For weeks, President Donald Trump has demanded that Americans simply "read the transcript" of his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. If lawmakers would just "read the transcript," Trump insists, they would have no case for impeachment. Unfortunately for Trump, reading the transcript is what compelled Democrats to launch an impeachment inquiry into the president in the first place. Nonetheless, Trump's tweets ahead of the public impeachment hearings on Nov. 13 indicated that he did not get the memo.
As two senior diplomats — William Taylor and George Kent — prepared to testify before the House Intelligence Committee, Trump took to Twitter to make a very specific callout. "NEVER TRUMPERS!" Trump tweeted early on the morning of Wednesday, Nov. 13. "READ THE TRANSCRIPT!"
According to the Associated Press, Trump has categorized diplomats, political aides, and anyone else called by the Intelligence Committee to testify regarding the impeachment inquiry as "Never Trumpers." Following the Sept. 24 announcement that the House of Representatives had opened a formal impeachment inquiry into Trump, the White House characterized the inquiry as Democrats' attempts to "weaponize politics" in a statement to Elite Daily. On Nov. 13, Taylor — the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine — appeared to dispute the accusation of partisanship during his testimony by saying that he was not on one side or the other, and that he had served under multiple Democratic and Republican presidents. But in light of the Democrats' impeachment inquiry, Trump has gone on the offensive, attacking his political opponents and suggesting that he's not receiving a lawyer or due process during the House's hearings. Contrary to Trump's remarks, the House proceedings do not constitute a trial — that comes after impeachment, when the Senate conducts a trial on whether to convict.
At the same time, Trump has consistently urged lawmakers and voters alike to "read the transcript" of his call with Zelensky. In September, the White House released a rough transcript of the July 25 call. Trump has insisted that this transcript proves he did not commit any impeachable offenses. However, as Vox pointed out, the transcript actually corroborates key elements of the Ukraine whistleblower complaint, which alleged that Trump had asked Zelensky to investigate Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, ahead of the 2020 U.S. presidential elections. In a Sept. 26 statement to Elite Daily, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham called the complaint a "third-hand accounts of events and cobbled-together press clippings" and suggested the call transcript showed no wrongdoing.
Trump hasn't just asked people to read the transcript, either. He has also gone so far as to suggest that California Rep. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, "will only release doctored transcripts." Politico's Kyle Cheney subsequently pointed out no Republicans had backed up Trump's claim, and that lawyers had vetted any transcripts before they were publicly released.
To top it all off, Trump tweeted on Nov. 12 that he would release a transcript of the "first, and therefore more important" phone call he had with Zelensky. He described the transcript of that reported first call as "tantalizing," and praised himself for being transparent. According to HuffPost, Trump's critics were quick to point out that his transparency has apparently not extended to releasing his tax returns or publishing White House visitor logs.
As the impeachment hearings continue, Americans can expect to see more resistance from Trump. But if Trump continues to tell people to "read the transcript," more people will read it — and that may have been what landed Trump in an impeachment crisis in the first place.