Those wondering the extent to which Republicans will go to defend President Donald Trump might look to the immortal words of the Mean Girls protagonist Cady Heron: “The limit does not exist.”
On Wednesday, the White House released what officials called a “transcript” (it was, at best, a reconstruction) of Trump’s July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
During the conversation, Trump offers Zelensky the assistance of the attorney general and his personal lawyer in investigating the Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. He asks for Zelensky to do him the “favor” of probing a far-right conspiracy theory about a “missing” server connected to the Democratic National Committee. He peppers the exchange with reminders that the United States has been “very, very good to Ukraine.”
In advance of the document’s release, Trump called it “a perfect call.” Based on my conversations with a half-dozen current and former administration officials, and various statements from lawmakers, one thing is clear: The GOP agrees with Trump, even if history will not.
“It’s now clear: There was no quid pro quo. [Trump] didn’t break any laws,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise told me. “Another day, another conspiracy theory debunked,” said House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows. Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina argued that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “should be embarrassed,” adding: “This is yet another pathetic attempt by Democrats to destroy President Trump with falsehoods to overturn the results of the 2016 election.” The House Oversight Committee ranking member Jim Jordan was emphatic: “The transcript of the president’s phone call shows no wrongdoing.”