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White House Releases Memorandum of Trump-Zelensky Call

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  • A memorandum of a conversation between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky shows that Trump asked Zelensky to investigate presidential candidate Joe Biden.
  • The phone call took place a week after Trump ordered a hold on aid to Ukraine. Trump does not mention this hold but does say that the United States is “very very good to Ukraine” in comparison to other countries and that he “wouldn’t say that it’s reciprocal.”
  • Some believe this could be interpreted as Trump using aid as leverage to receive a favor in a form of quid pro quo, but others argue that quid pro quo is not made explicit in the document.
  • This memo has many Democrats more eager to impeach the president after Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi launched an inquiry Tuesday. Many Republicans, however, do not believe the conversation shows serious wrongdoing.

White House Released Memorandum

President Donald Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden during a phone call, a newly released memorandum shows.

The White House released the memorandum Wednesday of Trump’s July 25 conversation with the Ukrainian leader. The memorandum is essentially a rough transcript of their call, which according to the White House is “based on notes and recollections… by policy staff assigned to listen and memorialize the conversation.”

Trump promised to release transcripts of this talk after a whistleblower complaint alleged he encouraged Zelensky to investigate Biden and his son Hunter. Outrage over the phone call escalated Tuesday when Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) opened an impeachment inquiry into the matter. 

“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, ” Trump said to Zelensky during their conversation. “Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it … It sounds horrible to me.”

Trump initially denied every saying anything “inappropriate” to a foreign leader, then eventually did admit to bringing Biden up during his talk with Zelensky. After doing so, he claimed he had a right to mention Biden.

Now that the impeachment inquiry is open, Democrats leading the charge were anxious to see what this memo would reveal. While it did confirm that Trump brought up probing a political opponent to a foreign leader, it did not explicitly confirm a quid pro quo, which is giving a favor with the expectation of getting something in return.

Just a week before their talk, Trump ordered a hold on almost $400 million in military aid to Ukraine. He did not bring this aid up during their conversation, however, he did insist that the United States was a strong ally to Zelensky’s country, though the favor may not be “reciprocal.”

“I will say that we do a lot for Ukraine. We spend a lot of effort and a lot of time. Much more than the European countries are doing,” Trump said. 

“But the United States has been very very good to Ukraine,” he later added. “I wouldn’t say that it’s reciprocal necessarily because things are happening that are not good but the United States has been very very good to Ukraine.”

While a quid pro quo was not made explicit, many see this as Trump potentially holding assistance from the U.S. over Zelensky’s head.

Washington Post writer Aaron Blake explained its context with this metaphor:

“It’s difficult to see how Zelensky could interpret that set of circumstances as something other than a strong suggestion and even a veiled threat,” Blake wrote. “It’s equivalent to your boss repeatedly suggesting you do something — while noting what your compensation is — without explicitly making a demand. What are you going to do: believe it to just be a gentle suggestion? No, you’re going to think there could be some relation between your pocketbook/job status and your future actions.”

The fact that a quid pro quo is not directly in the memorandum does not foil the Democrat’s plan to impeach. The president still asked a foreign leader to look into Biden, a 2020 frontrunner. Democrats are also anticipating more information to come out in the whistleblower’s complaint, which was given to the Senate and House Intelligence Committees on Wednesday afternoon.

Mention of Robert Mueller

Another passage that caught the public’s eye from the memorandum is one that referenced Robert Mueller. Zelesnky mentioned potentially buying Javelins from the U.S. Trump then asked Zelensky to “do us a favor,” before mentioning Crowdstrike– the company that analyzed the DNC hack in 2016. 

The context and details around what he says are very vague. He says he knows the Ukraine “knows a lot about it” before mentioning the company and then asks Zelensky to “get to the bottom of it.”

He then brings up Mueller’s testimony to Congress, which took place just one day before their phone call. 

“As you saw yesterday, that whole nonsense ended with a very poor performance by a man named Robert Mueller, an incompetent performance, but they say a lot of it started with Ukraine. Whatever you can do, it’s very important that you do it if that’s possible,” Trump said. 

While what Trump is specifically saying is unclear, reports indicate that this could be related to efforts to get to the root of the Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference during the 2016 election. Trump, his lawyer Rudy Guiliani, and other Republicans have a theory that Ukraine may have been connected to the DNC hack and its servers. 

Zelensky seemed receptive to what Trump was saying. 

“Yes it is very important for me and everything that you just mentioned earlier,” Zelensky said. 

Reactions to Memorandum

After the memorandum was released, Democrats who were already behind impeachment found a new fire ignited within them. 

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) tweeted about the news, claiming she was surprised the White House released the memo at all. 

“The President sought to use the powers of the United States government to investigate a political opponent. We have no choice but to impeach,” she wrote. 

Pelosi released a statement about the news. 

“The President has tried to make lawlessness a virtue in America and now is exporting it abroad,” she said. “I respect the responsibility of the President to engage with foreign leaders as part of his job.  It is not part of his job to use taxpayer money to shake down other countries for the benefit of his campaign.”

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) said the memo “reads like a classic mob shakedown.”

On the other side, however, Republicans thought the call did not show the president committing any serious wrongdoings. 

“Wow.  Impeachment over this?” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) wrote.  “What a nothing (non-quid pro quo) burger.”

President Donald Trump has also defended himself. He retweeted Fox News Anchor Bret Baier pointing out the lack of direct quid pro quo.

He also spoke on Wednesday calling this “the single greatest witch hunt in American history.”

“The way you had that built up, that call, it was going to be the call from hell,” Trump said. “It turned out to be a nothing call other than a lot of people said, ‘I never knew you could be so nice.’” 

See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (Fox News) (Wall Street Journal)

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Mainstream Media Slammed for Ignoring Joe Biden Sexual Assault Accusations

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  • On March 25, a former Joe Biden staffer accused Biden of sexual assault. While this story gained some traction, most major news outlets did not cover the story in much detail.
  • This led to frustration online among people who thought claims against a high-profile and influential figure who could be the Democratic nominee for President should be getting attention on every level. 
  • Others, however, called the story’s credibility into question. Since the piece comes from just one source, some understood why media organizations might be hesitant to cover it. 

Biden Accusation

On March 25, presidential candidate Joe Biden was accused by a former staffer of sexual assault, but these allegations have yet to make their way to most mainstream media outlets, leading to frustration and criticism.

Tara Reade, who worked for Biden in the 90s, says that the former vice president assaulted her in 1993. Speaking on The Katie Halper Show, she claimed he penetrated her with his fingers when they were alone in a room together. Halper says she corroborated this with Reade’s brother and a friend who learned of the incident when it happened. Both said they told Reade to say nothing at the time.

Biden’s team has denied these allegations, but this is not the first claim against Biden or even the first claim against him from Reade. Last year, she and another woman, Lucy Flores, accused him of harassment and inappropriate touching. Still, when Reade brought forth her assault claim, major outlets like CNN, NBC, Fox News and more were hesitant to report on it in depth or even at all. 

Criticism of Media

People online, however, were very vocal about their concerns. The Hashtags #TimesUpBiden and #IBelieveTara made their way around Twitter. 

Others specifically called out outlets for not reporting on this news. YouTuber Mykie “Glam and Gore” mentioned several organizations in a tweet before claiming that if the tables were turned and this came out about candidate Bernie Sanders, it would be front-page news. 

The idea that the lack of coverage stemmed from a political bias in favor of Biden and against Bernie is a fairly common belief among Sanders’ supporters. Many shared that same sentiment on Twitter, claiming that the media would protect Biden no matter what. 

On the opposite end of the political spectrum, many conservatives also believed the mass media was intentionally not covering the story to protect Biden, the presumed Democratic nominee.

“Will the liberal media cover this the same way they did when it was Brett Kavanuagh? I doubt it,” one Twitter user said.

Biden supporters have defended him, however, claiming that Reade’s story is not credible. Some have even gone on to accuse her of being a Russian asset.

Credibility Questions

While the notion of her being a Russian asset is a conspiracy theory at best, the question of her credibility could be a large factor as to why mainstream media has not leaped on the story.

Without casting doubt on Reade, it is easy to see why news organizations would raise their eyebrows at running with a story that largely comes from one source on a podcast. A piece in Salon noted that for stories like this, journalists usually go through a long series of talking to sources on every side of the issue, verifying accounts and getting into the meticulous details before publishing. 

“Women who tell these stories inevitably get blasted by skeptics who pick their stories apart, so it’s critical to their safety that the reporting holds up under close scrutiny,” Amanda Marcotte, the article’s author wrote. “That’s only going to be more true when the story has major political implications or confusing twists that could be interpreted as red flags — or both, like this one does.”

Jezebel was also critical of the one source allegation, saying that the media silence might have more to do with this than an allegiance to Biden. 

“Part of the media’s silence about the podcast is perhaps not because of any fealty to Biden, but because of the way Halper, who also co-hosts Rolling Stone’s Useful Idiots podcast, aired the allegations—with little context, few follow-up questions, and no additional reporting,” Jezebel’s Emily Alford wrote.

While all this may be true, Arwa Mahdawi explored credibility issues in a piece for The Guardian, noting that many sexual assault stories come with the same levels of uncertainty. 

“Reade’s story may be impossible to verify, but this is the case with the vast majority of sexual assault allegations,” she wrote. 

Mahdawi also said that it is frustrating to see people and media outlets either use this story for political gain, or to ignore it in its entirety. Still, she says that whether or not this allegation gets coverage, it may not even impact 2020 in the long run.

“It is also hugely unlikely that Reade’s accusations will do any damage whatsoever to Biden’s ambitions,” she wrote. “Allegations of sexual assault certainly haven’t posed any hindrance to Trump. The allegations against Kavanaugh didn’t stop him from becoming a supreme court justice. The allegations against Louis CK didn’t kill his career in comedy. ”

See what others are saying: (Vox) (The Intercept) (Huff Post)

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Trump Accuses Healthcare Workers of Stealing Supplies Amid Mass Shortages

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  • President Trump accused healthcare workers in New York of stealing supplies, suggesting that it explained the increased demand for masks.
  • Experts hit back, explaining that because of the pandemic more equipment than normal is needed in hospitals.
  • Meanwhile, healthcare workers all over the country are reporting dangerous shortages of supplies and other personal protective equipment.
  • Some workers have resorted to reusing masks, making their own masks, wearing trash bags, and using other methods that could risk their lives as stockpiles continue to run low.

Medical Shortages 

President Donald Trump is doubling down on accusations that healthcare workers are stealing medical supplies amid an unprecedented country-wide supply shortage.

All over the country, healthcare workers who are already on the front lines risking their lives do not have enough masks, gloves, gowns, and other personal protective equipment (PPE) that is crucial for safety.

Recent reports have found that healthcare workers have resorted to reusing and sterilizing masks meant for single use. In some places, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has even told healthcare providers to use homemade gear like bandanas or scarves “if necessary.”

Pictures have been circulating the internet of medical staff wearing trash bags and homemade masks. 

Health officials have been relying heavily on donations from laboratories, tattoo parlors, and construction companies. Some have been forced to buy their own supplies, while others have even taken to Twitter to ask for help getting more with the hashtag #GetMePPE.

Manufacturers have said they will help produce some gear on their own accord. Meanwhile, states and governors have criticized the Trump administration for not helping them enough or sending an adequate amount of supplies, especially masks.

Trump, for his part, has said that governors need to be buying most of their own provisions, not the federal government.

On top of that, at least two major cities with large outbreaks have reported problems with the scant supplies they were sent by the federal government.

On Saturday, California Governor Gavin Newsom said the Trump administration sent Los Angeles 170 broken ventilators. Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker also said Monday that he had been sent a shipment of the wrong masks.

These shortages are expected to get worse as the pandemic continues to grow. Hospitals all over the country warn their equipment stockpiles will not last through the pandemic. 

Trump’s Remarks

Trump, for his part, did not appear to acknowledge that there was any shortage at all during a press conference Sunday.

“It’s really incredible, frankly. Many of the states are stocked up,” he said. “Some of them don’t admit it, but they have — we have sent just so much — so many things to them and — including ventilators.” 

Trump went on to accuse hospitals of “hoarding” ventilators and insinuated that New York hospitals asked for more masks than normal because healthcare workers were stealing medical supplies.

“How do you go from 10 to 20, to 300,000? 10- to 20,000 masks to 300,000? Even though this is different, something is going on, and you ought to look into it as reporters. Where are the masks going? Are they going out the back door?” the president said.

“I think people should check that because there’s something going on, whether — it’s not — I don’t think it’s hoarding; I think it’s maybe worse than hoarding.”

Trump reiterated the same claims again in a press briefing on Monday.

Response

Trump’s remarks received a lot of backlash and pushback from both medical professionals and New York officials.

Many criticized Trump for accusing medical workers of stealing supplies without any evidence, while those workers continue to risk their lives in dangerous conditions because they do not have adequate supplies.

Others debunked Trump’s claim, explaining that healthcare workers need thousands of more masks than they normally need because this is not normal— it’s a pandemic.

“There’s hospital systems that have gone through their entire personal protective equipment stores for the season, they’ve gone through this in a week,” explained CNN healthcare analyst Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

“You’ve got to treat every patient that comes in, even if they’re not coming with a specific coronavirus, covid-like symptoms, you have to still treat them like they might have it,” he continued.

“That means that every single time patients are seen by these doctors, the medical students, residents, nurses, therapists, whoever, they need to be wearing this protective gear. You’re going to be going through a lot of protective gear as a result.” 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of Trump’s coronavirus task force, also hit on a similar point while speaking to CNN Monday.

“I have not looked at that carefully, so I can’t really can’t comment,” he said. “I mean, it could be that there are many more patients there that need them and they’re actually not walking out the door, they’re actually being utilized.” 

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill De Blasio also contested Trump’s claims

“It’s insulting, it’s outrageous, it’s incredibly insensitive to people right now who are giving their all,” De Blasio said in an interview with NY1 on Monday. “Our healthcare workers are suffering — they’re literally watching some of their own lost to this disease. They’re fighting with all they got.” 

“It’s not true,” he added. “And it’s the wrong thing for him to do and he should just get back to work, be the commander-in-chief and get us help.” 

“If you are not preparing for the apex and for the high point, you are missing the entire point of the operation,” Cuomo said Monday at his daily press breifing in New York. “It is a fundamental blunder to only prepare for today, that’s why in some ways we are where we are. We’ve been behind this virus from Day One.” 

“In terms of the suggestion that PPE equipment is not going to a correct place, I don’t know what that means, I don’t know what he’s trying to say. If he wants to make an accusation, let him make an accusation,” he added.

Defense Production Act

Some have taken it even farther, directly blaming Trump and his administration for the shortage.

Many have accused Trump of downplaying the virus for weeks rather than taking necessary precautions.

“Given the chance to prepare hospitals and health-care workers for the expected influx of covid-19 patients, the Trump administration did not take action to build up supplies of the vital equipment experts knew would be needed,” Deborah Levine, a historian of medicine wrote in the Washington Post.

Levine referenced a report that the National Security Council laid out a 69-page playbook on fighting pandemics that the Trump team ignored.

“Indeed, the administration has so far refused to use the Defense Production Act, or DPA, to ramp up production of even fairly basic but essential medical supplies, despite many urgent calls to do so,” Levine continued.

This is another essential piece of the medical shortages puzzle. The DPA, which is a wartime law, would let the federal government ask companies to make certain things, like masks, and give those companies loans to do so.

Despite the fact that basically all Trump would have to do was say the word “go,” he put off enacting it for weeks, even in the face of enormous pressure.

Trump finally pulled the trigger Saturday, but so far, he has only asked General Motors to speed up production for ventilators they have already offered. He has refused to ask other companies to help produce other products that could be life-saving.

Trump’s reluctance has baffled a lot of people, and he has not given much of an explanation for why he does not utilize this seemingly simple act that has been put in place for a situation exactly like this.

One of the reasons Trump has said he does not want to use the act is because it would turn the United States into a socialist country. 

“We’re a country not based on nationalizing our business,” Trump said last week.

The act does not cause companies to be owned by the government, it just directs them to make essential and life-saving products.

Trump has also argued that companies are doing enough voluntarily, and so he does not have to compel them to help. But even with companies volunteering, it is clearly not enough to address the current and impending medical shortages.

See what others are saying: (ABC News) (Common Dreams) (Vox)

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Trump Extends Social Distancing Guidelines to April 30, Says He’ll Rely On Health Experts

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  • The Trump Administration is extending social distancing guidelines to April 30, President Donald Trump announced from the White House Rose Garden on Sunday.
  • The announcement comes a week after Trump announced that he wanted to reopen the country by April 12; now, he says that date will likely be around the peak of deaths in the United States. 
  • Earlier in the day, Doctor Anthony Fauci said that a potential 100,000 to 200,000 Americans could die of the coronavirus.
  • Trump then said while that number is “horrible,” if his Administration can ensure that number doesn’t reach the millions, it will “altogether have done a very good job.”

Trump Extends Social Distancing Guidelines to April 30

As President Donald Trump’s “15 Days to Slow the Spread” social distancing guidelines were set to expire, Trump announced on Sunday that he would be extending those guidelines until April 30.

Trump’s announcement from the White House Rose Garden comes after Trump last week said he wants to see a significant portion of the country return by Easter (April 12). As of yesterday, Trump now says the death rate is expected to peak in two weeks., or right around the Easter holiday.

“The modeling estimates that the peak in death rate is likely to hit in two weeks,” he said, “so, I’ll say it again: the peak, the highest point of death rates—remember this—is likely to hit in two weeks. Nothing would be worse than declaring victory before victory is won. That would be the greatest loss of all.”

Trump’s announcement also comes after he sent a letter to governors on Thursday in which he announced he would be releasing new social distancing guidelines. Notably, in that letter, he said, “We will suggest guidelines categorizing counties as high-risk, medium-risk, or low-risk.” 

Trump said those classifications could help states make decisions about “maintaining, increasing, or relaxing social distancing and other mitigation measures.”

Trump’s comments and actions last week worried many public health experts, who argued that returning to normal by April 12th wasn’t feasible. Even one of Trump’s top medical advisors, Doctor Anthony Fauci, tried to walk back Trump’s Easter’s timeline by saying that Trump was “flexible” on that date. 

Despite criticism and concern, Trump had said he would consult with his Administration’s medical experts. On Sunday, Fauci said he and Coronavirus Task Force Doctor Deborah Birx originally approached Trump and asked for the deadline extension. Reportedly, they told Trump that if those guidelines expired, even more people would die.

“I guess we got to do it,” Fauci said Trump told him and Birx after looking over the data. 

Fauci Says Coronavirus Could Kill 100K-200K Americans

Earlier in the day, Fauci spoke with Jake Tapper on CNN’s State of the union. In that interview, Fauci warned that the outbreak is likely to keep pushing hospitals to their limit.

Tapper also asked Fauci how many millions of people he expects to contract the virus, and while Fauci gave his current predictions, he also warned against making such predictions because of how easily they could change. 

“I’ve never seen a model of the diseases that I’ve dealt with in which the worst-case scenario actually came out,” Fauci said. “They always overshoot, so when you use numbers like a million, a million and a half, two million, that almost certainly is off the chart. Now, it’s not impossible, but very, very unlikely. So it’s difficult to present.”

“I mean, looking at what we’re seeing now, you know, I would say between 100- and 200,000 cases,” he continued, “but I don’t want to be held to that… We’re going to have millions of cases, but I just don’t think that we really need to make a projection when it’s such a moving target that you can so easily be wrong and mislead people.” 

At his announcement yesterday, Trump then referred to those numbers, mentioning the prediction that 1.6 to 2.2 million people could die if there were no intervention efforts at all.

“Think of the number, potentially 2.2 million people if we did nothing,” Trump said. “If we didn’t do the distancing, if we didn’t do all of the things that we’re doing.” 

Trump then called the current prediction of even 100,000 deaths “horrible” but said, if the death count stays between 100,000 to 200,000 people, “we altogether have done a very good job.” 

When Will the Outbreak Ease?

At his announcement, there was concern that Trump might try to continue to push potentially easing restrictions by region or by county. After being asked by a reporter if he would do this, Trump said no, saying that it wouldn’t be good and that he was listening to Fauci and Birx, who weren’t comfortable with the idea. 

Prompted by another question, Trump called his original goal of Easter “aspirational.”He did, however, give a bit of a timeline as to when he thinks the coronavirus outbreak could die down.

“We can expect that by June 1, we will be well on our way to recovery,” he said. “A lot of great things will be happening.”

Monday morning, Trump continued to reinforce the idea that he will be listening to health experts like Fauci and Birx.

“I’ll use my head and I’ll make a decision but I’m going to rely on experts,” he said on Fox & Friends. “Anthony and Deborah have been doing this for many years, and I’m going to rely on them.”

Also Monday morning, Dr. Birx spoke with NBC, where she explained more of the basis for that 100- to 200,000 deaths prediction

“If we do things together well, almost perfectly, we could get in the range of 100,000 to 200,000 fatalities. We don’t even want that,” she said.

“The best-case scenario would be 100 percent of Americans doing precisely what is required,” she added, “but we’re not sure… that all of America is responding in a uniform way to protect one another, so we also have to factor that in.” 

Regarding when the outbreak may begin to die down, Birx said that is still too early to know. She said health experts must still wait for more data to come in, also saying that she and others would be looking at that data over the next month to try to answer that question.

See what others are saying: (CBS News) (NPR) (NBC News)

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