Sep 26, 2019

Some Trump advisers think Ukraine memo release was a mistake

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

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. 

Go deeper: Trump's plan to make Biden into Clinton

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Russia says White House must ask for consent to release Trump-Putin phone calls

President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

The Russian government said Monday that the White House must ask for consent to publish transcripts of phone calls between President Trump and Vladimir Putin because such releases are "not normal diplomatic practice," Reuters reports.

Why it matters: The White House's release of a summary of Trump's phone call with the president of Ukraine may have set a dangerous new precedent now that the conversation is at the center of an impeachment inquiry. House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said Sunday that Democrats will try to get the transcripts of the president's calls with other world leaders, especially in light of reports that Trump's calls with Putin and Saudi Arabian leaders were also stored on a secret national security system.

Go deeper: The new precedent set by White House's release of Ukraine call

Keep ReadingArrowSep 30, 2019

4 takeaways from the Trump-Ukraine whistleblower complaint

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

A whistleblower complaint released by the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday alleges that President Trump used the power of his office to solicit foreign interference from Ukraine for the purpose of helping his 2020 re-election campaign.

The big picture: The allegations detailed in the complaint go beyond the summary of the phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky released by the White House on Wednesday.

Go deeperArrowSep 26, 2019

House Democrats tap impeachment gusher

Fiona Hill leaves Capitol Hill last night after more than 9 hours of testimony. Photo: Leah Millis/Reuters

The White House is tense — and some aides are frantic — as Democrats on Capitol Hill tap a gusher of revelations that paint an increasingly vivid portrait of President Trump's unrestrained conduct of foreign policy.

Why it matters: Democrats are moving fast. Letters to potential witnesses reveal the breadth and speed at which the inquiry is unfolding, a stark contrast to the Mueller report which stretched over nearly two years.

Go deeperArrowOct 15, 2019