There was a fast and furious response on Wednesday to the White House’s five-page memo of a July 25 phone call involving President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. While some believe this is a nothing-burger, others believe this is a tasty burger. Here is a sampling of some of the Legal Twitterati’s reaction to everything we’ve learned today.
This call was straight out of a “mobster’s” playbook.
Former federal prosecutor Mimi Rocah and Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe were among those pushing the idea that the memo was mafia stuff.
“This is a summary not a verbatim transcript. The quid pro quo is almost never all in one conversation. He froze the aid. Ukraine knew. He made the ‘request.’ You don’t have to be a detective to figure that one out,” Rocah, a legal analyst for MSNBC and NBC News, commented.
“I listened to mobsters bribe & extort people for over a decade here in NY where Trump was trained. Those mobsters didn’t say ‘give me what I want or I’ll kill you,'” Rocah continued. “They were very ‘nice’ about it & everyone knew exactly what they meant especially when their underlings followed up.”
Tribe also referenced the mob, and focused on the part of the call where Trump said “I would like you to do us a favor, though.”
“This was EXACTLY my take: DEVASTATING — especially with Trump’s use of the word ‘THOUGH’ to link the military aid Zelensky requests of the US to the help against Biden Trump asks of Zelensky. This is how mob bosses talk,” Tribe said. “It’s a slam dunk, though expect Trump to say it clears him.”
In a separate tweet, Tribe said the memo showed both a quid and a quo, saying these were “damningly linked by the president’s use of the word ‘THOUGH.'”
Even if a quid pro quo was needed to establish abuse of presidential foreign affairs and military power for personal political purposes — and it isn’t — the transcript DOES show both the QUID and the QUO, and they are damningly linked by the president’s use of the word “THOUGH.”
— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) September 25, 2019
Some aren’t convinced by Tribe’s focus on the word “though,” and say that this kind of debate is misguided/will ensure Trump finishes his term in office.
Haven’t read the transcript yet but if all we’re doing is debating what “THOUGH” means, Trump will complete his term of office.
— Andy Grewal (@AndyGrewal) September 25, 2019
There is a “smoking gun”/”Quid, meet quo.”
Others also came away from the memo saying there was both a “smoking gun” and a meeting between Quid and Quo.
I can say it when I’m wrong: there *is* a smoking gun. https://t.co/sxxJSesJxy
— Elie Honig (@eliehonig) September 25, 2019
CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Elie Honig also offered commentary about “mob boss” tendencies.
— Christiane Amanpour (@camanpour) September 25, 2019
Quid, meet quo. https://t.co/agt0oDCvpT
— George Conway (@gtconway3d) September 25, 2019
The “sequence is plain” and it is “completely unacceptable.”
National Review’s David French, a lawyer, was evidently not pleased with the “plain” sequence of events in that phone call, calling it “completely unacceptable.”
The sequence is plain. Trump wants Ukraine to be "reciprocal." Zelensky raises his nation's defense needs, and Trump raises his investigation demands, including the request that Ukraine look into Joe and Hunter Biden. This is completely unacceptable. /end
— David French (@DavidAFrench) September 25, 2019
Thinking that releasing the call would make the outcry go away is as “genius” as firing Comey and thinking the Russia probe would go away.
Trump thinking releasing this memo would exonerate him reflects the same genius insight that led him to believe firing Comey would make the Russia inquiry go away… https://t.co/0ScjMV6zqi
— Dwight Holton (@RogueDew) September 25, 2019
Former federal prosecutor Dwight Holton was clear about his thoughts on the matter, and also wondered “how long it will take for [Trump] to realize it was a colossal error and start blaming someone else.”
All roads lead to … emoluments?
Others have focused on the part of the memo where Zelensky talked about his stay at Trump Tower and mentioned that in the context of a call where negotiations were occurring. Indeed, of late, there has been much ado about various stays at Trump properties and “potential violations” of the Emoluments Clauses of the U.S. Constitution.
Some believe these lines from the memo will end up being referenced in pending cases.
COLLATERAL DAMAGE: Zelensky's suck-uppy reference to Trump Tower stay could be fodder for the several emoluments cases still working way through the courts https://t.co/3xL4ektPbg
— Josh Gerstein (@joshgerstein) September 25, 2019
A couple of important points about this memo: 1) There are ellipses in it, and this is what the Trump Administration says that means: “The ellipses do not indicate missing words or phrases. They refer to a trailing off of a voice or pause. If there were missing words or phrases, they would be represented by brackets or redactions.” 2) There is a note on the memo that says it “is not a verbatim transcript”:
The controversial phone call took place a day after former Special Counsel Robert Mueller testified before Congress about his Russia report. There have also been lingering concerns about the administration delaying military aid to Ukraine that Congress had appropriated.
There’s also still a lot that we don’t know. A whistleblower complaint said to be related to the Trump-Ukraine situation was filed, a Trump-appointed Inspector General of the Intelligence Community deemed the complaint “credible” and “urgent,” and Acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Joseph Maguire didn’t hand the complaint over to Congress, which is contrary to what the law requires. The Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) advised Maguire to withhold the complaint; the DOJ has also declined to act on a criminal referral related to the complaint.
[Image via LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP/Getty Images]