With every passing day and each new person who comes forward to tell their story about Donald Trump’s pressure campaign to force the Ukrainians to look into Joe and Hunter Biden, it becomes harder and harder for congressional Republicans to find excuses and explanations to defend the President’s conduct.
Witness this jaw-dropping exchange between CNN’s Senior Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju and Nevada Rep. Mark Amodei (R). It’s long-ish but you need to see — and read — the whole thing. Because, wow. OK, here we go:
RAJU: The substance of the things that have come out is that the President asked for a public investigation into his rivals and also Ukraine aid was being withheld. And Bill Taylor testified–
AMODEI: That’s your conclusion. But my conclusion–
RAJU: No, no, that’s not my conclusion. I’m saying that’s what’s come out. And–
AMODEI: That sounds like a conclusion to me. So we disagree on the question.
RAJU: The President has asked for the Ukrainians to investigate the Bidens. Is that OK?
AMODEI: The President has asked for the whistleblower complaint to go through the normal processes. And we’ve seen nothing of that. So beyond that, when you say that you’ve made the conclusion or whatever, it’s like you’re a gifted guy because guess what? It isn’t over and you already know what you think.
RAJU: The White House transcript that was released had President Trump asking President Zelensky to open an investigation into the Bidens.
AMODEI: Do you know if they’ve even got plans to call the whistleblower? ‘Cause I heard they didn’t.
RAJU: You’re not answering my question about the substance of the allegation.
AMODEI: I disagree with your conclusion. It’s a conclusion, not a question.
RAJU: I’m asking about what’s in the White House transcript.
AMODEI: My English teacher says you’ve got a conclusion. So if you want to interview yourself, go right ahead. You’re interviewing me.
RAJU: Why don’t you want to answer the question? Is it OK for the President to ask a foreign country to investigate the Bidens?
AMODEI: Why don’t you do an interview instead of interviewing yourself?
RAJU: The President asked on the White House lawn–
AMODEI: Will you answer my question?
RAJU: On the South Lawn of the White House, the President asked them to investigate the Bidens. Is that OK?
AMODEI: You know what. If you don’t want to interview me, then interview yourself.
RAJU: I’m asking you a question. If you don’t want to answer–
AMODEI: I don’t understand.
RAJU: You don’t understand?
AMODEI: Yeah, thanks for doing the best you could.
Let’s put aside Amodei’s condescension, which is grating and unnecessary but also besides the point. The point is this: WHAT.
I read this transcript about 15 times in search of some explanation of Amodei’s answers that make any sense at all. Never did come across one.
Let’s start where Manu started: Facts.
In the transcript of the July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, the US President — after reminding Zelensky of how much the US does for Ukraine (and how it’s not reciprocated) said this:
“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.”
And then there is the fact, as The New York Times reported last week, that high-level Ukrainian government officials were aware by August that almost $400 million in military aid from the United States was being withheld.
So, when Manu says, “The substance of the things that have come out is that the President asked for a public investigation into his rivals and also Ukraine aid was being withheld,” he is stating two facts.
Amodei can not like those facts. Because those facts make it hard for him to a) answer Manu’s question honestly and b) avoid President Trump’s ire. I get that. But, trying to call those facts a “conclusion” is, uh, not correct.
Then there is Amodei’s attempt to deflect, again, the question of whether he thinks it is OK (or not) for Trump to call on Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden. Responds Amodei to that question:
“The President has asked for the whistleblower complaint to go through the normal processes. And we’ve seen nothing of that.”
Wrong! Also, not at all the point.
On the “wrong” front, the redacted whistleblower complaint has been released. You — and Amodei! — can read it right here!
Second, this whistleblower — and whistleblowers more generally — are not the star witness in cases like this. Talk to anyone who knows anything about whistle-blowing — I did right here — and they will tell you that what whistleblowers do is provide a series of leads that investigators then follow. Which is what the House investigators are doing. They are interviewing — under oath — a series of people who appear to be corroborating the whistleblower’s complaint. That’s literally how the process is supposed to work.
What’s strikingly evident in Amodei’s interview is he doesn’t have any actual answers. And when you don’t want to answer a basic question (or feel like political realities make it impossible for you to do so), you try to obfuscate. That’s what Amodei is doing here. He’s debating process (why don’t you ask me a question I like?) and then throwing out a red herring (where is the whistleblower?).
It’s pretty transparent. But no less frustrating to read because of the obviousness of what Amodei is doing.