Quid Pro Crap

The dust is still swirling around the Trump-Zelensky phone call and the released transcript, but I would like to direct my exasperation at the one NeverTrumper who should know better than to fall for it. The one NeverTrumper for whom I still had a few shreds of respect, and whom I would on occasion read and actually enjoy his writing. Perhaps the only such NeverTrumper out there. Yes, that’s right—I am talking about David French. The last of the Mohicans.

Most NeverTrumpers are pitiful. Max Boot long ago became a complete non-entity—and a reasonable case can be made that he never was an entity in the first place. Jennifer Rubin was more or less readable at one time, but became a miserable whiny hag after Trump’s election—I gave up on her in 2016, and haven’t read a thing she’s written in three years. Bill Kristol is a sad, pathetic wreck of an ex-conservative, eking out a living off the crumbs from a lefty billionaire’s table and peddling Democratic Party talking points on a website no one ever reads. George Will ceased to exist for me after he opined in 2018 that electing rabid socialists took priority over electing Republicans (such as they are, sadly).

But David French? I admit, occasionally he says some things worth saying. Occasionally. Sometimes they are even interesting.

So why is it so hard for him to look in the mirror in the morning, take a deep breath, and say to the reflection: “Dave, you handsome devil, you! I know you’ve been confused these last few years. I know that cheesy trick Kristol pulled four years ago, trying to get you to run for president, really messed with your head. Dave, since you’re me, I know how hard it can be to let go. But while Trump is no God’s gift to the planet, and while Trump might not always be right or politic or temperate, he has done more for conservative causes than all the Republican politicians put together in the last 30 years. So Dave, as someone who knows you well, I am telling you: it is time you quit this NeverTrump nonsense. Just quit. Cold turkey. Sure it will be hard the first few days, Dave, and you will probably have the shakes, and your wife will complain—but in the end, you will feel so much better! Your life will never be the same, because you will know in your heart, at last, who your true enemies are, and who is in your corner.”

But, alas, no. French refuses to seek help from the man he sees in the mirror. Instead, he penned this: “The Trump–Ukraine Transcript Contains Evidence of a Quid Pro Quo.” I saw the headline, and I thought to myself: WTF? This is a National Review headline? Did I somehow click on the wrong URL, and end up at The Daily Worker?

Unlike 99 percent of Americans, I actually read the transcript. Beginning to end. Every word. It wasn’t what I would call terribly exciting reading—humdrum and mundane is more like it. Anticlimactic, if I am being honest with myself, and this was definitely an occasion for honesty with oneself.

Like French (and like every lefty pundit, commentator, congressional Democrat and CNN talking head), I was looking for that quid pro quo. I was looking for that incontrovertible evidence of Trump corruption that the Washington Post and the New York Times promised us. (I am sure CNN promised it too, but I don’t have CNN any more in my cable package, so I will leave it to others to confirm.)

I was looking for Trump coming back, again and again, to Joe Biden. Eight times! (Or so the experts in the media told me.) And to Biden’s sex-addled, cocaine-compromised dolt of a son. You know, that son whose “consulting company” was paid $3 million by a Ukrainian gas company while Biden was handing out $1 billion in aid to Ukraine.

All this, despite the fact that Hunter Biden has exactly zero experience in oil and gas law (that’s zero, as in exactly none), and the Ukrainian company in question had never done any business in the United States. That son.

But instead, in five pages of dense, single-spaced text, all we got was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it mention of Biden somewhere two-thirds of the way in, and the conversation quickly moved on to other things. I even word-searched for Biden in the transcript multiple times—nope, nothing else there, anywhere, about Biden.

Now, congressional Democrats, Washington Post, CNN and the New York Times have long ago decamped into a fact-free alternative universe, so I am not surprised they have no trouble finding impeachable offenses in everything that Trump does and says. Even when Trump just picks his nose, or eats two scoops of ice cream for lunch, instead of one, in the White House cafeteria, you can almost hear the impeachment machine’s engine warming up. So where does David French find the quid, much less the quo?

French comes off pretty strong right out of the gate:

[As a former litigator,] if I couldn’t walk a witness, judge, and jury through the transcript of Donald Trump’s call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky and demonstrate that a quid pro quo was more likely than not, then I should just hang up my suit and retire in disgrace. Far from being “scattershot” . . . the actual sequence is extremely tight, and the asks are very clear.

Well, that’s pretty damn . . . damning! Sounds like French has Trump by the proverbial balls! After this kind of opening, anyone who hasn’t read the actual transcript probably already tried, convicted and sentenced Trump in his mind.

French then goes on with his analysis:

First, right near the beginning of the call, President Trump signals his displeasure with Ukraine. He notes that while the United States has been “very good” to Ukraine, he “wouldn’t say” that Ukraine has been “reciprocal” to the United States. There’s nothing subtle about this statement. It’s plain that Trump wants something from Ukraine.

In reality, reading the whole transcript, the conversation was fairly staid and unremarkable. Fundamentally, Ukraine wants money and weapons—and political support from the United States—as one would expect. But it’s entirely unclear that Trump wants something specific from Ukraine that would be of much benefit to him personally—it certainly isn’t clear that he wants it in this phone call, whatever “it” might be. And it might be any of a dozen things.

So if I hadn’t actually read the transcript itself, I might have said “yeah, that Trump . . . David French really caught him by the cojones this time—right in the act of wanting something from Ukraine!”

Except . . . I did read the transcript, so I am not inclined to take French’s word for his own mind-reading skills, when it comes to Trump’s thoughts.

In fact, French then admits that Trump wants assistance from Ukraine in investigating the 2016 election:

And what is Trump’s response [to Zelensky’s request for Javelin missiles]? The next words out of his mouth are, “I would like you to do us a favor, though, because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it.” He raises Crowdstrike, the firm the DNC used to investigate the Russian election hacks. From context, it seems as if Trump is asking for additional assistance in investigating the 2016 election-interference scandals.

So far, so good. Nothing wrong there, that I can see—hell, every Democrat should welcome this. After all, we just had Robert Mueller spend 22 months on this very subject (while doing his level best to ignore any and all evidence of Clinton corruption and collusion)—so why not be even more thorough? But eventually, on the fourth page, after meandering back and forth between all sorts of things, we finally do get to the two sentences that mention Biden:

The other thing. There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it . . . It sounds horrible to me.

That’s it. Treason? Impeachment? Death penalty? Come on.

Democrats and NeverTrumpers have a serious problem here. Everything Trump says about Biden is true—Biden did go around bragging about it. Biden’s son (and perhaps Biden himself) should probably be in jail, unless Hunter Biden can explain precisely what services he performed for Burisma Holdings, that now-bankrupt Ukrainian-Russian gas company that paid him $3 million.

When a politician in one of the highest elected offices enriches his family using U.S. foreign aid as leverage, isn’t this something worth investigating—regardless of who that politician is? And who cares what he is up to now—if anything, it is Trump’s responsibility to make sure this whole sorry Biden-Ukraine corruption saga is fully investigated, at long last. Obama sure had no interest in investigating Biden’s corruption—but better late than never.

So what is French’s take on all this?

I highlight the quid pro quo aspect of the transcript because the other published report—that Trump asked that Ukraine work with Giuliani to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden—is clearly and unequivocally established. The transcript provides proof that Trump made a completely improper request that the president of Ukraine work with Trump’s personal counsel to investigate a political rival. It provides strong evidence that this took place in the context of a quid pro quo for desperately needed military aid.

Trump’s comments to Zelensky should not be considered an offhand remark or word salad that’s merely “Trump being Trump.” Recall that Giuliani has been working on his Ukraine project for months. He has bragged that his efforts should be “very, very helpful to my client.” Trump has wanted to push Biden’s Ukrainian conflicts of interest into the center of the national debate.

David, I am sorry, but you’ve been had. You’ve watched too much CNN. You’ve read the New York Times too many times. You need to get out of the house more, or maybe look into that mirror and talk to the guy there. “The quid pro quo . . . is clearly and unequivocally established”? Have you been spending too much time in the NeverTrump fever swamps?

Do you honestly think that if Trump really wanted some quo in exchange for his quid, this is how he would have put it? A cursory mention in a 30-minute conversation (you probably didn’t notice, but on page one, it says “July 25, 2019, 9:03 – 9:33 a.m. EDT”)?

And do you think if Trump had any quid in mind in exchange for Zelensky’s quo, that Trump wouldn’t have stated it right there and then? Trump is the least subtle president we’ve had in a quarter of a millennium—and he is suddenly as shy and coy as a virgin on prom night? Do you even believe this yourself?

David, I am sorry again, but you need help. When a man sees things that simply aren’t there, when the TDS voices whispering in his head become too important to ignore—that man needs help. An intervention is surely in order.

I like you—or, at least, I want to like you. Or, fine—if I can’t like you, at least I don’t want to think of you as a delusional NeverTrump gnome who drank too much NeverTrump Kool-Aid. I want to continue reading your stuff. I refuse to believe that you are too far gone. I refuse to lump you in with the Jennifer Rubins, the Max Boots, and the Bill Kristols. You are better than them—and you have it in you to overcome the debilitating disease affecting many lesser minds.

I know you know what I am talking about. The Trump Derangement Syndrome is a terrible affliction. Your case is obviously the milder form—and with grit and determination, you can find the inner strength to overcome it. You just need to listen to that guy in the mirror. We don’t want to lose you.

About George S. Bardmesser

George S. Bardmesser is an attorney in private practice in the Washington, DC area. He is a contributor to The Federalist and American Greatness, and is sometimes heard on the "Inside Track" radio show on KVOI in Tucson, Arizona and sometimes seen discussing politics (in Russian) on New York’s American-Russian TV channel RTVi.

Photo: Getty Images

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