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They've Read the Transcript: 5 Takes on Quid Pro Quo

Takeaways from Trump's call with Zelensky
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 25, 2019 1:59 PM CDT

(Newser) – The 5-page memo detailing President Trump's late July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is out, and much of the ensuing discussion has swirled around the phrase "quid pro quo." Six takes:

  • At the Washington Examiner, Philip Klein calls the transcript "bad news" for Trump. The upshot of his argument is that while there's no explicit pro quid pro related to Trump's request that Ukraine investigate Joe Biden and the country receiving aid, there's definitely an implied one. To recap the call in the simplest terms, "The US provides a ton of help, Ukraine wants to purchase weapons, and Trump is asking for a favor in this context."
  • At Town Hall, Timothy Meads comes down on the other side, pointing out that the lack of that explicit quid pro quo is huge. He takes issue with the Washington Post and other media outlets' coverage of the transcript, pointing out examples of headlines and tweets that suggested it showed Trump pushed Zelensky to look into the Biden situation in exchange for military aid.

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  • At Slate, Ben Mathis-Lilley implores us to "kill and bury this take"—no explicit quid pro quo, so no problem—"before it gets a chance to start causing havoc. President Donald Trump, in his own administration’s account of the call, pressured a foreign leader of a client state to target a specific American citizen! That particular citizen, moreover, is the leading candidate to become the Democratic nominee for president! This is a very bad, very abusive-of-power thing to do, all on its own, regardless of whether or not conditions were attached to it."
  • At the American Conservative, Rod Dreher writes that Trump "spoke in an indirect way that clearly conveyed his meaning, but that doesn’t sound like the rhetorical equivalent of a smoking gun. For people who were looking for the slightest shred of plausible deniability, this transcript gives it to them. It’s paper-thin, but I think it's there." (Dreher goes on to detail what he sees as the bigger issue: Trump's recasting of his personal lawyer as a "de facto US envoy.")
  • At the Washington Post, Aaron Blake says that indirect way is Trump's style, and "it's difficult to see how Zelensky" wouldn't have gotten the gist. "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."
(Read more President Trump stories.)

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