Nov 19, 2019 - Politics & Policy

Trump Inc. leaks on itself

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As televised impeachment hearings roll into Week 2, one surprise has been how many of the Trump team's wounds have been self-inflicted, because of his allies' curious habit of leaking on themselves.

Why it matters: The leaks and revelations have thrown President Trump into a constant state of defensiveness, and turned a growing number of Republicans into frustrated, sometimes bewildered, defenders.

A key part of this week's drama is likely to center on an overheard phone call from Trump to European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland, who's scheduled to testify on Wednesday morning.

  • David Holmes, political counsel at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, told Congress: "While Ambassador Sondland’s phone was not on speakerphone, I could hear the president’s voice through the earpiece of the phone. The president’s voice was very loud and recognizable, and Ambassador Sondland held the phone away from his ear for a period of time, presumably because of the loud volume."

But there have been weeks of this:

  • Rudy Giuliani, at the center of the Ukraine interference, butt-dialed an NBC reporter, and was "heard discussing need for cash and trashing Bidens." Reporters took to Twitter and recounted their own Rudy butt-dials.
  • Giuliani associate Lev Parnas' reported blabbing about his encounters with Trump may help Democrats build their case: Accounts by the WashPost and CNN have Parnas telling others he was on a "secret mission" for Trump.

And, of course, the backdrop:

  • The most damaging document so far was the "do us a favor" transcript of the Trump-Ukraine call that was released by the White House.
  • Trump stood on the White House lawn and said: "China should start an investigation into the Bidens."
  • And acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told reporters last month, about conditioning funding for Ukraine on an investigation: "Get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy."

The bottom line: From revelations about secret servers to off-the-books diplomacy said to resemble "drug deals," many of the juiciest details about the impeachment case came not from Democrats but from Team Trump.

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