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took weeks to replace Yovanovitch with a respected charge d’affaires Bill Turner, giving just enough time for Trump’s personal lawyer Giuliani and the three amigos to take over the Ukraine planning. Turner, we should point out, testified twice to the House about what happened and has now departed from his Ukraine post under cloudy circumstances. It sure sounds like he now knows he was a pawn.
It was also striking how Trump, in typical fashion once his plotting unraveled, tried to double down on the lie. Suddenly the phone call was perfect. Suddenly an incomplete summary was called a transcript. Suddenly the Bidens were a legitimate target for investigation (maybe Giuliani will find something under a rock) rather than clearly a violation of the presidential oath the minute he named them as targets
Suddenly the right wing media suggests that Hunter was paid $50,000 a month by Burisma as a board member from 2014 to 2019 even though there is not a record of a single payment, just his New York-based capital management firm Rosemont Seneca Bohai paying far less for his work for dozens of companies.
|How unlikely that Democrats would be begging for|
John Bolton to testify.
Now when you turn this all back to Trump’s continued stubbornness in blocking more witnesses under “executive privilege” exaggerations that will take months to unravel in court, you’ll understand why the Senate Republicans are willing victims to the lowest form of animal cunning named Trump. The president will refuse to budge an inch and either they go along or face his wrath, which apparently worries them more than the voters’ wrath.
That is why I suspect they won’t do even the minimum job of allowing witnesses. McConnell has three votes to play with and if he can separate any witness requests one from the other, none will move forward. Even if a Republican like Mitt Romney has the temerity to ask for one. Four will have to unite to ask for the same witness.
The House impeachment managers have taken a clever path. They don’t doubt that any of the witnesses, powerful conservative names they may be, will further convict the president. The Republicans may be risking the ire of the voters (some 70% in both parties want witnesses), but they’d rather risk that ire in the future rather than Trump’s more instant rage in primary votes.
The best defense they can muster – what he did was wrong but maybe not impeachable – is silly cover, but Trump won’t even let them take that route to safety.
The bear is circling the tree and no Republican is willing to step down.
About the author: Noth has been a professional journalist since the 1960s, first as national, international and local news copy editor at The Milwaukee Journal, then as an editor for its original Green Sheet, also for almost two decades the paper’s film and drama critic. He became the newspaper’s senior feature editor. He was tapped by the publishers of the combining Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for special projects and as first online news producer before voluntarily departing in the mid-1990s to run online news seminars and write on public affairs. From 2002 to 2013 he ran the Milwaukee Labor Press as editor. It served as the Midwest’s largest home-delivered labor newspaper, with archives at milwaukeelabor.org. In that role he won top awards yearly until the paper stopped publishing in 2013. His investigative pieces and extensive commentaries are now published by several news outlets as well as his DomsDomain dual culture and politics outlets. A member of the American Theatre Critics Association at its inception, he also reviews theater for Urban Milwaukee.