I think this will be my favorite Donald Trump article for a while.
On Wednesday night, just when his political trial was held, the president attended a rally in Michigan. The news of the event, if you can call it that, was that Trump had insulted Democrat Debbie Dingell and her late husband, former Congressman John Dingell, in his own state. I guess it's a reminder of who Trump is, but that wasn't the part of the rally that I found memorable.
The part that caught my attention has to do with Trump's defense against the accusations that led to his political trial. Democrats accuse Trump of abusing his power when he tried to pressure Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelenski to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden – a possible Trump opponent in 2020 – in exchange for official favors. In a crucial phone call he held in July with Zelenski, Trump said a key phrase: "But I would like you to do us a favor."RELATED
For Democrats in the House of Representatives, this seems to be the point at which the president tried to force a foreign leader to give him political help. But Trump and his allies have insisted on another reading: they emphasize the "we" and claim that Trump was asking, as president, for something the whole country wanted.
On December 4, Trump expressed it on Twitter: "With the word" we "I meant the United States, our country." This week, in a letter to the president of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, she mentioned it again: "I told her to do us a favor, not me, and our country, not a campaign."
This has been a crucial part of Trump's defense. His allies have made the same distinction over and over again; Republicans made him a prop of his case during the political trial hearings. Representative Steve Scalise mentioned it again yesterday in an interview. And yet, everything is based on the premise that the president would not use the "we" – the first person in the plural – to refer to himself. So what does Trump say in Michigan to start his rally, just when the House decides on a political trial?
As Kaitlan Collins of CNN reported:
"It really does not seem that we are being accused," President Trump told the Michigan crowd. "The country is better than ever … We did nothing wrong. We have tremendous support in the Republican Party."
"We are being accused." "We did nothing wrong." "We have tremendous support." No, this does not prove Trump's intention in the phone call, but it eradicates the idea that he would not say "we" to refer to himself, personally. It certainly does not help your situation. Or it could not be controlled for a few days after making this statement, or could not realize the connection or simply does not care if it is consistent between one minute and another. Most likely, it is a combination of the three.
And that, that same, is the president of the United States.
By Jonathan Bernstein
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.