President Donald Trump has frequently changed his story about the nature of his call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during which he apparently extorted him with military aid to try to force him to launch a political investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden's family.
But as Philip Rotner wrote for The Bulwark, there is just one likely endgame.
"Character assassination will become a less effective tool as the testimony piles up, one believable witness after another, much of it from conservative Republicans and decorated military veterans, many of whom were appointed to their positions by Trump himself," wrote Rotner. "It also seems likely that Trump defenders will have to abandon their denials that the administration attempted to cover up a corrupt quid pro quo by placing the summary of Trump’s conversation on a secret server."
The last line of defense, then — is clear: Trump will "throw everyone under the bus" and try to make his inner circle pay the price for his own wrongdoing.
"What’s left is to demand of the pro-impeachment forces that they provide incontrovertible, first-hand evidence laying the corrupt quid pro quo and the cover-up directly at the feet of Donald Trump. Because while his stink may be all over it, his fingerprints aren’t," wrote Rotner. "How many people, after all, do you think Trump ordered directly, face-to-face, to withhold military aid and a presidential visit until the president of Ukraine agreed to investigate Trump’s political enemies? In exactly those words? Definitely Rudy Giuliani. Possibly Mick Mulvaney. Possibly Gordon Sondland. Maybe Mike Pompeo. Or Rick Perry. Or Bill Barr. Perhaps one of his patrilineal advisors.
"Who on that list is likely to rat him out? Not one of them," wrote Rotner. "Remember, the individuals that Trump was likely to have trusted to keep his secrets are not only his sycophants, they are also people who are vulnerable to political and criminal liability of their own. If they admit to having had a role in extortion and a cover-up, they get themselves in trouble. Dropping a dime on Trump is dropping a dime on themselves."
Trump, indeed, has done this before. His previous personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, is now in prison for tax evasion and campaign finance violations for the illegal hush payment to porn star Stormy Daniels — and though Cohen had testimony to tie Trump to the scheme, Trump simply called him a liar, over and over again, and appears to have escaped unscathed from that scandal, because Cohen is in fact a liar.
"Trump’s going to need a really huge bus to throw all those people under it, but don’t put it past him," concluded Rotner. "And don’t put it past his congressional defenders to try to help him do it."
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