Washington Post columnist Paul Waldman noted in his Thursday piece that no amount of pretending can exonerate President Donald Trump's White House from knowing exactly what it was doing to hide the Ukraine transcript. Meanwhile, the Republican caucus is trying to pretend there was nothing wrong.
"What’s so striking about the 'Whatever, dude' attitude many Republicans are taking is how sharply it contrasts with the reaction to the call among White House insiders. As the whistleblower complaint documents, among those insiders, the call created a panic," Waldman wrote Thursday.
Most elected Republicans have opted for avoiding the press on this issue entirely. The exceptions include Trump's close allies, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
McConnell said the call “laughable to think this is anywhere close to an impeachable offense.” Lindsey Graham similarly said: “I’m underwhelmed. I’m not troubled. I don’t think there is anything remotely quid pro quo."
Waldman said that it's all because Trump didn't conclude the call by saying "you will dig up dirt on Biden and I'll release the military aid" then it doesn't meet the bribery statute. They are incorrect on that, however.
They may as well have copied and pasted the White House talking points straight to Twitter.
By contrast, the whistleblower report said that Trump's Ukraine call "set off a scramble to make sure that as few people as possible found out about it." The first key passage notes White House officials knew that it was bad and were even morally conflicted about it.
The White House officials who told me this information were deeply disturbed by what had transpired in the phone call. They told me that there was already a “discussion ongoing” with White House lawyers about how to treat the call because of the likelihood, in the officials’ retelling, that they had witnessed the President abuse his office for personal gain.
The whistleblower goes further:
In the days following the phone call, I learned from multiple U.S. officials that senior White House officials had intervened to "lock down" all records of the phone call, especially the official word-for-word transcript of the call that was produced — as is customary — by the White House Situation Room. This set of actions underscored to me that White House officials understood the gravity of what had transpired in the call.
Waldman cites a key piece buried in the appendix, quoting a White House official confessing it was "not the first time" a transcript of one of Trump's calls was put in the secret system “solely for the purpose of protecting politically sensitive — rather than national security sensitive — information.”
Clearly, multiple White House officials knew what they were doing wasn't above board and that the secret classified system was not intended to protect Trump from conspiring with foreign governments to win an election.
"Once again, Trump has left them trying to defend the indefensible," Waldman closed.