Teri Kanefield @Teri_Kanefield Author, lawyer (UC Berkeley) My threads are here: terikanefield-blog.com/ NBC News Opinion contributor Impeachment notes: impeachment-trump.com/ Sep. 26, 2019 7 min read

(Thread) The Zelensky-Trump Phone Call

The transcript is here:  https://cnn.com/2019/09/25/politics/donald-trump-ukraine-transcript-call/index.html 

The call offers a close-up look at how Trump operates and conducts foreign policy as President of the United States.

It’s also clear why the much of the Fox-GOP will excuse the behavior.

1/ In his riveting testimony last February before the House Committee on Oversight, Cohen explained how Trump pulls people in and gets them to lie and cheat for him.

Quotes from:  https://politico.com/f/?id=00000169-2d31-dc75-affd-bfb99a790001 

Trump doesn’t order anyone to lie or commit crimes. He’s more subtle.

2/ During the 2016 campaign, while Cohen was negotiating with Russian officials to build Trump Tower Moscow, Trump often asked how the negotiations were going.

Other times Trump would look Cohen in the eye and say that he had “no business in Russia."

Trump's would then . . .

3/ . . . go out and tell the American people the same lie. “
In his way,” Cohen explained, “he was telling me to lie.”

Cohen understood that, “no business in Russia,” was the lie he was supposed to tell.

Andrew McCabe tells a similar story. . .

4/ After Trump fired Comey, Trump summoned McCabe to a meeting.

Trump offered a “gleeful” description of what happened with the firing of Comey.

None of it was true.

McCabe understood that he was supposed to “adopt” the lie Trump was telling him.


4/ Trump never leveled a threat.

Later, when McCabe refused, Trump attacked him with stunning venom and vengeance.

If Trump made no outward threat, why did Cohen do Trump’s bidding?

Was he scared?


“Being around Mr. Trump was intoxicating. . .

5/ " . . . When you were in his presence, you felt like you were involved in something greater than yourself — that you were somehow changing the world," Cohen explained.

Trump pulls people in.
He dangles wealth and power.

These tactics have a special appeal to the GOP.

6/ The modern Republican Party—in a backlash against the New Deal, women’s rights and Civil Rights movements—morphed into a reactionary, authoritarian party that wants to win at any cost.

See this history of the GOP:

They don't care HOW Trump wins. . .

7/ See this explanation of reactionist politics ⤵️

The tactics described by Michael Cohen were on full display in Trump’s phone call with Ukranian President Zelensky.  https://www.cnn.com/2019/09/25/politics/donald-trump-ukraine-transcript-call/index.html 

After Zelensky said he wanted to buy javelins from the U.S. . .

8/ Trump said, “I would like you to do us a favor, though because our country has been through a whole lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it.”

He went on to say, “I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it.”

9/ Trump next talked about how the Ukrainian prosecutor was “very good and he was shut down and that’s really unfair.”

Trump then told a lie: “There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, and that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that. . .

10/ ". . . so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great.”

Next Trump told an even more blatant lie. He said, “Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it . . it sounds horrible to me.”

11/ After some back and forth, Trump said “I will tell Rudy [Giuliani] and Attorney General Barr to call. Thank you.”

Okay, so, what the heck happened in that phone call?

For this analysis, let’s limit ourselves to the actual phone call.

12/ For this analysis, we’ll ignore the circumstances of the call, and the withholding of aid to Ukraine.

We'll look at the call by itself.

Trump wanted the Ukrainian government to investigate Joe Biden.

He also wanted them to reach a certain conclusion.

13/ There was also no bribery because there was no quid pro quo, or explicit exchange of value.

In fact, if we limit ourselves to the text of the phone call, there was no crime.

For something to be a crime, it must violate a particular criminal statute.

14/ It isn’t against the law to ask a foreign leader to investigate someone or to misstate facts.

Trump wanted Zelensky to order an investigation of Biden, Trump's political opponent. Obviously, this would help Trump get elected in 2020.

In turn, Trump would help Zelensky. . .

15/ Trump said, "Your economy is going to get better and better I predict."

Anyone who read The Godfather knows that this is how it’s done. There are no direct threats. The Godfather makes people want to serve him.

The Godfather is careful.

16/ He makes sure nobody can pin an actual crime on him.

What, exactly, was Trump doing?

He wasn’t merely asking a foreign government to manufacture evidence against his political opponent.

He was weaponizing the U.S. A.G. and the U.S. Justice Department to carry this out.

17/ You see, when Trump goes to work each day in the Oval Office, he isn’t thinking about how to better the lives of the American people.

He is spinning mafia-like webs to secure his own power.

Watch closely to see which members of the GOP are okay with that.

18/ Note: The document I am reading says this⤵️

My goal was to read this particular document closely and analyze it.

What do we learn from this doc? What does it tell us?

A recording of the phone call may contains other details or other language.

This alone is illuminating.

19/ Generally I block people who use this kind of language to me, but I get that you're frustrated.

I'll explain. Proving quid pro quo is a bit more complicated.  https://law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/201 ……

Supreme Court rulings have made bribery extraordinarily . . .

20/ . . . difficult to prove. See:  https://oyez.org/cases/2015/15-474 
There is a lot of gray area.

If you give a politician money, and then say, "But I have a favor to ask . . . " this isn't considered bribery, even if the politician eventually does what you wanted.

21/ People out there screaming "there was quid pro quo" are stepping into the same trap as the "yes, collusion!" people.

Trump wants people to think that to be impeachable, an act has to be a crime.

Trump kept saying "no collusion" because he knew that when his behavior . . .

22/ . . . hadn't met the specific elements of conspiracy, he would be able to declare himself exonerated.

There's a reason the GOP talking points are "No Quid Pro Quo."

They want the argument to be over whether Trump committed the crime of bribery.

When it turns out . . .

23/ . . . that prosecutors cannot prove each element beyond a reasonable doubt, he'll declare himself exonerated.

Let's learn from our "NO COLLUSION" mistakes

Don't walk into the "NO QUID PRO QUO" trap.


24/ To be impeachable, an act does not have to be a crime.
Not everything dangerous or immoral is a crime. Behavior is a crime only if it violates a particular criminal statute.

Some things are not crimes but if the president does it, it's dangerous. . .

25/ For example, it's not a crime to be propped up by foreign money. If Joe Average lives entirely on money from, say, Putin, the nation isn't in danger.

But if the US President is secretly propped up by Russian money, the safety and security of the US is compromised.

26/ Limiting impeachable offenses to behavior that can be proven in court to meet all the elements of a specific crime is to allow the U.S. President to get away with all kinds of bad behavior that endanger the nation.

27/ This is a good point, thank you.

And another good reason to stay away from the "YES quid pro quo" response.

Let's talk about what's actually going on instead of trying to shoehorn it into a statutory crime.

When I put this one on my blog, I reframed it as "Don't Fall Into the 'NO QUID PRO QUO' Trap.


It's also about Trump's tactics and how he operates.

You can follow @Teri_Kanefield.


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