The whistleblower blowout is a funny affair. A year in advance of the 2020 presidential election we are in rerun season. We didn’t get enough of Adam Schiff the first time around. Live with it, baby. And we didn’t get enough of journalism based on misinformation supplied to friendly reporters by people “familiar with the matter.” Here it comes again.
Andrew McCarthy captures a bit of the old-time quality of the thing in his NR column “Breaking Down the Whistleblower Frenzy.” He writes: “It stems from — what else? — anonymous leaks attributed to former intelligence officials. Whether they are among the stable of such retirees now on the payroll at anti-Trump cable outlets is not known.” He makes another point that somehow evades the crew at Lawfare: “While the media purport to be deeply concerned about Trump-administration law-breaking in classified matters, there is negligible interest in whether the intelligence officials leaking to them are flouting the law.”
We can now compare the leaked reports of the whistleblower complaint with the transcript of the call itself. The whistleblower complaint seems to illustrate the old party game “telephone.” Gregg Re observes discrepancies in the FOX News story “Republicans want whistleblower’s sources, as inconsistencies in complaint emerge.”
The “whistleblower” and his media allies make a big deal of the Trump administration’s alleged attempt to secure the transcript from the likes of him. Re makes the obvious point: “The Trump administration reportedly began placing transcripts of Trump’s calls with several foreign leaders in a highly classified repository after leakers publicly divulged the contents of Trump’s private calls with the leaders of Mexico and Australia in 2017.” This escapes the savants at Lawfare.
Marc Thiessen makes the same point among others in his comparison of the complaint with the transcript in the Washington Post column “The rough transcript makes it clear that Dems got ahead of the evidence” (the link is to the column posted at Jewish World Review). Thiessen writes:
In his complaint, the whistleblower (who admits “I was not a direct witness to most of the events described”) describes Trump asking Zelensky to cooperate with this investigation as an effort “to advance his personal interests.” That is ridiculous. Since when is it inappropriate for the president of the United States to ask a foreign leader to cooperate with an official Justice Department investigation?
The transcript also backs up Trump’s claim that he put a temporary hold on some U.S. military aid to Ukraine because he was concerned that the European allies were not doing enough. During the call, Trump tells Zelensky the United States is doing “much more than the European countries are doing and they should be helping you more than they are.” Zelensky responds: “Yes you are absolutely right. Not only 100%, but actually 1000%.”
He tells Trump that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron “are not working as much as they should work for Ukraine,” and says that “the European Union should be our biggest partner but technically the United States is a much bigger partner than the European Union.” The whistleblower offers no evidence that Trump had any other motivation.
What about Biden? Multiple news reports suggested Trump “repeatedly pressured the president of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden’s son.” Turns out Trump only mentions Biden by name toward the end of the call. He tells Zelensky, “The other thing, there’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it. … It sounds horrible to me.”
Should Trump have done this? Absolutely not. But the reality of this call is a far cry from overheated charges that Trump used U.S. aid to repeatedly pressure Zelensky to investigate Hunter Biden. At a news conference with Trump at the United Nations, Zelensky said the call was “normal” and “nobody pushed me.”
In the complaint, the whistleblower alleges that efforts by White House officials to “lock down” the transcript are evidence of presidential wrongdoing. Or maybe they are evidence officials did not want yet another presidential conversation to leak. No president in modern times has seen more of his conversations with foreign leaders leak than Trump, including calls with Australian then-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, British then-Prime Minister Theresa May, and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Little wonder the administration takes measures to restrict access to transcripts of those conversations….
Both Re and Thiessen help us pierce the media fog that is carrying the Democrats’ impeachment frenzy.