THE QUID PRO QUO
Trump held out *3* things of value to the Ukrainians in July 2019:
1. A phone call with him.
2. A visit to the White House.
3. Release of military aid.
And he had *3* tiered demands:
1. Announce a Biden probe.
2. Begin a Biden probe.
3. Find Biden corruption.
1/ Trump intended each morsel of value to be doled out in response to a demand being met. If Ukraine announced a Biden probe, they could get a phone call. If they began a probe, they could get a White House trip. If Trump liked how the investigation was going, they could get aid.
2/ It's critical to see these tiers of value and reward because they underscore how deliberative, systematic and pernicious the quid pro quo was. And it required a conspiracy: not just Trump and Giuliani, but others had to be involved to deliver on it and make it seem legitimate.
3/ Some will note, and rightly, that the quid pro quo was so controversial and byzantine it required 8 months of work by Trump's lawyer to come to fruition. But we should go further and say that Trump and Giuliani had already successfully pulled a quid pro quo on Ukraine in 2017.
4/ In other words, the reason Trump believed this would work is it'd already worked before with Zelensky's predecessor. Trump cut a deal in December '17 to sell Javelins to Ukraine that Ukraine determined was conditioned on it dropping all corruption investigations into Manafort.
5/ This history is *vital* because it underscores that the Trump-Giuliani Ukraine shakedowns were *multiple* in number, *always* threatened U.S. national security, and had *nothing* to do with corruption. Not just one but *both* of them had to do with U.S. presidential elections.
6/ Right now U.S. media is just catching up in seeing how complex the events of July 2019 were. But Trump's actions are so dangerous we need to be moving faster, and seeing both how long the second quid pro quo took to develop and how similar it was in form/content to the first.
7/ This story has now moved far beyond Trump's blather about a "perfect" call, Giuliani's dissembling on corruption in Ukraine and even the whistleblower complaint. This is a historic scandal that not only developed over years but is connected at all points to the Mueller Report.
8/ Many of us have said for years that what we call the "Trump-Russia scandal" in fact involved *many* countries. Ukraine is one of those countries. What we're now calling the "Trump-Ukraine scandal" is in fact the *Trump-Russia scandal*, and *Paul Manafort* is the key link here.
9/ Trump's *first* Ukraine shakedown was intended to relieve legal pressure on Manafort, so that Manafort would not flip on Trump for whatever it was that Trump and Manafort did during the 2016 presidential election that Trump believed could take him down if Manafort revealed it.
10/ Trump's *second* Ukraine shakedown had *two* ambitions, one focused on the 2016 election and intended to please the *Russians* and one focused on the 2020 election and intended to help *his* 2020 campaign. Media's getting this twisted because it can't see the scale of events.
11/ What Trump did in July was intended to exonerate the Russians from the proven claims that they interfered in the '16 election so that Trump could negotiate a dropping of sanctions on Russia *and* so that if Russia tampered with the 2020 election it'd seem like the first time.
12/ Besides the sanctions issue, Trump needs Russia to be absolved of 2016 wrongdoing for many reasons: to legitimize his presidency; to justify him having done nothing to protect our elections; to lower the guard of his cultists with respect to Russian disinfo in 2020; and more.
13/ But the *main* reason Trump needs Russia to be exonerated with respect to everything that happened in 2016 is that Vol. 1 of the Mueller Report *robustly* catalogs the fact that Trump and his campaign did in fact collude with the Russians *wall-to-wall* in our last election.
14/ This last fact threatens Trump due to the *29 ongoing federal probes* of his activity, many launched by Mueller's work; the threat of wideranging Articles of Impeachment; and the fact the 2020 Democratic candidate will *ensure* voters understand Vol. 1 of the Mueller Report.
15/ But beyond this, remember that the Trump Organization has been doing big business in Russia since at least the aughts (per Don Jr.), and that Trump was secretly negotiating the biggest real estate deal of his life with Putin during the 2016 election. Trump *wants* that money.
16/ So Trump including a Biden probe in one of his two shakedowns of the government of Ukraine is the *only* part of those shakedowns that *doesn't* involve pleasing Russia; continuing his / Russia's attack on the 2016 election; the Mueller Report; and *ongoing* Russia collusion.
17/ Because U.S. media was ultimately disappointed with the too-brief ratings traction it got from the Mueller probe and the Trump-Russia scandal, it has decided to falsely cast Trump's crimes and impeachable offenses with Ukraine as being purely about Biden and the '20 election.
18/ The result of this narrow focus is that the number and scope of Trump's crimes and impeachable offenses are being obscured. But also, Americans are being *prevented* from reading what we've learned in the past two weeks *backward* into the Trump-Russia scandal as we know it.
19/ If Trump was using private citizens to illegally negotiate a foreign power's interference in our 2020 election, it makes it more likely he was doing so in 2016. And if Trump was *fully informed* of the *progress* of such crimes in 2019, he probably was fully informed in 2016.
20/ I understand that media and Democrats think first about framing, and only secondarily about the truth. I have the luxury of saying plainly and clearly that what's happened in the last 2 weeks is that the Trump-Russia scandal has finally exploded as it always should have. /end
You can follow @SethAbramson.
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