"Men offend those they love before those they fear." Niccolo Machiavelli
Donald Trump projects calm in the face of the latest scandal involving his very unusual manner of practicing politics, a manner that was unleashed on the leak, and later the transcription of, his phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
The following day, that phone call caused the majority of the House to declare themselves in favor of impeaching Trump.
It turns out that during the phone call, Trump complained that Ukraine had not responded as it should, given that the U.S. had provided military aid, and despite the the Ukrainian president’s assurance that he was almost ready to purchase more Javelin anti-tank missiles, which are essential to balancing the armed defense forces of Ukraine and Russia.
All this would not have exceeded the bounds of an ordinary phone call between two leaders, if it Trump had not asked Zelenskiy to "do us a favor," two favors really, and here, the pronoun "us" is of vital importance. You will soon see why.
Trump’s first request of Zelenskiy was that he find out more about CrowdStrike, a cybersecurity firm which the National Democratic Committee turned to in investigating who hacked its accounts during the 2016 presidential election.
We already know the result. The Russian information pirates APT 28, or Fancy Bear, were detected and their access to the Democrats’ email was deleted. The issue was denounced, investigated, judged and sanctioned.
But this issue still preoccupies Trump, and he is seeking some incriminating information that points to the Democrats, as he makes a false connection between two firms with the same origins, but which are completely distinct.
CrowdStrike was originally founded in Ukraine and continues to operate, but it has no business or legal relationship with the homophonic United States company in charge of the investigation into the hacking of the Democrats.
Trump is wrong on at least three counts here.
First, he asks a foreign government to interfere in the domestic politics of the United States. Second, he conditions support from the U.S. for Ukraine on a personal favor. Third, Trump asks Zelenskiy to call the U.S. attorney general and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani so they can “get to the bottom of it."
Further on during the phone call, Trump raises the issue of Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate with the greatest advantage in the 2020 presidential election. It turns out that Hunter Biden, the Democrat’s son, did business in Ukraine and still has business contacts there. Nevertheless, Trump falsely argues argues that Joe Biden "went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution [of his son, Hunter, in Ukraine], so if you can look into it … it sounds horrible to me."
Zelenskiy, neither slow-witted nor lazy, and with the goal of obtaining defensive military aid, assures Trump that the next prosecutor will be "100% my person," so that he will be able to address the U.S. president’s request. One can assume that he will do a good job as requested.
And there is the most serious part of the Trump-Zelenskiy phone call, the pronoun "us."
For David Leonhardt, a political analyst for The New York Times, what leaves an impression is "just how much Trumpism it packed into only five pages" of the transcribed phone call.
As we say in Mexico, this is a personal style of governing. Trump, who has never conformed to the customary way of doing things, now violates political protocol by placing personal interests above national interests and doing whatever is necessary to assure his reelection. This is the heart of the phone call, and the reason why it lit the spark of a possible impeachment trial.
This is the weight that the pronoun “us” has when asking for a pair of favors.