Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Literary Corner: He was not in a good mood

Detail from Gino Severini, Hieroglyphic of the Bal Tabarin (1912)

So in his testimony, EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland was filling in the time gap in those famous text messages on 9 September, after Ambassador Taylor spooked him with his phrasing about the mysteriously frozen $390 million in security aid to Ukraine:
[9/9/19, 12:34:44 AM] Bill Taylor: Counting on you to be right about this interview [that President Zelensky was now expected to give to CNN, in which he would announce his plans to investigate the imaginary crimes of Andrea Chalupa, Joe Biden, and others], Gordon.
[9/9/19, 12:37:16 AM] Gordon Sondland: Bill, I never said I was “right”. I said we are where we are and believe we have identified the best pathway forward. Lets hope it works.
[9/9/19, 12:47:11 AM] Bill Taylor: As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.
[9/9/19, 5:19:35 AM] Gordon Sondland: Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump’s intentions. The President has been crystal clear no quid pro quo’s of any kind. The President is trying to evaluate whether Ukraine is truly going to adopt the transparency and reforms that President Zelensky promised during his campaign I suggest we stop the back and forth by text If you still have concerns I recommend you give Lisa Kenna or S a call to discuss them directly. Thanks. 
As we know, Sondland called Trump for advice on what he ought to say to Taylor in response, and then sent the last text. What he told the Congress was that he had told Trump
he had gotten mixed signals from the Trump administration about what it sought from the Ukrainian government, and so he pressed Trump on what he wanted.... Trump repeatedly told him on the call “I want nothing” and there was no quid pro quo. (Andy Kroll/Rolling Stone)
Proving, evidently, in Trump's mind, that there was no quid pro quo, although Sondland had said in considerable detail that there was, and he hopes "it's all over". Seeing that on the television was the stimulus for what I think must be one of Trump's most powerful works, presented to the press today in the usual helicopter ambience, with the repetitions in epic style, in the technical sense (epic as a genre of orally transmitted culture is full of repetition and formula—that's how the performers, bards, remember the long texts), thudding like cannon fire.

I Keep Hearing All These Things
by Donald J. Trump

Just a quick comment on what’s going on
in terms of testimony with Ambassador Sondland.
I just noticed one thing — that means it’s all over.
What do you want from Ukraine? he asks me, screaming.
What do you want from Ukraine? he asks me, screaming.
What do you want from Ukraine? I keep hearing
all these different ideas and theories.
This is Ambassador Sondland speaking to me,
just happened. To which I turned off the television.
What do you want from Ukraine? I keep hearing
all these different ideas and theories.
What do you want? What do you want?
It was a very short and abrupt conversation
he had with me. They said, He was not
in a good mood.
He just said—
now he’s talking about what’s my response—
he’s going, What do you want, what do you want?
I hear all these theories, what do you want?
And now here’s my response that he just gave.
Ready? Do you have the cameras rolling?
"I want nothing. That’s what I want from Ukraine."
That’s what I said. "I want nothing." I said it twice.
So he goes, he asks me the question, I keep 
hearing all these things, what do you want?
He finally gets me—I don’t know him very well,
have not spoken to him much, this is not a man
I know well. Seems like a nice guy. I don’t know
him well. He was with other candidates.
Actually supported other candidates. Not me, came in late.
But here’s my response. Now, if you weren’t
fake news, you’d cover it properly.
I say to the ambassador in response,
"I want nothing, I want nothing, I want
no quid pro quo. Tell Zelensky, President Zelensky,
to do the right thing." So here’s my answer:
"I want nothing. I want nothing. I want no quid
pro quo. Tell Zelensky to do the right thing."
Then he says, This is the final word from the president of
the United States. "I want nothing."
 Thank you, folks.
Have a good time. I’m going to Texas.
Alfredo Ambrosi, Aerial Portrait of Mussollni Aviatore (1930).

A feeling I've been having coalesces more and more, that Trump's statement, that he wanted nothing from Ukraine, was really true, sometimes. Because of course he doesn't stick with his intentions, changes his mind constantly, makes decisions according to the last person he spoke to, and you never know for sure if he has a preference one way or the other. There were times, I'm saying, where he was gung-ho for the quid pro quo, and times when the idea made him sick, and that call with Sondland (as opposed to the famous restaurant call, on 26 July, a few days before Trump's last call to Putin on 31 July) could have been one of the latter. "He was not in a good mood."

Which could imaginably have some relation to this other thing from 9 September
Atkinson, the inspector general of the intelligence community, notifies the House intelligence committee that he received a whistleblower’s complaint relating to an “urgent concern” on Aug. 12. He says he found the information credible, and sent “my determination of a credible urgent concern” along with a copy of the complaint to Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, who had seven days to forward the complaint to Congress. 
as the whistleblower report on the 25 July Zelenskyy call totters toward becoming public knowledge.

We know why the idea would make him sick, too. He's against Ukraine in the war with Russia. He admires Putin for the seizure and annexation of Crimea. He holds Ukrainians responsible for the fall of Paul Manafort (he can't understand that Manafort himself has any responsibility for that). He believes that the Ukrainian political class didn't want him to win the election (with some reason—they knew how he felt about Russia). He'd rather not give them anything, let alone missiles that would frustrate Russian tanks, whether Congress had demanded that he do so or not. And he hates foreign aid of every kind.

On the other hand, he's that old man on all the wingnut mailing lists, and Giuliani, fast-talking master of conspiracy theories, has his ear. Giuliani tells him that Ukraine holds the secret to proving the election was legitimate and the secret to proving that kindly, beloved Joe Biden is really just as much a criminal as he is, and if Trump handles the deal right (and Parnas, Fruman, and Rudes himself collect whatever they're hoping to make out of it), he will have that information that will transform the popular hatred of Trump into admiration and awe. He really wants that thing.

So on 26 July after his "perfect call" with Zelenskyy the day before, for instance, when Sondland calls from the Kiyiv restaurant to inform him that Trump loves his ass and will do anything he wants, he loves it; but on 9 September, as nothing has happened yet, and the whistleblower report is winding its way through the bureaucracy, he just wants to be left alone. "I want nothing!" No wonder he was not in a good mood.

And he'd deny the quid pro quo either way. But it's hard to tell at this point because it's where everything was starting to crumble.

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