Yes, a handful of advisers to the popular-vote loser and chief traitor urged him not to release the call readout with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky—mainly Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. They may be evil, but at least they’re not total idiots, which is why Donald Trump apparently ignored them, instead listening to, well, this cast of jokers.
Reports Vanity Fair, ”In addition to several attendees at the meeting … which included several congressmen firmly in MAGA world, such as Jim Jordan, Devin Nunes, John Ratcliffe, Matt Gaetz, and Mark Meadows—Attorney General William Barr thought releasing the transcript would be for the best.”
Devin Nunes, you might recall, is the Republican ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee and a likely Russian asset. It was his job to selectively leak, obfuscate, and obstruct the Mueller investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Ratcliffe was Trump’s first choice for director of national intelligence until it turned out he’d invented key chunks of his personal bio (claiming big terrorism-related prosecutions that never happened). Jordan and Gaetz are key members of the nihilistic ultra-right House Freedom Caucus.
These aren’t people who were in the room because of their smarts and sharp acumen, but because, as our own Mark Sumner put it, “these are ‘Yes, yes, yes! men’ who greet Trump’s every utterance like they’re in a scene from When Harry Met Sally.”
As Mark notes, not everyone in that room rooted for the call readout’s release. But there was clearly a critical mass of morons thinking that giving up the entire game by releasing that readout was the smart play, and why? Because Trump didn’t literally utter the words “quid pro quo”? Yet you surround yourself with sycophants, you aren’t going to get the best help and advice. (Think about Michael Cohen and … well, Rudy Giuliani.) It’s a wonder Trump has gotten this far in life.
Barr is the odd name in that bunch. He’s not an idiot. In fact, he’s as dangerous as he is precisely because he’s smart enough to clean up after Trump’s messes, without incriminating himself Giuliani-style. Or is he? He is clearly implicated in this scandal, and the fact that he refused to recuse himself despite being named in the whistleblower report is particularly damaging to him. Yet here he was, knowing his name would be publicly dragged into the impeachment proceedings, and he went along with it? He certainly wasn’t as stupid as the Freedom Caucus crowd as to think releasing that call readout would make this whole mess go away. So what was it?
Perhaps it was simple CYA. He was already in knee-deep, and if he wasn’t confident that the courts would allow him to block release of that call readout, things would look even worse for him when it was released. This could simply be him ripping off the Band-Aid, knowing the short-term pain would be better than further enmeshing himself in scandal.
Either way, we’re lucky in a way that Trump and his inner circle are as dumb as they are. Republicans are trying to push back on impeachment by arguing process—whistleblower was biased (wrong)! His attorney is a Democrat (so what?)! Adam Schiff knew about the allegations and sat on them (bullshit)! But really, thanks to their idiocy and incompetence, none of that matters—you can't argue the source is tainted when the primary evidence (the call readout!) was handed to us on a silver platter.
So thank you, White House clown car, for making this a lot easier than it could’ve been!