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Some advisers to President Trump see two big, long-term problems with the release of the Ukraine call notes: It makes him seem guilty, and sets a bad precedent for protecting private chats with world leaders.
The state of play: One longtime adviser said this looks worse than anything he's seen to date — and it’s documented.
The decision to release the memo has produced internal tension in the White House, with some officials privately saying it was a mistake.
- Some aides, convinced the call summary was exculpatory, hoped the records would force news organizations to walk back some of their reporting. Instead, the reporting has just intensified.
- Others argued that releasing details of the call between two heads of state set a bad precedent.
- "It puts the whole quid pro quo to bed, but trades it for several other issues," one administration official said.
- In fact, Democrats said Trump saying "I would like you to do us a favor though" was evidence of favor-trading.
White House counsel Pat Cipollone invited several of Trump’s fiercest Republican defenders to the White House yesterday morning to review the notes from the call before they were released to the public. This allowed them to coordinate talking points before the document was blasted out.
- "The sense was that the transcript didn’t come close to living up to the hype Democrats had set up, and didn’t remotely approach impeachable," a source familiar with the White House meeting told Axios.
- Attendees included Sens. David Perdue, Ron Johnson, and Shelly Moore Capito, as well as Reps. Jim Jordan, Devin Nunes, John Ratcliffe, Matt Gaetz and Mark Meadows, according to Johnson.
But on the Democratic side, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said the material reflects "a classic Mafia-like shakedown."
The bottom line: Like during the Mueller investigation, expect Republicans to continue to try to discredit the whistleblower's complaint, the media's account of the memo, and the process by which it's all coming to light.
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